What does “eating healthy” mean to you? It is an important question to be able to answer as it sets the tone for everything you do from meal planning, to grocery shopping, to cooking. You may already have your answer, but it never hurts to reaffirm your beliefs, goals and intentions! If you’ve never thought about answering this question before, then hopefully this post will inspire you to do so!
Eating Healthy is Unique to YOU
Let’s first establish the fact that “Eating Healthy” may be vastly different from one person to the next. There are lots of factors that come into play when determining the right foods to eat for your body. Some of these factors include:
- Medical Conditions (such as Diabetes, Celiac Disease, High Blood Pressure)
- Food Sensitivities or Allergies
- Your Activity Level
- Your Age
- Your Gender
- Your Culture/ Environment
- Your Personal and Religious Views
For some of these factors, your doctor may suggest you follow a prescribed diet. Or, you may search out a diet on your own that suits your needs, such as Paleo, Vegan, Atkins, Weight Watchers, Mediterranean or Ketogenic. You may find success by restricting certain foods or food groups. Although, whatever works for you may not work for everyone else because everyone’s needs are unique. It’s always best to consult a knowledgeable physician, naturopath, or nutritionist before changing your diet too drastically.
For the purposes of this blog, please note that I do not subscribe to any specific diet. Although I do agree with certain aspects, I do not believe in diets that are severely restrictive, especially if the goal is simply “optimum health and weight management”. Fortunately, my family and I do not have any medical conditions or food allergies that require a specific diet.
Additional Reading: Nine Most Popular Diets
Bottom Line: Be aware of these factors when determining what “eating healthy” means to you! Does your body perform best when following a specific diet?
What Eating Healthy Means To Me: My Beliefs, Tips and Guidelines
Moderation and Balance
My whole life I have always followed the philosophy, “Everything In Moderation”. This has suited me well so far! Not only do I apply this to food, but also to exercise. I’m certainly not an extremist… it’s just not in my DNA.
With exercise… I like to keep my workouts at a steady pace (not too intense, but not too easy either.) I also like to maintain balance by cross-training. Varying my workouts keeps boredom at bay and helps ensure “complete” fitness. So every day it’s something different: cardio, strength training, yoga/ stretching, pilates, or barre. I love it all!
With food… I like to keep a balance too! I don’t like to be restrictive. If I restrict certain foods, or food groups, then my body will be missing out on some of the best nutrients. Fruits, Vegetables, Whole Grains, Protein sources, certain types of Dairy and certain Fats all have a place in my balanced diet. Even dessert (sugar) has a place… in moderation!
In order to maintain a healthy balance, it is important for me to not go overboard with sugar, dairy, processed carbs, and sodium. I try to focus primarily on eating Clean Foods, which means I favor whole foods in their natural state.
Additional Reading: The Do’s and Don’ts of Clean Eating.
Bottom Line: Practice moderation and aim for balance!
Take Care of Your Body From The Inside Out
From a young age I developed an appreciation for the human body and the importance of taking care of it. I think that is why I gravitated toward a career in Health and Fitness and later Nursing. The human body is marvelously complex and nutritional science is constantly evolving with new insights and ideas about how food impacts the body. Food is powerful and can even be medicinal.
Sure, how you look on the outside has a lot to do with how you feel. But, the greatest impact comes from how you treat your body on the inside! When you shift your focus from the number of pounds you want to lose, or the size of your thighs, toward a focus on improving or maintaining the function of your body, then making healthy choices will become much easier. There are many more benefits to “eating healthy” than just weight loss. Weight management is often just a great side-effect!
Just a few of the benefits of eating a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, healthy fats, fiber, protein, and dairy, while low in sodium and sugar, include the ability to reduce your risk of certain illnesses or conditions such as heart disease, hypertension, diabetes 2, obesity, and certain cancers. Nutrient-dense foods provide our body with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that improve the function of our brain, our organs (including skin), our immune system, as well as strengthen our bones.
Bottom Line: There are many benefits to eating healthy other than just weight control. Be a Mindful Eater (pay attention!) and focus on the effect (positive or negative) the food you consume has on the inside of your body.
Eat What Makes You Feel Your Best
The right foods will fuel your body, provide nourishment and sustain you. Be honest with yourself. You know the foods that make you feel great… they help build your immune system, give you energy to power through your day or a workout, keep you alert, and stabilize your mood.
Pay attention to the foods that you know don’t make you feel your best. Maybe they do at first, but then you crash and burn, or worse, they lead you on a path toward disease and obesity. Try to limit or omit these foods.
But what about some of the less-healthy “comfort foods” that you love and enjoy? They may not be full of nutrients and may be high in calories and fat, but they can make you feel happy, relaxed, fulfilled. Eat them and enjoy them… in moderation. Maybe once a week, twice a week, during celebrations and holidays. You decide!
Bottom Line: 80% of the time use food as fuel and as a way to provide important nutrients to your body so you can function at your optimum. The other 20% of the time, enjoy the less healthy foods (or healthier versions of them) because they make you feel good in a different way… happy and fulfilled. (Not that healthy food can’t make you feel happy and fulfilled too!)
A Few More Things To Consider
Living a healthy lifestyle has a lot to do with how you think about food, prepare food and of course, consume food! You may already be on the right track or you may need to think about making some changes or improvements. Here are a few more things to consider as you continue on your journey:
- The greatest gift you can give yourself, or loved ones, is the gift of nourishment. Make time to prepare healthy, balanced meals at home and enjoy food together.
- Make time for some type of daily exercise. At the very least, don’t allow yourself to be sedentary for more than two hours at a time… get up and move!
- Ditch the scale! Unless you need to monitor your weight for medical reasons, think about removing the scale from your home or at least limit your weigh-ins to once a week. Stop allowing a number to dictate your self-worth and mood. Pay attention to how you feel and let that guide you.
- There are so many things in life that you can’t control, so take control of the food you consume… that is all you!
- Have a Plan! Set yourself up for success by planning your meals even just a week ahead. A Meal At A Time will help! Start by checking out my Meal Planning tips! There’s even a Meal Planning Guide and Checklist that you can print.
- Eating Healthy does require some knowledge, effort, preparation, discipline, and accountability. You get to decide how far you want to take it!
- Eating Healthy can be easy, convenient and affordable! A Meal At A Time will show you how!
So that’s my 2 cents! Be sure to check out more of my Food Philosophies in my About Page!
Now… what does “eating healthy” mean to you?