By Keri Glassman, RD and founder of Nutritious Life
If we all knew how to eat healthier, we’d all be doing it, right? The truth is, eating healthy is both easy and complicated. It’s complicated, because food marketers and fad diets confuse public perception about what’s healthy and what’s not (see: the low-fat trend of the 90s vs. the even trendier high-fat keto diet now).
But eating a healthy diet can truly be simple in that there are a few totally manageable principles that have stood the test of time. Follow these Nutritious Life-approved guidelines, and you’ll eat healthier every single day. Promise.
Eat more vegetables.
You may not need studies to tell you that vegetables are healthy, but just in case you’re not convinced: Research shows that eating seven or more servings of vegetables a day significantly reduces your risk of cancer, heart disease, and stroke. Yep, that’s right, vegetables can save your life. Veggies are loaded with disease- and age- fighting antioxidants and fiber, which promotes gut health and helps keep you full. They also have high water volume, which aids in hydration and keeps you feeling full long after you showed that zucchini the way to your belly.
Speaking of water, hydration affects everything from the glow of your skin to the energy you bring to your workout. And yes, you should aim for eight glasses a day. Not drinking enough water could translate to overeating, headaches, and low energy.
Forget “cheat days.”
Cheat days have a negative connotation, which is why I don’t support them and instead promote the idea of a “conscious indulgence.” A conscious indulgence should be a portion-controlled, nutrient-dense option of what you’re craving, and eaten from a positive place, not hiding in shame because you’re a “cheater,” the whole philosophy behind Nutritious Life’s Eat Empowered pillar. Read more here: How Often You Should Have a Cheat Meal.
If you check ingredient labels, you’ll see that sugar sneaks into so many things: sauces, peanut butter, nut milks, crackers, yogurt…the list is endless. You don’t need to freak out about small amounts of sugar, or those conscious indulgences I mentioned above, but you do need to be aware of your overall consumption since it’s easy to eat sugar mindlessly, in meals that don’t even make you all that happy. You want to avoid that because excess sugar is linked to obesity, diabetes, and possibly even cancer. (Read more: Is the Natural Sugar Found in Whole Foods Healthier Than Added Sugar?)
Choose whole foods.
Prioritizing whole foods over processed ones is a good way to accomplish all the other healthy-eating tips on this list. By eating whole foods, you’re automatically eating less added sugar and more fiber, and limiting things like food coloring and artificial flavors. Mixing up your whole foods also ensures you’re consuming a wide variety of vitamins and minerals.
It’s not that you can’t find healthy restaurants, it’s that you have way less control over the ingredients when you eat out. So, while there’s no shame in dining out, cooking gives you more say in what goes into your meals. Plus, spending time in the kitchen can promote a fun, empowered relationship with eating, one based on experimenting with lots of nutritious foods that fill you up, body and soul.