What Does Healthy Eating Look Like?
If you Google “healthy eating” you get a huge number of “authorities” giving you advice, from magazine editors to professional organizations to our own federal government. Sifting through all of this information can be confusing and it may leave you asking yourself, “Who’s right?” or “So what am I supposed to follow?” or “What is the healthiest way to feed myself and my family?”
What I like to emphasize are the similarities between many of these recommendations and not the small differences. The main message is this:
Eat lots of vegetables and fruits
Eat a small portion of healthy sources of protein (ie: poultry, seafood, eggs, beans, nuts and seeds)
Eat a small portion of grains, with an emphasis on whole grains (see my blog on whole grains for examples)
What I see as valuable in the recommendations is the importance of eating real, whole foods. Whole foods are those that are closest to their natural state, with little to no processing and without additives. For instance, a baked sweet potato is a whole food, whereas sweet potato fries have been modified by frying them in oil and adding salt.
One way to think about whole foods is to consider how far they have come from the farm. Does what you are eating resemble the fruit, vegetable or grain when it was harvested from the earth or has it become unrecognizable through a lot of processing? None of the nutrition recommendations suggest eating foods with a lot of preservatives, food color or other additives. Also, many do not spell out how many calories we need to eat or how many of each nutrient or vitamin we need.
When we eat a variety of real, whole foods that have not been overly processed our bodies will get the nourishment that it needs. So, don’t worry about exactly which guidelines to follow. Instead, focus on eating many vegetables and fruits as the center of your meals with a little healthy protein of your choice and the addition of some whole grains. If you need some inspiration for meals, here are some websites that have information to help you:
Or, go no further than your local farmer’s market for some fresh produce. Load a bunch on top of some brown rice, add in some chicken or black beans and top it off with some herbs and a little olive oil and – voila – a perfectly healthy meal!
Here's an easy recipe to try with your family (serves 4):
2 large cooked sweet potatoes, cut into cubes
2 mangoes, cut into cubes
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
2 avocados, cut into cubes
4 tablespoons of cilantro, chopped
2 limes, juiced
Balsamic vinegar to taste
Place the cubed sweet potatoes in the bottom of a wide bowl.
Top with the mango, bell peppers, avocados and cilantro.
Drizzle with the lime juice and the balsamic vinegar. Serve immediately.
(Adapted from The Engine 2 Diet by Rip Esselstyn, 2009)
For more nutrition and cooking ideas, be sure to join our VIP list - signup is free and you’ll receive exclusive content and special offers just for subscribers!