Healthy eating can seem very complicated. Most of us were taught about the food pyramid in school, but it didn’t really make things any easier. In fact, it probably left us with more questions than it answered. How much food is one serving? And how do you measure an ounce in a hurry? The good news is, you don’t need complex measurements and in-depth knowledge of food chemistry to start eating healthier. A few simple, yet impactful changes can completely transform your health. Here are the only five rules you’ll ever need to follow a clean, healthy diet.
1. Focus On Nutrients, Not Calories
Calorie-counting is a pain, let’s face it. If you had to calculate how many calories you were eating in every bite, you’d probably go insane. Calorie-counting can also be very misleading because it does not take into account the actual nutritional profile of the food you’re eating. Avocados are higher in calories than a handful of chips, but they’re undeniably healthier. Concentrating more on the nutrient-density of the food you’re eating is also much easier than counting calories. With enough common sense, it’s pretty obvious which foods are more nutritious than others. Make sure a major portion of your meals are comprised of nutritious whole grains, fruits, vegetables and nuts for an instant diet-overhaul.
2. Cut Down On Sugar And Solid Fats
The biggest problem with most of our diets is that we’re eating way more sugar and unhealthy fats than we should. Sugar in particular has taken over our lives, creeping into our diets in the most insidious ways. An important habit you need to cultivate if you’re considering a healthier diet, is to start reading ingredient labels. This is important because a lot of our sugar intake comes in hidden packages. Salad dressing, for example, is supposed to be healthy, but most actually contain sugar. Solid fats are also very damaging to our health. Margarine, butter and animal fat clog up our arteries and can lead to serious heart disease. Try to eat at least 80% less refined sugars than you are currently eating to lower your risk for diabetes and obesity. Swap solid fats with healthy fats like walnuts and avocados for easier weight loss and improved heart health.
3. Make Seafood Your Go-To Protein
Most Americans get their protein from red meat like beef. This is concerning because high red meat consumption has been linked to heart disease and cancer; Red meat is also more difficult to digest and can even contribute to an increasing waistline. Protein is undoubtedly important, but it’s equally important that we get it from clean sources. Seafood is one of the best protein sources because it contains high quality protein and healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Some varieties of fish can, however, be high in mercury, which is definitely not good for you. Eat more of wild caught salmon, albacore tuna and small sardines for all of the healthy protein with none of the mercury.
4. Eat Colorful
Colorful vegetables don’t just look great, they’re also essential for you to get all your nutrients. Each color is an indicator of the antioxidants present in different vegetables. Orange vegetables contain beta-carotene, an important precursor to vitamin A. Once in your body, beta-carotenes are metabolized into vitamin A, which protects your eye health and gives you glowing skin. In fact, one study found that people who ate the highest amount of beta-carotenes had the healthiest skin tone. So if you want beautiful skin, eat more sweet potatoes, pumpkin and carrots. Red vegetables like tomatoes (yes, it’s technically a fruit) and red bell peppers are very high in vitamin C, which is essential for a healthy immune system. Purple foods like red cabbage contain a special kind of antioxidants that are very powerful against cancer.
5. Eat Fresh Fruits But In Moderation
Surprisingly, even though most people prefer fruits to vegetables, most Americans aren’t eating enough fruits in a day. Fruits are an important source of vitamins, minerals and fiber. Berries, for example, are one of the most effective anti-aging foods because they protect your skin from oxidative damage. Oranges are high in vitamin C and healthy fibers. However, fruits are also high in sugar, which means you can’t eat them with abandon. Try to eat two servings of fruits each day to enjoy their full range of benefits. It’s also important that you eat whole, fresh fruits. Canned fruits are mostly sugar and have very little of their original nutritional content left in them. Fruit juices are completely stripped of their healthy fibers, which also means they can raise your blood sugar dramatically.