A healthy diet helps reduce your risk for diseases such as heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke and type 2 diabetes. It can also help you maintain a healthy weight, enhance your energy levels and improve your mood. A healthy diet includes a variety of foods that provide you with the nutrients and calories your body needs. For instance, a diet that includes lots of vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins can help you cut back on fat, saturated fat, added sugars and salt.
Try to make most of your meals from scratch rather than relying on ready-made or fast food. This way, you can control the ingredients in your food and make healthier choices. For example, if your favorite recipe calls for deep-frying fish or breading chicken, switch to baking or grilling instead. This will not only help you eat fewer calories but will also allow you to experiment with other recipes and find new favorites.
Choose foods low in added sugars, sodium and saturated fat and high in fiber, calcium, vitamins A and C, potassium and phytochemicals. Avoid trans fats and limit the amount of alcoholic beverages you drink.
Get plenty of vegetables (3 to 4 servings a day) and fruit (2 to 3 servings a day). Go for a mix of colors when choosing your veggies and vary the types of fruits you eat. Make half of your grains whole grains and choose low-fat or fat-free dairy milk or yogurt (or lactose-free dairy products or fortified soy versions). Choose protein foods from seafood, poultry without skin, beans, peas, lentils, nuts and seeds, and unsalted peanuts or soy products.
Aim to get less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium a day. This is about the amount in one quart of water or about the amount in a teaspoon of salt. If you can’t completely reduce your sodium intake, look for lower-sodium condiments and use them sparingly.
If you want to lower your sodium even more, consider replacing salt with herbs and spices. This will give your food a great flavor with none of the added sodium.
Try to get at least 60 minutes of moderate exercise daily. This can help you manage your weight, improve your mood and sleep habits, and decrease your stress. If you have a chronic disease or other health conditions, talk to your doctor before starting an exercise program.