8 Keys to a Healthy Diet

Unfortunately, an extreme weight loss diet like the ketogenic, paleo or Atkins diet are not the healthiest solutions for you if you are trying to fill your plate with a variety of nutritious foods. Diets such as these may help you to lose weight more quickly while providing you with temporary health benefits, but they restrict you from consuming many types of whole grains and complex carbohydrates. Healthy diet plans encourage you to consume a variety of nutritious foods to create a more well-balanced diet.

According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS), more than 33 percent of American adults and 17 percent of children and adolescents are obese. However, even those who maintain a healthier weight are at risk of developing chronic health conditions such as cancer, heart disease and osteoporosis, mainly because they consume an unhealthy diet with excess sodium, saturated fats and refined starches.

Even with so many free diet plans available to follow under the HHS, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), recent studies show that around 75 percent of the U.S. population follows a diet low in fruits, vegetables and healthy fats. Moreover, most Americans exceed the daily recommended intake of sodium, saturated fats and added sugars.

While learning how to stick to a diet that is high in fruits, vegetables and healthy fats is intimidating for many, there are several things you can do to incorporate healthier foods into your daily life for many years to come. For instance, eating brown rice rather than white rice and choosing unsweetened sparkling water over sugary sodas are simple adjustments that make a big impact on your overall health.  

For more healthy eating tips and to learn how to stay positive as you make changes to your diet, review the information below.

Key 1) Eat a variety of food

When looking at balanced diet information from organizations like the CDC, USDA and World Health Organization (WHO), you’ll read a lot about the importance of varying the types of foods you eat. No single food item can meet all your dietary needs, so it’s important to consume a variety of foods from each major group on the food pyramid.

If you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, you may wonder how you can fulfill the dietary requirements of each major food group. To follow a healthy diet plan as a vegan or vegetarian, be sure to consume plenty of beans, nuts and tofu for protein, and look for dairy-free milk and cheese alternatives that have been fortified with calcium and other essential vitamins.  

Key 2) Focus on foods that are high in fiber

Many healthy diet plans recommend foods high in fiber, as dietary fiber helps to regulate your digestive system, prevent constipation and lower your risk of developing heart disease. Additionally, fiber is an excellent weight loss diet staple, as fiber-rich foods can help you to feel fuller for a longer period of time.

Key 3) Eat a lot of produce

Nearly all healthy diet plans will encourage you to consume as much produce as possible. While the minimum amount of produce you need each day depends on your age, gender and activity level, most adults need between two and three cups of vegetables per day.

Whether you prefer to consume your vegetables raw or cooked, be sure to include a variety of the following into your daily life:

  • Dark green produce, such as leafy greens and broccoli
  • Starchy vegetables, such as white potatoes and cabbage
  • Red and orange vegetables such as carrots, tomatoes and bell peppers
  • Beans, peas and corn
  • Mushrooms, lettuce, green peppers and onions

Key 4) Limit your intake of sugary or processed foods and beverages

When you’re in need of stress reducing foods or don’t have time to cook a nutritious meal, you may reach for a package of cookies, frozen pizza or can of soda as a quick pick-me-up. However, healthier snack foods include yogurt, blueberries, pistachios, dark chocolate, pumpkin seeds, cashews and avocado.

If you’ve had a busy day and don’t have time to cook a proper meal, look for minimally processed foods without added sugars and sodium. Several nutritious options include canned beans, pre-cut vegetables and canned tuna.

Key 5) Choose whole grains for at least half of your grains

While some weight loss diets restrict all types of grains, there are many important health benefits of consuming a variety of whole grain products, such as whole wheat bread, oatmeal, bulgur, popcorn, brown or wild rice and whole grain pasta. According to the USDA, most adults should consume at least three ounces of whole grains per day, while younger men need closer to four ounces of whole grains each day.

Key 6) Limit the saturated fats in your diet

While butter, pizza and donuts may be stress reducing foods for many Americans, most of these comfort foods are high in saturated fats. If you consume too many foods high in saturated or trans fats, you greatly increase your risk of developing heart disease or gaining excess weight that may be hard to lose.

Key 7) Eat more unsaturated fats instead

While eliminating your favorite stress reducing foods may seem impossible at first glance, there are several substitutions you can make to simplify the process. For instance, healthier substitutions for foods high in saturated fats include skinless chicken and fish, olive or canola oil, nonfat dairy products, whole grains, avocados, nuts, peanut butter and sesame seeds.

Key 8) Reduce your sodium intake

When looking at a list of diets to find the right solution for you, you’ll notice that many of them limit the amount of sodium you consume. While your body does need some sodium in order to function properly, too much sodium can lead to high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease and other health concerns. However, many foods are naturally low in sodium, including fruits, vegetables, nuts and whole grains.

To reduce the amount of sodium you consume, avoid processed foods as often as possible. Processed foods like frozen pizza, pre-packed rolls, deli meats, chips and pretzels contain the greatest amount of sodium.