If you want to improve your eating habits, you might find that understanding what is necessary to have a healthy diet can sometimes seem confusing. Healthy eating does not need to be a complex undertaking. Changing how you purchase and prepare food is important but you also need to change your philosophy about eating. You can still eat your favorite foods but you should limit your salt, fat and calorie intake in your daily diet.
Eat More Whole Grains
You should include plenty of whole grains in your healthy eating plans. Whole grains contain nutrients like fiber and vitamins that can help manage your blood pressure and your blood sugar levels, according to MayoClinic.com. Exchanging foods that contain refined grains like white bread, biscuits and doughnuts for other products that are made with whole grains like whole wheat, oatmeal, brown rice or wild rice can increase your whole grain intake, as noted on WomensHealth.gov. Other whole grains that you can substitute or incorporate into a healthy diet include bulgar, buckwheat quinoa and millet.
Decrease Salt Intake
High blood pressure is often a factor in the development of heart disease; preventing or managing this condition can decrease your risk of heart attacks or stroke. Salt intake can raise your blood pressure because excess sodium causes fluid retention leading to increased blood pressure. Lowering the amount of salt in your diet can help you avoid that; the American Heart Association recommends that adults consume less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium each day.
Decreasing the amount of salt that you use when cooking is a good first step; you can substitute herbs, spices and other salt-free seasonings to provide flavor in your cooking, according to MayoClinic.com. You also have to monitor the amount of salt that you find in processed foods as well. Frozen foods, soups, salty snacks and fast foods can all contain high amounts of salt; if your diet contains large amounts of these types of foods, you are at higher risk of high blood pressure.
Limit Cholesterol and Fat Consumption
High blood cholesterol is a leading factor in heart disease and stroke; working to lower your blood cholesterol levels can decrease you risk and place you on the path of a healthier diet. The American Heart Association recommends that you limit the amount of saturated fats -- the fats in fatty cuts of meat, full-fat dairy products and sausage -- included in your daily diet. Trans fats are another type of fat that should be limited; fried proceeded foods, margarine and lard contain high amounts of this. Eating lean cuts of meats like skinless poultry and fish can also lower your intake of cholesterol and fats as well, according to HealthyWomen.gov.
If you substitute unsaturated fats for saturated fats in your own cooking, you can lower your intake of fats in your heart healthy diet. Using canola and olive oils instead of butter and lard can make a big difference.
Eat Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables contain fiber and vitamins and minerals; they do not contain many calories, according to MayoClinic.com. Research suggests that other nutrients contained in these foods like antioxidants may also play a role in preventing strokes, heart disease, cancer and other diseases, as noted by the UCBerkeleyWellnessLetter.com. Eating more fruits and vegetables may also decrease the amount of salty or sweet snacks or other less healthy food choices that you eat as well.
Increasing the amount of vegetables and fruits in your diet can be easy. You can keep different types of dip on hand with cut vegetables or fruits for snacks. Including a salad or other vegetable dish with each meal also increases your intake. All vegetables and fruits are not healthy; consumption of foods like fried or breaded vegetables, fruits in heavy syrup and frozen fruit with extra sugar should be limited, as noted by MayoClinic.com.
Limit Your Calorie Intake
Maintaining a healthy weight should be a part of your healthy diet. Monitoring the serving sizes and the number of helpings of the foods that you eat may prevent you from eating too many calories, according to the UCBerkeleyWellnessLetter.com. Eating more vegetables and fruits is another way to lower your calorie intake since those foods do not contain many calories and can be very filling.
In addition to following a healthy diet, you need to exercise in order to have optimal health. A balance in calories used and eaten is necessary to be healthy. You have to match your calorie intake with the number of calories you use each day to maintain your weight. If you are trying to lose weight, you have to increase your calorie expenditure so that it is more than the number of calories that you consume each day.