We always hear people talking about healthy eating and having a healthy diet. If you stood on the street and asked 50 people to define this, I’ll bet you would hear a lot of similar answers. It seems that everyone thinks a healthy diet is one with lots of fruits, vegetables and plain grilled chicken and less of everything else. There may be some truth to that statement, but it is only part of the story.
The problem with such a cut-and-dry definition is that it causes people to put foods into the “good” and “bad” category. For example, broccoli “good”, ice cream “bad”. I want to challenge you to think about healthy eating in a different way.
A healthy diet is one that has balance, variety and moderation. Let’s consider balance. Having a balanced diet means eating foods that will give you the protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals that you need. It is not good to exclude or overdo any one group. Fad diets are famous for this—think Atkins. It just isn’t healthy.
Variety helps you achieve balance. People tend to eat the same things over and over which causes them to miss out on valuable nutrients. Vary your vegetables, meats, grains and fruits every day for maximum benefit. Apples and mangoes are both fruits but apples are rich in magnesium, while mangoes contain vitamins A and C. Steak is a rich source of iron and fish—although iron-poor—contains heart healthy Omega 3 fats. An adventuresome eater is often a very healthy eater.
“All things in moderation” is a popular phrase. Here is my take. Moderation means eating sufficient portions but not eating more than your body needs. If you eat more than you need, you will gain weight. If you eat less than you need, you will lose weight in the form of both fat and muscle. Eating too little is just as unhealthy as eating too much. Children need to gain weight as they grow, but their growth should be consistent and roughly follow a growth curve. A dietitian or your pediatrician can help you determine if your child’s growth is on track.
Moderation also means that there is room in your diet for what I call “fun foods”. This could be a slice of birthday cake or a piece of chocolate. It may mean eating pizza or French fries occasionally. If the foundation of your diet is good, it is fine to have reasonable portions of “fun foods”. Moderation with fun foods means having one small piece of cake or a snack-size candy bar—not eating three giant pieces of cake or the King Size candy bar.
If you apply these principles to eating, you will be both healthy and happy. You will maintain a healthy weight get the nutrients you need, while enjoying what you eat and developing a positive relationship with food.
Stay tuned for more health and nutrition tips in upcoming blogs!