Having a healthy eating plan is just as important as having a regular exercise routine.
Proper nutrition helps you manage your weight, helps keep your muscles and bones strong, gives you energy, strengthens your immune system, and reduces your risk for developing cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol and certain types of cancer.
But what's the right way to eat?
Even though there are countless diet and nutrition programs on the market that claim that their way of eating is the right way to eat, the reality is that no single eating plan works for everyone.
What types of food you should eat, what mix of protein, carbohydrate and fat you should eat, and how much food you should eat depends on factors such as your body type, your health and fitness goals, how much exercise you do, what types of exercise you do, and your likes and dislikes.
In other words, your healthy eating plan has to be personalized so it can meet your individual needs and goals. The more personalized your healthy eating plan is the more likely you'll be to stick with it. And that's the whole idea behind a healthy eating plan. It's not a temporary way of eating like a diet is, it's a permanent way of eating that you can follow for a lifetime.
Here are 10 guidelines for creating and following a healthy eating plan:
1. Make gradual changes to your eating habits.
Don't completely change your diet all at once, as this will increase the chances that you'll give up on a new eating plan. Make gradual changes to your diet and these changes will eventually become habits.
2. Eat breakfast.
Eating breakfast provides your body with the energy and nutrients it needs after a night of fasting. It also jump starts your metabolism. Your breakfast should include some type of lean protein and some type of complex carbohydrate. Avoid simple carbohydrates that contain white flour and/or white sugar, as they will cause a rapid rise and then drop in blood sugar, which will leave you feeling tired and hungry.
3. Eat smaller, more frequent meals or snacks.
Eating five or six smaller meals or snacks throughout the day instead of two or three big meals will help keep your blood sugar steady, which will help prevent cravings. It will also help keep your metabolism elevated and provide you with a consistent supply of nutrients and energy.
4. Don't eliminate macronutrients.
Your healthy eating plan needs to include all three macronutrients - protein, carbohydrate and fat - as your body needs all three in order to function properly and stay healthy. As previously stated, you do need to determine what mix of protein, carbohydrate and fat works best for you, but you should never eliminate any of these macronutrients from your diet.
5. Eat primarily lean protein.
The majority of the protein in your diet should be lean protein that comes from foods such as chicken breast, turkey breast and low-fat or non-fat dairy products.
6. Eat primarily complex carbohydrates.
The majority of the carbs in your diet should be complex carbs that come from foods such as whole grains, vegetables, beans and brown rice. Limit simple carbs that contain white flour and/or white sugar.
7. Eat primarily unsaturated fat.
The majority of the fat in your diet should be unsaturated fat that comes from foods such as nuts, olive oil, natural peanut butter and fatty fish. Limit saturated fat (but you do need some in your diet) and avoid trans fat as much as possible.
8. Eat plenty of fiber.
Eating plenty of fiber will help keep your blood sugar steady, which will help prevent cravings. It will also help your body better absorb the nutrients from food and help keep you regular.
9. Drink plenty of water.
Water has plenty of health benefits, including removing toxins and waste products from the body, enhancing digestion, and helping the body metabolize stored fat.
10. Don't deprive yourself.
Your healthy eating plan doesn't have to be perfect and it can include some of your favorite unhealthy foods - just don't eat them too often or in large amounts.
In conclusion, now that you have some guidelines for creating and following a healthy eating plan, get started today on developing the type of eating plan that works best for you.