How to Eat Healthy Every Day
You probably think of a diet as a plan to lose weight – which implies cutting various foods to achieve the goal. Low-carb, high-protein, low-fat, low-calorie, it’s difficult to know which “diet of the month” is best. And all too often, it’s impossible to maintain a restrictive diet. You get hungry too quickly and sabotage your efforts.
That’s why dietitians encourage us to simply focus on healthy eating. Your body needs a balance of several food groups, as no single group can provide everything we need for good health.
Instead of calculating calories, ask yourself where the food came from and if it's nutritious. Healthy, nutrient-rich foods will keep hunger at bay, help maintain stable blood sugar levels, minimize cravings, and help your brain signal your belly when you're full.
Health experts recommend that a balanced, healthy diet should include:
- Protein (fish, meat, poultry, dairy products, eggs, nuts, beans)
- Fat (animal/dairy products, avocado, oily fish, nuts, oils)
- Carbohydrates (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, legumes)
- Vitamins (A, B, C, D, E, K)
- Minerals (calcium, potassium, iron
- Water (in drinks and foods)
A few simple changes can make a diet more healthful, help you lose weight, and reduce the risk of medical problems.
How to Eat Healthy: 28 Tips for Healthier Eating
These healthy eating tips will help you make those changes:
1. Make a Plan Every Day
When you’re hungry, you’ll eat anything. Right? Plan ahead so you don’t derail your healthy eating goals.
If you’re getting home late, make sure you have a few satisfying healthy snacks with you. If you’re going to a steak-and-potatoes restaurant for dinner, eat less starch and meat at lunch.
Of course, the best dinner option is the salmon filet (rich in omega-3 fats), if it’s on the menu. Either way, you can leave satisfied without ditching your healthy diet.
2. Eat Real Foods
Almonds and oranges come from trees. Carrots and potatoes come from the ground. Eggs are delivered via a hen. But crackers and potato chips – they’re not exactly real.
Processed food (made in a factory) has far less fiber and nutrients compared to real whole foods. In fact, processed food is notorious for the excess sodium and sugar they contain. Indulge once in a while, but that’s all. Instead, shop around for products that have been minimally processed.
3. Eat like You Live on the Mediterranean
Imagine you’re in Italy, Greece or Spain. Sit down to a plate of grilled fish and fresh vegetables, with a glass of wine alongside. A little hummus, olive oil, feta cheese, tomatoes, cucumber. Mediterranean foods are dripping with heart-healthy fats, minerals, and antioxidants.
4. Learn to Love of Green Veggies
Scientific research provides plenty of evidence that green veggies are especially critical to better health. A diet high in veggies helps promote weight loss and cuts your risk of multiple chronic diseases, including cancer and heart disease.
Spinach, collard greens, watercress, and chives are the highest-ranking veggies on the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s list of powerhouse foods.
5. Keep It Interesting
Help keep “healthy” from being “tasteless.” Instead, jazz up your veggies by sautéing with olive oil and garlic, or roast them in the oven with a little olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic powder.
Protein is still fine. You need it! In fact, the healthiest diets contain lots of veggies and these healthy protein sources. Seafood, fish, eggs, and lean meat are featured in the popular Mediterranean diet.
6. Shop at a Farmers Market
Freshly picked, in-season produce is at its peak in flavor and nutrition. You can try a new fruit or vegetable! You will support local farmers and the economy. Fresh fruit and veggies are packed with antioxidants and phytonutrients since they have been raised locally, without the need for distance transportation that leaches nutrients.
7. Follow the Rainbow
Colorful fruits and veggies – the greens, oranges, reds, purples, yellows – will nourish your body with all the disease-fighting phytonutrients that keep you healthy.
8. Prep Those Veggies, Then Store
You crash through the door with bags of fruits and veggies. Take time right then to wash, chop and store in nice containers for your fridge.
Studies have shown that spending time on food prep leads to healthier eating habits. You’re more likely to grab baby carrots or chopped celery instead of crackers or chips. Or, roast a big batch of veggies for easy lunches or snacks.
9. Mix It Up
Don’t eat the same veggies or whole grains or anything every single day. It’s important to eat a variety of foods from each food group. This ensures that you get all the nutrients your body needs.
Each week try eating several types of vegetables, including dark green, red and orange, starchy ones, legumes, and others. Switch up the protein foods you eat, too — for example, consider fish, black beans, peanut butter, as well as lean meats and poultry.
- Fat-free and low-fat dairy can include milk, yogurt, cheese, and fortified soy/nut beverages.
- Select breads and cereals that are made with whole grains and are not prepared with a lot of fat.
A lifetime of healthy eating can help prevent health problems like obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and some types of cancer. Think of every day and meal as an opportunity to make a healthy choice.
10. Moderation Is Best
You don't have to completely avoid all foods that have fat, cholesterol, or sodium. It's your average over a few days, not in a single food or even a single meal, that's important.
If you eat a high-calorie food or meal, balance your intake by choosing low-calorie foods the rest of the day or the next day. Choose nonfat or 1% milk instead of 2% or whole milk. Pick lean meat instead of fatty meat.
11. Cut the Saturated Fats
Foods higher in saturated fats include butter, cheese, whole milk, meats higher in fat (like beef ribs, sausage, and some processed meats), poultry skin, and tropical oils like coconut and palm oil. Instead, go for foods with unsaturated fats — like seafood, avocados, most nuts, and canola or olive oil.
12. Eat Crunchy Foods
Celery, snap peas, apples, and nuts make you eat more slowly than chips. The slower you eat, the more time your body will register fullness.
13. Savor Your Food
This is called “mindful eating” – and it encourages sheer enjoyment of every bite. Focus on the taste of those first few bites. Eat slowly, so it takes longer for your stomach to feel full.
14. Eat What You Enjoy – in Moderation
Don’t give up any foods you love. Simply cut back on portions. A spoonful of your favorite Ben & Jerry’s will keep you from feeling deprived so you’re more likely to eat healthy foods the rest of the day.
15. Cut Back on Sugar
A growing body of evidence shows the sugar is responsible for weight gain. One review of 50 studies on diet and weight gain published in the journal Food and Nutrition Research found that the more refined carbohydrates (such as sugar) that someone ate, the more weight they tended to gain over the study period.
Pay attention to sugar content on the labels of processed foods — especially in dairy products, sauces, a and salad dressings.
16. Replace Soda or Sweet Tea
Switch to unsweetened tea and other sugar-free drinks. Drink more water to stay hydrated – and to stop overeating. Sweetened beverages (even soda and juice) are loaded with calories. And they don’t let you feel full.
In an eight-year Harvard study of nearly 50,000 women, researchers found that participants who increased their intake of sugary drinks gained weight. As they increased their intake of sweet drinks, they gained more weight. And they raised their risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Those who cut their intake of sweet drinks did not have those negative results.
Seltzer, unsweetened tea, and ice-cold water are better choices compared to sweetened drinks – cutting up to 400 calories.
17. Get Skeptical About Smoothies
If the smoothie has just fruits and fruit juice, it’s a dessert packed with calories. Most smoothies, especially prepackaged ones, contain loads of sugar. Even a small one like Jamba Juice can hide over 50 grams of sugar.
Smoothies can definitely be a healthy meal option, but to be sure it’s not a sugar bomb, make it yourself. Or check the ingredient list on the label. Opt for a smoothie with vegetables as well as fruits, and high-fiber, high-protein ingredients like seeds (pumpkin, sunflower or chia) and almond/cashew milk.
18. Cook at Home
Just a few minutes of prep is all it takes to fix a healthy meal. Grill it, saute it. Worth the effort, every time. And way healthier than anything you could inhale out of a take-home container.
Keep things simple with a small piece of protein – salmon or lean meat fillet. A few veggies (green, red, yellow, orange) in a salad or on the side. Microwave a small potato. A little low-sodium soy sauce, a drizzle of olive oil, or a bit of balsamic vinegar is all you need to finish it off.
Voila – it’s dinner in very little time.
19. Think Big
Fix several days’ worth of food on one quiet night. Hone in on the tastes you love and build on that. Pack away the leftovers for the fridge. You’ll appreciate it after a tough day.
20. Don’t Forget Protein
Protein fuels our muscles and helps us feel full. Protein also helps keep insulin stable, as it slows the breakdown of carbs into sugar. So you really need a little protein with every meal.
If you’re switching to a plant-based diet, it’s important to know the best protein sources. Beans, eggs, lentils, tofu, fish, and dairy products are excellent proteins for vegetable- and whole-grain-based meals.
21. Trim Refined Carbs
White-flour pasta, white bread, and white rice are refined carbs that cause spikes in blood sugar. Several studies have suggested that cutting your carb intake helps to stabilize blood sugar levels. This helps with weight loss, energy levels, plus it reduces the risk of chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
A 2012 study published in the journal Food and Nutrition Research found strong links between diets high in refined carbohydrates and weight gain. One reason for this may be that refined grains are processed quickly and turned into sugar in the body.
Whole grains get digested slowly and will keep you full for hours. The key is that whole grains still have their fiber-rich outer shells, such as the germ and bran. Those get stripped off in the factory.
Another idea: spiralize a zucchini or carrot. Switch to cauliflower or sweet potato rice (microwaveable packets are available).
22. Beware: "Low-Fat," "Light," "Reduced Fat" Labels
Dieters often cut fat from their diets because it’s an easy way to cut calories. Fat is high in calories, after all. Yogurt, peanut butter, cheese, even ice cream will have labels that sound just perfect.
Cut the fat, get skinny! But not so fast.
These products are highly processed and typically have loads of added sugar. It’s that sugar, not the fat, which has been linked with weight gain and obesity. Cut back on carbs and sugar instead of fat.
23. Love the Healthy Fats
Research shows that healthy fats may actually help people lose weight, possibly by making us feel full and curbing our sugar consumption. Fats from sources like olive oil, nuts, avocados, and fish are in this category.
24. Eat Lunch like a King
While some might say you’re “supposed” to make breakfast the biggest meal of your day, many people simply aren’t hungry in the morning.
Medical experts advise eating a small breakfast, saving the largest meal for lunchtime. That’s when your digestion is going full-speed and needs fuel, which is when you need to feed it.
Make sure your lunch includes protein and greens. A cup of lentil soup with a mixed salad work great for a satisfying lunch.
25. Keep Snacks Nearby
Make sure your desk (or fridge or gym bag) is stocked with an emergency stash of snacks, like Greek yogurt, individual packs of nuts, dried fruit, and nitrate-free jerky.
Eating snacks that are high in protein, fiber, and complex carbohydrates will give you the energy you need to get through the day and keep you satiated from one meal to the next.
However, snacks that are high in refined carbs and sugar will give you a sudden blood sugar spike – leading to the inevitable crash that leaves you tired.
26. Don’t Forget to Treat Yourself
A donut or slice of cake tastes so great when you’ve been eating healthy. In fact, that occasional treat will help you stay on your healthy eating plan. You won’t feel deprived so there’s less chance for a binge episode.
27. Move, Move, Move
If you drive everywhere, try biking, walking, or taking public transit at times. Hit the stairs instead of the elevator every time. Make time for regular gym sessions in your schedule.
If weight loss is part of your goal, you can’t exercise your way to weight loss. Your body just doesn’t work that way, as your hunger goes up after a workout. After all, it’s much easier to overeat in one sitting than it is to burn all those calories in a single gym workout.
A balance of healthy eating and exercise is especially important if you're looking to slim down and keep weight off long-term.
28. Exercise in the Morning
Research suggests that an early-morning workout on an empty stomach helps speed weight loss and boost energy levels – which primes the body for an all-day fat burn.
Scientists believe that exercising in the morning pushes the body to burn its fat reserves for fuel. When you exercise later in the day, the body is simply burning the most recent snack or meal.
Also, morning exercise helps you get more sunlight, which helps to set your body's internal circadian rhythm. One study showed that people who were exposed to bright sunlight within two hours after waking were thinner. They also kept their weight lower than those who didn't get into the sunlight during the day, no matter what they ate.
However, the best plan is to set a workout schedule and stick to it – whether it’s in the morning or after work. Consistently exercising is the overall goal.