Confused by the "revolving door" of diet plans like Atkins, South Beach, Fruitarian, and others? Health-conscious people should question the claims of “fad” diets, especially those that are very strict, and those that suggest eliminating entire groups of foods (like carbohydrates).
Here’s a simpler way to look at food – a way that doesn’t keep you feeling constantly deprived. Three simple steps will have you on the road to better nutrition, starting today!
1.) Strive for variety in your foods on a daily and weekly basis. Health benefits are based on the average of your habits over a lifetime, so one dessert won’t sink your entire health plan! Humans are genetically hardwired to crave variety, getting nutrients from as many sources as possible, so our natural preference is to eat a wide selection of foods. Just make sure your portions of calorie-dense foods are moderately sized, to control or maintain weight.
2.) Choose as many vegetables as you can! Not everyone can cut out animal products entirely, but many experts agree that at least reducing your intake of animal products will cut your risk for common diseases like cancer, coronary disase, and various digestive disorders. Look at it this way: Fill up your plate with so many vegetables that there’s hardly room for meat! You don’t deprive yourself or go hungry -- instead, you load up on the foods that pack the biggest nutritional punch. Plant-based foods (fruits, grains, vegetables, beans, etc.) contain antioxidants, vitamins, protein, and nutrients that animal products don’t. Meat’s main claim to fame is protein, and there are actually vegetable sources (like soy, black beans, chick peas, and others) with higher protein and lower fat contents than meat.
3.) Reduce your processed food intake as much as you can. When choosing your wide array of foods, focus on the produce aisle instead of the canned-foods section. (10-second hint: Spend the majority of your shopping trip on the perimeter of the store, where fresh produce and dairy products are found. Processed foods are mainly on the inner aisles.) The closer a food is to its natural state, the more nutrients your body will gain from it. By contrast, processing (as with meals-in-a-box, canned food, highly processed bread, etc.) drains food of its natural nutrition.
Dining out doesn’t have to stop your healthy choices. Most restaurants will make special orders, and there are new health-conscious eateries popping up everywhere. Even at the most “down-home” southern restaurants, you can still order a vegetable plate and be well on your way to better nutrition.