Eat a variety of foods for a healthy lifestyle

Eat a variety of foods for a healthy lifestyle

Everyone knows that variety is important when it comes to diet.  Not only is eating the same foods every day boring, but it is extremely unhealthy as well.  That is because each type of food contains different nutrients, and different levels of those nutrients.  The best way to eat healthy is to eat a wide variety of foods from all the food groups.

It is important to eat a good combination of meats, beans, dairy products, fruits, vegetables and whole grains.  All these foods contain important nutrients, and no vitamin pill in existence can provide the vast variety of nutrients your body needs every day.

Of course simply eating foods from a variety of sources is not enough.  It is also important to make smart choices within those food groups.  After all, nonfat yogurt and an hot fudge sundae are both dairy products!  The best choice in that situation should be obvious, but other choices are more subtle.

Fortunately, the nutritional labels which are required on all packaged foods are a big help for those pursuing a healthier diet.  Not only do these labels contain information on the number of calories, fat grams, etc., but they provide detailed information on the levels of many important vitamins and minerals as well.

When choosing healthy foods, small changes can have a huge impact.  Simply exchanging fresh, low fat fish for higher fat meats can greatly lower the amount of fat in your diet and increase your level of health.

Replacing highly processed grains for more nutritious whole grain products can also have a great impact on healthy eating.  In nutritional terms, less is often more – that is less processing and less refining.  Processing and refining methods can strip many vital nutrients from foods, so choosing less refined whole grain foods is important.

Cooking techniques are also very important when maximizing the health benefits of the foods you choose.  After taking the time to choose the healthiest, freshest broccoli in the supermarket, it would be quite a waste to slather that cooked broccoli with cheese and butter, for instance.

It would also be a mistake to overcook that broccoli, especially by boiling it in water for a long time.  That is because vegetables can lose significant amounts of nutrients through overcooking.  When preparing fresh vegetables, it is best to quickly steam them in the microwave or on the stove, using as little water as possible.  Use only enough water to keep the vegetables from scorching.

When cooking potatoes, it is a good idea to eat the entire potato, including the skin.  Potato skins contain significant levels of nutrients, including fiber, vitamins and minerals.  Cooking a baked potato in the microwave, or on the grill, is a great way to make the skin moist and delicious.  In addition, these methods of cooking minimize the need for high fat butter or sour cream to flavor the potato.  In place of these high fat options, why not use a dollop of plain nonfat yogurt, or some low fat cottage cheese?

Choosing a variety of foods is important to a healthy lifestyle, but it just as important to limit the amount of certain foods.  Foods high in sugar, and those high in sodium should be avoided as much as possible.  That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy that piece of cake or serving of potato chips as an occasional snack; it simply means limiting regular consumption of these high fat, low nutrition products.

When adopting healthier eating habits, it is important to make changes that you can stick with for the long run.  After all, a healthy eating lifestyle is just that, a lifestyle.  Changing your shopping, cooking and eating habits are not easy, but the many benefits make healthy eating an important habit to get into.

Healthy eating on a budget

For many people, a limited food budget can be a real roadblock to healthy eating.  It is an unfortunate fact of life that some of the lowest priced foods, from fast food value menus to cheap potato chips, are also some of the least healthy.  It is possible, however, to create excellent tasting, nutritious meals, even on a tight budget.

The key to planning and creating healthy meals on a limited budget is good forward planning and solid nutritional knowledge.

Step 1 – The shopping list
Anyone who has visited a supermarket lately knows how dangerous it is to enter the store without a shopping list in hand.  Shopping without a sense of what you need – and don’t need – opens you up to all manner of temptation, and most of those tempting foods are not nutritious. 

In addition, picking up all those extra items can easily blow your food budget and leave you without the funds to plan those healthy, nutritious meals.  A good trick is to keep a note pad near the table or refrigerator.  Having the notepad within easy reach makes it easy to keep track of the foods you need to stock up on.

Step 2 – Watch those flyers
Most major food store chains publish weekly sales ads, usually as inserts in the local newspaper.  Keeping track of these sales, and taking advantage of the low prices to stock up, is a great way to gather a cupboard full of healthy food.  Once the pantry is full of fruits, vegetables and other healthy fare, it will be much easier to create healthy recipes the entire family will love.  In addition, locally grown, in season fruits and vegetables are usually more of a bargain than out of season or shipped fruits and vegetables.

Step 3 – Stock up on staples
Essential staple foods, such as flour, rice, and pasta are frequently put on sale as loss leaders at major groceries.  Stocking up on these essentials when prices are low is a great way to stretch any food budget.

Step 4 – Never shop when you are hungry
The old advice to never shop when you are hungry is definitely true.  Shopping when you are hungry is a sure way to give into temptation, bust the food budget, and stock up on all the wrong foods.

Step 5 – Become a label guru
Nutritional labels contain a wealth of information, but it is up to each shopper to read those labels and understand what they mean.  Nutritional labels contain complete information on not just calories and fats, but the amounts of various essential vitamins and minerals as well.  It is important to know how to read labels in order to get the best nutritional bang for your food bucks.

Step 6 – Pay close attention to package sizes
Just because two cans look alike it does not mean they are.  Packaging can be deceptive, so get in the habit of comparing weights when shopping for canned fruits, vegetables and other items.  Also take advantage of the lower prices available on store brand and generic products.

Step 7 – Use coupons, but do it wisely
Manufacturers coupons can be a great deal when used on products you already buy.  Buying something simply because you have a coupon, however, is typically not a good idea.

Step 8 – Replace meat with beans and other less costly substitutes
Eating less meat and more beans and lentils is a good way to save money on your food budget while still getting the protein you and your family need.  Try experimenting with some vegetarian recipes for interesting ways to use these non meat alternatives.

In addition to the tips listed above, there are several ways that smart shoppers keep their food budgets at a minimum while preparing delicious, nutritious meals for their family every day.

One trick is to keep the refrigerator and the pantry well stocked with staple foods.  Keeping a good supply of staples on hand will avoid unnecessary trips to the store and also avoid the need to buy such products when they are not on sale.  When staples such as bread, flour, peanut butter, canned vegetables, etc. are on sale, be sure to stock up.