Eating a healthy diet can help you to maintain an appropriate weight, but proper nutrition isn’t all about weight loss. No matter what you weigh (or want to weigh), eating a healthy diet can help you to ward off chronic diseases, stay healthier, and feel more energetic as you age.
And the good news is that eating well doesn’t have to be as complicated as you might believe. Just follow these 6 rules and you’ll be well on your way to a healthier lifestyle.
Focus on protein. Try to consume 25 to 30 grams of protein at each meal, from meat, eggs, fish, and vegetable sources like tofu or grains. Protein keeps your blood sugar levels more even, preventing sharp spikes and crashes between meals, and helps you to build lean muscle tissue.
Add in some fortified dairy. Yes, some of that protein can also come from dairy sources. In fact, fortified dairy adds vitamin D to your diet, along with calcium and magnesium. These nutrients become increasingly important as we age.
Eat colorful fruits and vegetables. Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables can help to ensure you’re consuming enough antioxidants, which combat damage from free radicals in the body. But in particular, make sure you eat a serving of leafy greens every day, to get more folate in your diet. Folate actually plays a role in combating dementia, hearing loss, and depression.
Include fiber at each meal. Try to fit 5 to 10 grams of fiber into each meal. Fiber is associated with a lower risk of colon cancer, and with maintaining a lower weight over time. Plus, you’ll feel more full and less likely to reach for fattening snacks in between meals.
Enjoy some healthy fat. While saturated fats carry less than desirable negative health effects, unsaturated fats can actually be good for you! Focus on fats from nuts and seeds, olive oil, and fish.
Avoid sugar – particularly in beverages. Sugar is essentially an empty calorie, meaning it carries no health benefits but can make you gain weight. Because we don’t get much satisfaction from liquids, you can consume hundreds of calories via a drink, but still reach for filling foods afterward. Ditch the soda and sweetened teas, and you will find it so much easier to maintain a healthy weight. Plus, you avoid the chronic inflammation often triggered by a diet heavy in sugar.
And of course, talk to your doctor and ask for a referral to a nutritionist if you need more help. One of the most important things you can do for your health is to learn how to eat right. Take that step, and the reward will be improved health for many years to come.