A healthy lifestyle consists of following a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, getting regular physical activity, not smoking and managing stress. Here are some tips to help you follow a healthy diet:
1. Consume a diet rich in fruits and vegetables.
One goal should be to fill half your plate with colorful fruits and vegetables at every meal. Most fruits and vegetables are rich in nutrients, low in calories, and high in fiber. Choose fresh, frozen, or canned fruits and vegetables instead of juices, and be sure to leave the peel or skin to get all the fiber.
2. Consume whole-grain, high-fiber foods.
Dietary patterns that are high in fiber are associated with improved diet quality and a lower risk of lifestyle-related diseases. Fiber is found in plant sources including whole grains, whole fruits and vegetables, beans, legumes, and nuts. Soluble fiber (found in foods such as oats, barley, oranges, pears, apples, Brussels sprouts, carrots, dried peas, and beans) helps lower LDL cholesterol. At least half of your grain intake should come from whole grains, such as brown or wild rice, barley, oats, quinoa, farro, bulgur, and whole grain breads and cereals with 100% whole wheat, rye, oats, or bran as the first or second ingredient.
3. Consume fish, especially oily fish, at least twice a week.
Choose oily fish such as salmon, tuna, sardines, trout and mackerel. These are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are a type of polyunsaturated fat, which may help lower cholesterol levels.
4. Limit your intake of saturated fat to less than 7% of energy needs, trans fat to less than 1% of energy needs, and cholesterol to less than 300mg per day by:
- a. Choosing lean meats and vegetable alternatives. Choose poultry without the skin on it. If you choose meat, choose lean cuts without a lot of fat on or in the meat. Incorporate vegetable alternatives such as soy products and beans for a good source of protein.
- b. Selecting fat-free, 1%, and low-fat dairy products. Avoid full fat dairy products, such as whole milk, cream, ice cream, cream cheese, sour cream, yogurt, and cheese. You can also choose almond, soy, and rice milks in place of cow’s milk. Soy cheeses, yogurts, and other products are also available as good alternatives to dairy products.
- c. Minimizing intake of hydrogenated fats. Hydrogenated oils/fats (or trans fat) are often used to prepare commercially fried and baked products. Read the food label on any of your packaged or processed foods. Avoid products with trans fat on the nutrient list and hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils in the ingredient list.
- d. Choosing unsaturated fats more often and reducing intake of saturated fat. Saturated fat is found in animal fat (meat and dairy products). Eggs, meat, dairy, shrimp and lobster are also the major sources of dietary cholesterol. Avoid high saturated fat foods like bacon, sausage, salami, butter, and fried meats. Replace saturated fat with unsaturated fats (poly- and monounsaturated fats). Polyunsaturated fats can be found in walnuts, canola and soybean oils, flaxseed, and flaxseed oil. Add ground flaxseed (our bodies cannot breakdown whole flaxseeds) to cereal, yogurt, breads, and muffins. Monounsaturated fats can be found in nuts, olive oil, avocados, and peanut butter. Remember to keep the portion size small, about ¼ cup per serving. Use olive oil in place of butter for cooking and in salad dressings. Add avocados to salads, soups, sandwiches and many other dishes.
5. Minimize your intake of beverages and foods with added sugars.
The primary reasons to consume less beverages and foods with added sugars are to lower calorie intake and promote nutrient adequacy. People who consume large amounts of beverages with added sugars tend to consume more calories and gain weight. Calories consumed from liquids are also not as filling as calories from solid food.
6. Choose and prepare foods with little or no salt.
As salt (or sodium) intake increases, so can blood pressure. A reduced sodium diet can help prevent hypertension and lower blood pressure. Limit your sodium to less than 2,000mg per day. Look for foods with less than 300mg sodium per serving. Look for foods labeled “Low Salt/Sodium,” “Reduced Salt,” and “No Salt Added.” Use caution when eating out. Restaurant foods are usually high in sodium and can cause you to easily go above your limit.
7. If you consume alcohol, do so in moderation.
If you do consume alcohol, limit your intake to no more than 2 drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women.
Remember to focus on your diet as a whole, rather than specific, individual components. The goal is to achieve an overall healthy diet and lifestyle.
Now is a great time to evaluate your eating habits. March is National Nutrition Month, sponsored annually since 1973 by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. This year’s National Nutrition Month theme is “Eat Right, Your Way, Every Day” and encourages consumers to develop a healthful eating plan that incorporates individual food choices and preferences. Visit www.EatRight.org for education materials and more information.