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How to Develop a Healthy Diet

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How to Develop a Healthy Diet

December 30, 2010

Written for Diabetes1 by Michelle Alford

Every year, losing weight and getting into shape are two of the top ten most popular New Year’s resolutions. People are ready to shed the pounds they gained during the holiday season and get a healthy start to the new year.

When altering your eating habits, it is essential that you develop a healthy diet suitable for lifelong use rather than follow a crash diet designed to quickly reduce weight. While a diet that recommends cutting out an entire food group, such as carbohydrates, may help you lose weight in the short term, it isn’t healthy or sustainable in the long run and you’re likely to quickly gain back the weight you lost.

Instead of looking for a quick fix, research healthy alternatives for your favorite meals. Despite common misconceptions, healthy doesn’t have to mean bland or boring. If you are unhappy with your food selections, then you’re more likely to slip back into bad habits.

Follow these steps to develop a healthier diet without sacrificing taste:

Make your own meals instead of eating out or microwaving frozen food. Home cooked meals take more effort but are often significantly healthier. They’re usually cooked in less fat and include fewer preservatives. You’re able to better control what you’re consuming. Cooking your meals also allows you to be more creative with the menu, enabling you to produce a larger variety of healthy meals and keeping you from becoming bored with the limited number of healthy options provided by restaurants and frozen food brands.

Tips for converting to home-made meals:

  • Google recipes for your favorite restaurant meals. Many will be easier to cook than you expect.
  • Make several portions at once and separate them into serving-size containers before eating. This will keep you from overeating while also providing you quick and easy meals for later in the week.
  • Learn to make ten simple side items—such as baked potatoes, asparagus, and risotto—that you can mix and match with your premade main course to keep your meals varied and interesting.
  • Invest in proper cookware. Owning the right tool for the job will allow you to skip tedious steps and save time and energy.

Make simple alterations to your homemade meals to make them healthier. Whether you already regularly cook or are still learning the basics of preparing a meal, these tips will help you keep your homemade meals healthy and delicious:

  • Instead of white pasta, bread, and flour, use whole wheat.
  • Try baking or grilling instead of frying. If you do choose to fry food, blot the extra oil off before eating.
  • Consider alternative sweeteners and condiments. Try sweetening tea or lemonade with honey instead of sugar or replacing typical baked potato fillings with salsa. 
  • Use less oil, butter, or margarine than suggested in the recipe. It makes the final meal considerably healthier without significantly changing the taste.
  • Consider decreasing the amount of meat and increasing the amount of vegetables in pastas, soups, and stir fry recipes.

Replace your sugary snacks and drinks with healthier alternatives. Instead of trying to completely eliminate between meal snacking, try these substitutes:

  • Plain yogurt with chopped fruit.
  • Popcorn, as long as you go easy on the butter and salt.
  • Fresh fruit.
  • Celery with hummus.
  • Mixed nuts or almonds.

Be careful of misleading labels. Products with labels that proclaim “low fat” or “sugar free” are not necessarily healthier. Read the full nutrition data. Often times, products that advertise low fat have high levels of sugar or salt. Other misleading phrases include “all natural,” which can include products with natural but unhealthy ingredients such as high fructose corn syrup; “made with whole grain” or “made with real fruit,” which don’t specify percentages of healthy ingredients versus unhealthy ingredients; and any phrase starting with “may help,” which isn’t regulated by the FDA. Learning to read and understand nutrition labels can help you avoid unhealthy foods and improve your diet.

These are just a few steps that you can take to improve your diet. Discuss further steps and diets that have or haven’t worked for you in the Diabetes1 forums.

Photo: Thor

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