Eating healthily is not about strict dietary limitations, staying unrealistically thin, or depriving yourself of the foods you love. It’s about feeling good, having more energy, improving your outlook, and stabilizing your mood. Eating should be a daily joy and an opportunity to feel reverence and respect for the gifts in our lives.
Healthy eating affects your mental and emotional health: We all know that eating right can help you maintain a healthy weight and avoid certain health problems, but your diet can also have a profound effect on your mood and sense of wellbeing. Studies have linked eating a typical Western diet, filled with red and processed meats, packaged meals, takeout food, and sugary snacks, with higher rates of depression, stress, bipolar disorder and anxiety. Eating an unhealthy diet may play a role in the development of mental health disorders such as ADHD, Alzheimer’s disease, and schizophrenia, or in the increased risk of suicide in young people. Eating more fruits and vegetables, cooking meals at home, and reducing your fat and sugar intake, on the other hand, may help to improve mood and lower your risk for mental health problems. If you have already been diagnosed with a mental health problem, it is important to explore how eating well can help to manage your symptoms and regain control of your life. While specific foods or nutrients have been shown to have a beneficial effect on mood, it’s your overall dietary pattern that is most affective. That means switching to a healthy diet doesn’t have to be perfect. You don’t have to completely eliminate foods you enjoy to have a healthy diet and make a difference to the way you think and feel.
– Planning a healthy diet involves a number of small, manageable steps rather than one big drastic change. As your small changes become habit, you can continue to add more healthy choices.
– Cooking more meals at home can help you take charge of what you’re eating and better monitor exactly what goes into your food.
– Choose healthy alternatives. When cutting back on unhealthy foods in your diet, it’s important to replace them with healthy alternatives. Focus on avoiding packaged and processed foods and opting for more fresh ingredients.
– Read the label. It’s important to be aware of what’s in your food as manufacturers often hide large amounts of sugar and salt in packaged food, even food claiming to be healthy.
– Record how food makes you feel. This will help foster healthy new habits and tastes. The more healthy food you eat, the better you’ll feel after a meal. The more junk food you eat, the more likely you are to feel uncomfortable, nauseous, or drained of energy.
– Drink plenty of water. Water helps flush our systems of waste products and toxins, yet many people go through life dehydrated—causing tiredness, low energy, and headaches. It’s common to mistake thirst for hunger, so staying well hydrated will also help you make healthier food choices.
– Moderation is key: This means eating only as much food as your body needs. You should feel satisfied at the end of a meal, but not full. We all need a balance of carbohydrates, protein, fat, fibre, vitamins, and minerals to sustain a healthy body. Start by reducing portion sizes of unhealthy foods and not eating them as often. When you ban certain foods or food groups, it is natural to want those foods more, and then feel like a failure if you give in to temptation. As you reduce your intake of unhealthy foods, you may find yourself craving them less or thinking of them as only occasional indulgences. A portion size serving of meat, fish, or chicken should be the size of the palm of your hand. Half a cup of mashed potato, rice, or pasta is sufficient for most adults. If you don’t feel satisfied at the end of a meal, add more leafy green vegetables or round off the meal with fruit.
– Stop eating before you feel full. It actually takes a few minutes for your brain to tell your body that it has had enough food, so eat slowly. Eating in front of the TV or computer often leads to mindless overeating. Make it a routine to eat with your family or friends as often as you can. It can be a wonderful opportunity to share time together each day – or as often as you can.
– Eat breakfast, and eat smaller meals throughout the day. A healthy breakfast can jumpstart your metabolism, while eating small, healthy meals keeps your energy up. Try to eat dinner earlier and fast for 14-16 hours until breakfast the next morning. Studies suggest that eating only when you’re most active and giving your digestive system a long break each day may help to regulate weight.
– Fill up on colourful fruits and vegetables: Fruits and vegetables are low in calories and nutrient dense, which means they are packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fibre. Focus on eating the recommended daily minimum of five servings of fruit and vegetables and it will naturally fill you up and help you cut back on unhealthy foods. A serving is half a cup of raw fruit or veg or a small apple or banana, for example. Most of us need to double the amount we currently eat.
Try to eat deeply coloured fruits and vegetables as these contain higher concentrations of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Add berries to breakfast cereals, eat fruit for dessert. Snack on vegetables such as carrots, snow peas, or cherry tomatoes instead of processed snack foods. Kale, mustard greens, broccoli, and Chinese cabbage are packed with calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium, zinc and vitamins A, C, E, and K. Naturally sweet vegetable such as; corn, carrots, beets, sweet potatoes, yams, onions and squash, add healthy sweetness to meals and reduce your cravings for added sugars. Eating fruit will increase fibre, vitamins and antioxidants. Berries are cancer-fighting, apples provide fibre, oranges and mangos offer vitamin C, etc.
– Choose healthy carbohydrates and fibre sources, especially whole grains, for long-lasting energy. Whole grains are rich in phyto-chemicals and antioxidants, which help to protect against coronary heart disease, certain cancers, and diabetes. Healthy carbs include whole grains, beans, fruits, and vegetables. They are digested slowly, help you feel full longer and keep your blood sugar and insulin levels stable.
– Include a variety of whole grains such as ; brown rice, millet, oats, quinoa, and amaranthus. Try to replace where possible unhealthy carbs, such as white flour and rice, refined sugar, as these have been stripped of all bran, fibre, and nutrients. They digest quickly and cause spikes in blood sugar levels and energy.
– Enjoy healthy fats: Good sources of healthy fat are needed to nourish your brain, heart, and cells, as well as your hair, skin, and nails. Foods rich in certain omega-3 fats can reduce cardiovascular disease, improve your mood, and help prevent dementia. Add to your diet monounsaturated fats from plant oils like canola oil, sesame oil and olive oil, as well as avocados, nuts such as almonds, hazelnuts and walnuts, and seeds such as pumpkin, sunflower and sesame. Also include polyunsaturated fats, particularly those rich in Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, found in fatty fish such as salmon, herring, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, and in some oil seeds such as hemp, linseed, chiai and coconut oil.
– Reduce saturated fats, found primarily in animal sources including red meat and whole milk dairy products, and trans fats, found in vegetable shortenings, some margarines, crackers, confectionary, cookies, snack foods, fried foods, baked goods, and other processed foods made with partially hydrogenated vegetable oils.
– Reduce sugar and salt: As well as creating weight problems, too much sugar causes energy spikes and has been linked to diabetes, depression, and even an increase in suicidal behaviours in young people. Sugar is hidden in foods such as bread, cereals, canned soups and vegetables, pasta sauce, margarine, instant mashed potatoes, frozen dinners, low-fat meals, fast food, and ketchup. Your body is designed to get all it needs from the complex sugars that naturally occurring in food.
Sodium (as salt) is another ingredient that is frequently added to food to improve taste, even though your body needs less than one gram of sodium a day. Eating too much salt can cause high blood pressure and lead to an increased risk of stroke, heart disease, kidney disease, memory loss, and erectile dysfunction. It may also worsen symptoms of bipolar disorder.
Spotting added sugar on food labels can require some sleuthing. Manufacturers are required to provide the total amount of sugar in a serving but do not have to spell out how much of this sugar has been added and how much is naturally in the food. As well as being stated as sugar, honey, molasses, added sugar can appear as agave nectar, cane crystals, corn sweetener, crystalline fructose, dextrose, evaporated cane juice, fructose, high-fructose corn syrup, invert sugar, lactose, maltose, malt syrup, etc. It you look carefully you will see that sugar commonly makes up more than 25% of packaged cereals!
Tips for cutting down on sugar and salt:
– Slowly reduce the sugar and salt in your diet a little at a time to give your taste buds time to adjust and wean yourself off the craving.
– Avoid processed or packaged foods like canned soups, frozen dinners, or low-fat meals that often contain hidden sugar and sodium that quickly surpasses the recommended limit. Prepare more meals at home and use fresh or frozen vegetables instead of canned vegetables.
– Be careful when eating out. Most restaurant and fast food meals are loaded with sodium. Some offer lower-sodium choices or you can ask for your meal to be made without salt.
– Eat healthier snacks. Cut down on packaged sweet snacks. Instead, eat naturally sweet food such as fresh fruit, raw carrots, nuts and dried fruit to satisfy your sweet tooth. Avoid sugary drinks, instead try drinking sparkling water with a squeeze of fresh lime or fruit juice.
– Use herbs and spices such as garlic, curry powder, cayenne or black pepper for flavour instead of salt.
– Calcium for bone health: Limit foods that deplete your body’s calcium stores (caffeine, alcohol, sugary drinks), do weight-bearing exercise (includes all impact sport), and take each day sufficient magnesium and vitamins D and K nutrients that help calcium do its job. Good sources of calcium include: Dairy products are rich in calcium in a form that is easily digested and absorbed by the body. Sources include low-fat milk, yogurt, and cheese. Many vegetables, especially leafy green ones, are rich sources of calcium. Try collard greens, kale, romaine lettuce, celery, broccoli, fennel, cabbage, summer squash, green beans, Brussels sprouts, asparagus and mushrooms. Beans, such as black beans, pinto beans, kidney beans, white beans, black-eyed peas, or even as baked beans, are also good sources.
– The right amount of protein. Protein gives us the energy to get up and go, while too much protein can be harmful. Replace red meat with fish, chicken, or plant-based protein such as beans, nuts, and soy.
Replace processed carbohydrates from pastries, cakes and chips with fish, beans, nuts, seeds, peas, tofu, chicken, low-fat dairy, and soy products. Snack on nuts and seeds instead of chips, replace baked dessert with yogurt, and swap slices of pizza for a grilled chicken breast and beans.
– Bulk up on fibre: Eating foods high in dietary fibre can help you stay regular, lower your risk for heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, and help you lose weight. In general, the more natural and unprocessed the food, the higher it is in fibre. Good sources of fibre include whole grains, wheat cereals, barley, oatmeal, beans, nuts, vegetables, such as carrots, celery, and tomatoes, and fruits such as apples, berries, citrus fruits, and pears. Refined or “white” foods, such as white bread, white rice, and pastries, have had all or most of their fibre removed. Since fibre stays in the stomach longer than other foods the feeling of fullness will stay with you much longer, helping you eat less. Fibre also moves fat through your digestive system quicker so less of it is absorbed. When you fill up on fibre you’ll also have more energy for exercising.
Your recommended daily amounts:
|Recommended Daily Amounts
|Fruits and vegetables
||At least five ½ cup servings
||1,000mg or 1,200mg if over 50
||21g to 38g
||0.8g to 1.5g of high-quality protein per kilogram (2.2lb) of body weight
||No more than 16g
||No more than 2g
||Keep calories from added sugars under 100 (24g or 6 teaspoons) for women and under 150 (36g or 9 teaspoons) for men
||No more than 1,500 to 2,300 mg (one teaspoon of salt)
Extracts from http://www.helpguide.org/articles/healthy-eating/healthy-eating.htm
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