Steps For a Healthy Diet

Maintaining a well-balanced diet is sometimes easier said than done. Between work or school, family and other social commitments, you are probably balancing a hundred different things at once. Having a healthy meal when you are late for work or rushing from appointments, is the last thing on your mind. But you should know that it isn’t that hard to make simple changes to improve your diet. A little research and planning can help you find a diet to fit your lifestyle.

There are some basic steps to good nutrition that you can easily build into your lifestyle. These steps can also help you reduce your risk for heart disease as well as help you lose weight and keep your body mass index (BMI) in the “healthy” range.

Balance the food you eat from the different food groups. Eat lots of delicious fruits, vegetables, whole grains and fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products.

Go low. Make sure that your daily consumption of saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol is as low as possible. Consume less than 10 percent of your daily calories from saturated fat, and less than 300 mg/day of cholesterol, and keep trans fatty acid consumption as low as possible. Foods low in saturated fat include fruits, vegetables, whole grain foods, and low-fat or nonfat dairy products.

  • Try to avoid commercially fried and baked goods such as crackers and cookies.

  • Keep total fat intake between 20 to 35 percent of calories, with most fats coming from sources of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids, such as fish, nuts, and vegetable oils.

Grains. Include a variety of grains daily, especially whole grains, a good source of fiber.

Fruits and Vegetables. Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables daily. Two cups of fruit and 2 ½ cups of vegetables per day are recommended for a 2,000 calorie diet.

Limit your sugar. If you can totally cut your unnecessary sugar intake do so. This means limiting your cookies, candies and cakes.

Less sodium and salt. Aim for no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day, or about one teaspoon of salt per day.

  • You can choose low-sodium foods, which will also help lower your cholesterol, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat or nonfat dairy products, and moderate amounts of lean meat.

  • To flavor your food, reach for herbs and spices rather than high-sodium table salt.

  • Be sure to read the labels of seasoning mixes because some contain salt.

Limit your Alcohol. You should have no more than two drink alcoholic beverages per day for men and one per day for women.

Eat fish. You should include at least two servings of fish per week to improve your heart health. Fatty fish like salmon and lake trout are high in omega-3 . Fatty acids help lower blood cholesterol. Eat omega-3 fatty acids from plant sources, such as from tofu, soybeans, canola, walnuts, and flaxseed.