When looking to live a healthier lifestyle, a balanced diet is one of the most important things you can do. By eating healthier, we can reduce our blood pressure, improve cholesterol levels, and control blood sugar. It can help increase energy levels, and some research even suggests that eating a healthy diet can help improve mental health. With all of these benefits, it is hard to see why having a balanced diet isn’t part of everyone’s agenda. When looking to eat a balanced diet, it is important to know what to eat, how much, and of course, what not to eat.
It is crucial that we eat 3 meals and 2 snacks a day to maintain a healthy level of the nutrients our bodies need, and to replenish the calories we burn throughout the day. This probably sounds like a lot of meals for someone looking to lose weight. Many diets tend to restrict how much a person can eat, so many dieters believe that not eating is the quickest way to lose weight. However, by skipping meals, we increase our blood sugar, cause fatigue, and run the risk of lowering our metabolism which will actually cause weight gain.
“If we are eating so many meals, how do we lose weight?”
An excellent question from fabulous readers. The simple answer is to eat a colorful meal, but let’s be more specific.
For each of our meals, imagine a plate separated into 4 equal sections. In the first section, we have our protein. Protein is found in foods such as poultry, red meats, fish, seafood, tofu, and beans, which are things most of us eat on a regular basis already. Protein helps promote healthy bones, muscles, and skin. It also helps us feel full faster and reduces hunger. If meat is your choice of protein, try to avoid deep frying them as this adds large amounts of unwanted fat and calories.
In the next section of our plate, we should have whole grain foods which include whole grain bread, quinoa, brown rice, and oatmeal. Yes, you read that correctly. It is okay to eat a little bread, as long as it is whole grain and we do not overindulge. Whole grains are high in fiber and vitamins we need. Fiber is especially helpful because while it also helps curb hunger, it helps maintain bowel health, lower cholesterol levels, and lower blood sugar levels.
In the last two sections of our plate, we should have fruits and vegetables. I’m sure by now we all know how important it is to eat our fruits and veggies. They helped us “grow big and strong like mom and dad.” They gave Popeye superhuman strength. Plus, didn’t you know “an apple a day keeps the doctor away?” Fruits and vegetables are packed with iron, fiber, and a whole boatload of the nutrients, vitamins, and minerals our bodies need to thrive.
So what should we keep off our plates? Fast food, frozen meals, chips, ice cream, cookies, and all of the ultra processed and sugary foods we love so much. I feel like we all know why these are not great for us or our health journey, so I will not get specific about it. However, I will say this: It is okay to eat our favorite health compromising foods every once in a while. If it is something we eat every night or every other night, try to reduce that to once a week, once every other week, or even once a month. This reiterates what I was saying in a previous post. Choosing a healthy diet does not mean eliminating the foods we love as long as we enjoy them in moderation. For example, once you meet a weight goal, you would not compromise your entire health journey by celebrating with a single Hershey Kiss. It is sweet and sugary, but small and effective. Don’t be afraid to treat yourself in moderation.
We should also be drinking plenty of water. Other than preventing dehydration, water promotes healthy skin, weight loss, and helps flush out toxins. It is recommended we drink eight 8- ounce glasses of water a day. If you buy a case of water, the bottle is probably 16.9 ounces. If you can drink 4 of those a day, you’re on the right path.
Finally, practice portion control. A large problem that leads to obesity is over eating. It’s not entirely our fault. Our society is flooded with large meals, extra large pizzas, and all-you-can-eat buffets. We stuff ourselves until we’re full to the brim because it is what we are used to. When plating our food, remember to serve yourself a modest portion. Try using a smaller plate to help.
Eating a healthy, well-balanced diet has so many health benefits beyond weight loss. Choosing to eat and live a healthier lifestyle is one of the best decisions you will make this year. Keep an eye out for our health-motivated recipes and tip blogs to help you maintain your new lifestyle changes.
By: Better Me by Dr. B
Editor: Ariel Thompson
Medical Reviewer: Dr. Tiffany Bell D.O.