Quick Question: Have you consumed at least five servings of fruits and vegetables today? Have you reached the goal of 25 to 35 grams of fiber, or perhaps you’ve indulged a bit too much in salt, fat, or added sugar? How about protein intake – are you getting enough without overdoing it?
Don’t fret; keeping track of all these nutritional details can be challenging, even for us. The abundance of dietary guidelines can be overwhelming, making it difficult to remember, let alone follow them. That’s why we’ve devised four straightforward rules to guide you toward good health. They are delightfully simple, and adherence to them will ensure you’re maintaining a reasonably nutritious diet without requiring an encyclopedic memory.
- Incorporate at least one serving of fruits or vegetables into every meal, and most snacks. Achieving the recommended five to nine servings of produce a day might seem daunting, but if you start sneaking them into your breakfast and continue the habit at every meal, you’ll come remarkably close to the recommended daily amount. This also ensures you get sufficient fiber and essential vitamins. As an added bonus, the high water content and fiber in most fruits and vegetables help you feel full, reducing the likelihood of succumbing to snack cravings and overeating.
What constitutes one serving? It can be a single piece of fresh fruit, a half-cup of sliced fruit, a half-cup of most vegetables, one cup of leafy greens like lettuce or spinach, or one cup of 100% fruit juice. However, don’t fret over these specifics; simply having a fruit or veggie on your plate at each meal is an excellent start.
- Opt for whole foods over processed and packaged alternatives whenever possible. When we mention “whole foods,” we refer to items found in nature with a single primary ingredient – think bananas, broccoli, chicken, brown rice, or milk. Ninety percent of the time, these foods are the healthiest option. Prioritizing whole foods increases your chances of obtaining sufficient protein, fiber, and whole grains. Moreover, it helps you reduce your intake of packaged foods, potentially sparing you from excessive sodium, sugar, and calorie consumption.
- If you encounter a food label with three or more unrecognizable or unpronounceable ingredients, skip it. While the occasional indulgence in packaged foods is perfectly reasonable, it doesn’t mean you can’t be discerning. Generally, the shorter and simpler the ingredient list, the better. An excessively long list often signifies that the food contains undesirable components such as excessive sugar, artificial sweeteners, high-fructose corn syrup, saturated and trans fats, sodium, preservatives, and chemicals – all of which should be consumed sparingly, if at all.
- Always carry a healthy, portable snack, like unsalted nuts, a low-fat granola bar, or a piece of fruit. Finding yourself famished and without nutritious options is a surefire way to undermine even the best dietary intentions. Who hasn’t succumbed to pastries during lengthy meetings or resorted to vending machine potato chips due to a lack of better choices?
The best defense is preparation. Ensure that you have a low-calorie, nutritious snack tucked away in your handbag or glove compartment at all times. This way, you’ll be better equipped to resist the allure of that bag of chips or the oversized cookie when your stomach starts to grumble.