By Cheshire Que, RND, RN, RD
We all understand the value of healthy eating when it comes to preventing diseases and weight gain. The major factor that makes one lose weight is not exercise. It is diet. Because no matter how much one exercises, if the eating pattern is uncontrolled, weight loss will never happen.
Everything else that one does to lose weight is futile without proper diet and, of course, good nutrition. After all, it is not just about the caloric intake, but the nutrients that the body absorbs, which are equally important to promote health.
But it is always easier said than done. Knowing is not the same as applying the principles of healthy eating each time we eat for as long as we live. For only when we form a habit of eating healthy and feeling good about it can we truly say that we are, in the real sense of the word, healthy.
What comes to mind when you hear healthy diet? Cleansing? Juicing? Detox? Clean eating? No carbs, high protein? While all these may help you lose weight from decreased caloric intake and lack of nutrients, these diets are not sustainable. They say it takes 21 days to form a habit. Can you drink juices and not eat anything solid for 21 days? Unless you are on spiritual fasting, then that would just be plain torture. You will surely get cravings, especially when your physical activities get demanding.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations describes a healthy diet as:
a. includes a variety of food from different food groups;
b. meets the individual’s need for calories and nutrients;
c. is safe, with no risk from toxins, bacteria, mold, or chemicals;
d. is enjoyable and culturally acceptable; and
e. is available and sufficient each day and all year round.
Moreover, the World Health Organization says a healthy diet emphasizes consumption of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, root crops, fat-free or low fat milk, lean meats, poultry, fish, egg, beans, and nuts. It is also low in saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, sodium, and added sugars.
A healthy diet is not about calorie restriction to the point of starvation. Neither is it about limiting intake to specific food items, unless you have a medical condition. A healthy diet is one that satisfies and nourishes the body. A diet revolving around the cycle of deprivation and indulgence is an unhealthy one.
To ensure that you have a healthy diet, follow these tips:
1. Make whole, fresh, and minimally processed food readily available at home and in your workplace. Practice quick cooking at home and bring packed lunches and snacks. Eat or drink your fresh produce at home when your lunches and dinners are mostly eaten out.
2. Practice portion control. Eat everything in moderation with occasional treats to prevent feelings of deprivation that result to binge eating. Try to eat healthy food at most meals in a week. Be a savvy shopper when doing your grocery shopping. Do not be tempted to hoard sweets, fatty, and highly processed food.
3. Don’t skip meals. Skipping meals do not only decrease your metabolism, but also increase your hunger, thus, making you eat more than you have to at the end of the day. If you have no time to eat a full meal, grab a fruit or a sandwich or a glass of milk to sustain you until you get to sit down and have a decent nutritious meal.
As we celebrate nutrition month this July, the National Nutrition Council leads the entire nation in disseminating nutrition-related messages through the theme “Healthy Diet, Gawing Habit–For Life!” The campaign aims to do the following:
a. increase awareness on the importance of healthy diets to prevent malnutrition and contribute to the reduction of overweight and obesity and non-communicable diseases;
b. help the public distinguish between healthy and unhealthy food for better food choices;
c. encourage the food industry, including farmers, manufacturers, distributors, and food establishments to produce and make available healthier food options; and
d. advocate for the enactment of national and local legislation/policies supportive of an enabling environment for healthy diets.
Quit fad dieting and adapt a healthy diet for life!
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