What Does Healthy Eating Look Like?

Couple preparing healthy foodWith so many eating plans out there, it can be confusing to compare them all—protein, fat, carbs, portions, calories, organic…ever wonder what it really looks like to eat healthy? When you consider the healthy diets that doctors, nutritionists or trainers often recommend, they do tend to have a few things in common.

Healthy Eating is Balanced

Although different ratios of food items may end up being a mainstay of various eating plans, a healthy diet is balanced overall. This means it includes sources of the macronutrients protein and fat, plus carbohydrate as fuel to for your body systems to function.

Although different ratios of food items may end up being a mainstay of various eating plans, a healthy diet is balanced overall. This means it includes sources of the macronutrients protein and fat, plus carbohydrate as fuel to for your body systems to function.

  • Lean sources of protein (like meat and legumes)
  • Healthy fats (like olive oil and avocado), and
  • Complex carbohydrates (like vegetables and whole grains)

Eating plans that limit food groups or food categories might use substitutes to maintain balance—for example, you avoid simple carbs when you replace fruit juice with a serving of high fiber fruit. Or, a vegetarian diet can add protein with dairy and beans as a substitute for meat.

Healthy Eating is Nourishment

Whatever its focus (diabetic, paleo, pescatarian, etc.) a healthy eating is above all nourishing. Sticking with wholesome foods found as close to their natural sources as possible, and including a variety of food items over the course of a day, week and year, enables a balance of key nutritional values in your diet.

Adequate nourishment will include the right amount of:

  • Macronutrients (protein, fat and carbs)
  • Other essential nutrients (like amino acids and fatty acids)
  • Vitamins (like C, D and K)
  • Minerals (like calcium and magnesium), and
  • Hydration (in water and in food)
  • Calories, or energy, to support your body and your health and fitness goals

Again, bodies may require and respond differently to various aspects of nourishment—more calories are required by a strong, young, competing athlete than a petite, sedentary, older individual. And some foods are more nutrient-dense than others, too. Spinach provides a lot of nourishment with very few calories and no fat. Walnuts and egg yolks provide a lot of nourishment, with far more calories and fat.

Healthy Eating is Normalized

Understanding the food is fuel, health and pleasure is a normalized perspective for your diet. You need to eat a balanced and nourishing diet, in the right ratios and of the right variety, to support your own body and goals.

For optimal health, it’s usually best to eat a balance of lean protein and healthy fats, with carbohydrates coming mostly from colorful vegetables, secondarily from fruit and whole grain. For portions, you can use a fist-sized portion for meats, two fists for veg, and a couple of spoonfuls for grains (optional). Eliminate low-nutrient and unnatural foods, for example candy, cheesy puffs, deep fried pizza treats and frozen margaritas.

Finally, here are a few notes on what healthy eating doesn’t look like:

  • The better portion of your spare time spent calculating what you can eat, when and how much
  • Eliminating flavor from your life by too strict an approach to food limitations (80/20 rule works)
  • Giving up and piling on what you like, in mass, like eating half the pie because you feel deprived
  • Not being able to enjoy time with family and friends because you can’t eat anything they do

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