You might think of healthy eating as simply a tool for looking fit, but it actually has many benefits beyond aesthetics. A healthy diet not only helps stave off obesity, but it also reduces the risk of disease, such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and certain cancers, according to the University of Minnesota. Make small changes in your diet to start yourself on the path to healthy eating habits.
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All Things in Moderation
You’re setting yourself up for dietary disaster if you name certain foods as off limits. A healthy eating plan allows your favorite foods in moderation. Simply reduce the portion size of the less-than-healthy options and limit how frequently you eat them.
Reduce your portion size, and you’ll be less likely to overeat. At home, use smaller plates and start with reduced portions -- you can always go back for more if you’re still hungry. At restaurants, split an entrée with a friend or take half of it home for later.
Taste the Rainbow
Produce comes in nearly every color, from green to red to yellow to purple. Challenge yourself to eat a rainbow of colors every week, incorporating a variety of hues to get all the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that come from each color. Aim for at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day.
Go Easy on the Salt
Healthy adults should limit their daily sodium intake to 2,300 milligrams, or 1 teaspoon; however, blacks and those with diabetes, high blood pressure or over age 50 should limit themselves to just 1,500 milligrams, or 2/3 teaspoon. Cut back on sodium by cooking more at home with fresh ingredients and avoiding restaurant, processed and prepared foods.
Start Your Morning Off Right
In those registered with the National Weight Control Registry, 78 percent of successful dieters eat breakfast every day. The morning meal reduces hunger through the rest of the day and stops you from making poor food choices or overeating at later meals.
Let's Go, H20
Skip the soda, iced tea and juice and sip on plain water throughout the day. Drinking enough water not only helps you digest your food, says the University of Rochester Medical Center, but it also regulates body temperatures, lubricates your joints and helps carry nutrients to your cells.
Switch to Whole Grains
If you’re used to eating white, enriched pasta, rice and cereals, switch to whole grains to boost your fiber intake. Look for products that say 100-percent whole wheat or 100-percent whole grain, or those that list a whole grain -- such as whole wheat, oats or brown rice -- as the first ingredient.
Omega-3 fatty acids are necessary for your body’s health, but your body can’t make these essential fatty acids. Add fatty fish such as salmon and nuts, including walnuts, to your diet to get in these healthy, unsaturated fats.
For the sake of your heart, cut back on cholesterol. The American Heart Association recommends limiting cholesterol, found in animal products such as meat and eggs, to 300 milligrams a day. If you have heart disease, diabetes or high cholesterol, cut back to 200 milligrams a day.
Choose Real Food
Although nutritional supplements can be a good insurance policy against a diet lacking nutrients, get yours from actual food whenever possible. The best way to do so is to eat a wide variety of foods from all food groups.