7 Principles of Healthy Eating

The remedy for eating better isn’t deprivation, blandness, or a rigid diet―it’s incorporating good habits into your life.

By Sally Solo
Pita bread with bean sprouts, onion, and can of tunafishCon Poulos


3. Eat less meat. The mainstays of a healthy diet should be grains, nuts, and seeds, as well as nonstarchy vegetables and fruits, rather than meat. Whole grains (oatmeal, brown rice, whole-wheat bread) provide fiber, which aids the digestive system and makes you feel fuller, and B vitamins, which can boost energy and aid metabolism. Nuts and seeds contain nutrients, such as vitamin E in almonds and sunflower seeds, that are otherwise hard to come by. Legumes―including beans, soybeans, peanuts, and lentils―provide fiber, too, along with protein, iron, folate, and other nutrients. Replacing meat with legumes as a protein source is a good strategy for reducing saturated-fat intake.

It's easier than you think to work these foods into your day. Open up a can of kidney beans or chickpeas and add them to soup, chili, or pasta. Or try a bowl of fortified breakfast cereal, 1 1/2 ounces of shelled sunflower seeds on a salad, or two ounces of almonds. You'll be one of the less than 3 percent of Americans who get the recommended daily dose of vitamin E.

4. Separate your fats. When it comes to fats, there's perhaps no other area of nutrition in which researchers have learned so much and confused so many consumers in the process. What you need to know is this: Fat has more calories per gram than carbohydrates or protein, so if you're trying to maintain or lose weight, limit the amount of fat you eat. That said, not all fats affect the body equally. Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats are the "good" fats; they're found in nut and vegetable oils and oily fish, such as salmon, trout, and herring. They don't raise blood cholesterol levels and may even reduce the risk of cardiovascular problems. According to the American Heart Association, eating seafood with omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon and sardines, twice a week may reduce the risk of certain forms of heart disease.

Saturated and trans fats, also known as the "bad" fats, are found in dairy and beef products and palm and coconut oils. The more of them you eat, the higher your risk of cardiovascular disease. Trans fats are also found in French fries and many commercially baked products, such as cookies and crackers, but are becoming less common. After the U.S. Food and Drug Administration mandated that companies list trans fats on food labels, some restaurants, like Wendy's and Red Lobster, reduced their use, and many manufacturers have reformulated products to get rid of trans fats altogether. (Be aware, however, that many of those products now contain saturated fats instead.)

 
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Juice may serve up vitamins, but it won’t do much to ease hunger: Unlike solid foods, liquids don’t trip the brain’s satiety mechanism. For a more effective snack, pair a glass of 100 percent juice with a few nuts. Get more tips.