Healthy eating guidelines will vary from person to person.
We can roughly say what is good to eat and what is not. What is best to eat to feel optimally healthy and happy is something very personal.
As a general rule, eating healthier allows you to live about 2 years longer on average and reduces the possibility of contracting chronic (non-contagious) diseases. Opt for lots of fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, whole-grain cereals, eggs, olive oil, and dairy. The least processed, the better.
Be your own researcher and thus experiment with various types of nutrition.
What is healthy food? The answer is not the same for everyone. For example, there are dietary guidelines designed for healthy people who want to stay healthy.
But people who are overweight, have an illness, an intolerance, or an allergy are often better off with a modified diet.
Read on to learn more about practical healthy eating guidelines.
Table of Contents
- 1 Healthy eating guidelines: Introduction
- 2 Live longer, healthier, and happier with good nutrition
- 3 Eating differently can lower the mortality rate
- 4 Four key eating recommendations to become more energetic, healthier, and leaner
- 5 Eating healthier doesn’t have to be expensive
- 6 Cook your own dishes
- 7 Be careful with alcohol
- 8 Summary of good nutrition guidelines
- 9 Healthy eating guidelines: Conclusion
Healthy eating guidelines: Introduction
Let’s make the comparison with cars for a moment.
If you drive a diesel car, you should not put gasoline in it but diesel. And vice versa, the same guideline applies: In a gasoline car, you put gas and not diesel.
In other words, each person should use the appropriate fuel for them.
On top of that, it might be wise to avoid eating potato chips, cookies, and candy and drinking alcohol. But sometimes you just feel like that.
You can choose to consciously deviate from your diet once in a while and enjoy it. It adds color to your life to occasionally eat a pizza with friends or enjoy a nice glass of wine.
Then the next day, you can take up healthy eating just as easily, or even easier, because you want to.
You have to do nothing, and you have nothing to prove. But you know you’re going to feel more energetic and have fewer stomach aches if you follow healthy eating guidelines, and that’s why you do it.
Live longer, healthier, and happier with good nutrition
Following healthy eating guidelines means you live about 2 years longer on average.
It also reduces your risk of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer.
The total package of your nutrition is what is important. So far more important than what you should leave out is what you can eat to keep/put your body in optimal condition.
Fortunately, quite a few studies have been done on this, and they always come up with pretty much the same dietary pattern:
Lots of fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, whole-grain cereals, eggs, olive oil, and dairy, supplemented with modest amounts of (preferably fatty) fish and meat (preferably chicken or poultry and as unprocessed as possible).
Also, eat as little sugar and other fast carbohydrates as possible. And replace white pasta and white rice with whole-wheat pasta and brown rice.
Blue Zones as inspiration to live longer and healthier lives
In several places in the world, in the so-called Blue Zones, where a long, healthy life is not exceptional, people eat this way.
Examples include Ikaria in Greece, Okinawa in Japan, Nicoya in Costa Rica, and Sardinia in Italy.
It is often described as a traditional, Mediterranean diet.
It is essential to look at what all these diets have in common and not pay too much attention to minor differences (such as eating pasta versus rice).
What all of these diets have in common is eating foods that are recognizable as food to most people.
And in the end, we have done well with that as a human race for tens of thousands of years, without many diseases of affluence.
However, what is important is that people in Blue Zones eat a varied and moderate diet, get plenty of exercise, have a strong social network, smoke little or nothing, and experience little stress.
Free yourself as much as possible from cigarettes, drugs, and alcohol.
Exactly what the individual contribution of those factors is cannot be determined. It probably only works optimally as a total package. As a result, the average life expectancy in these Blue Zones is much higher than elsewhere.
Therefore, paying attention to other things than just nutrition is essential. It is always about a total package as the various lifestyle factors reinforce each other.
Those who sleep better have more energy to exercise and see friends. Those who put more energy into socializing will pay better attention to what they eat.
Healthy eating guidelines does represent one of the most essential pillars of this overall package. You can make quick health gains and have a lot of influence yourself.
Eating differently can lower the mortality rate
Unhealthy diets in the United States lead to more than 100,000 cases of disease and tens of thousands of deaths each year. And so these could be (partially) prevented if we start eating healthier!
You can often recognize foods that are little industrially processed by a short and understandable list of ingredients. Healthy eating guidelines aren’t complicated!
Four key eating recommendations to become more energetic, healthier, and leaner
Eating better and healthier is not that difficult. In my experience, you can make health gains reasonably easily and still eat delicious food.
Below you will read 4 very important eating recommendations for those who want to become healthier, more energetic, and slimmer:
Every little change and adjustment counts
Eating raw vegetables at lunch four times a week, eating a piece of fruit instead of a cookie, not putting milk and sugar in your coffee anymore, making your own fresh soup from now on instead of using powdered soups, drinking water instead of soda, and so on are excellent healthy eating guidelines.
No matter how small the adjustment, the important thing is that you change your habits.
But give yourself enough time and space to change your habits, even if you want to start eating less sugar or salt, for example.
Getting used to a different taste takes several weeks for most people, and the occasional “relapse” is definitely part of it.
Do not automatically think that all is suddenly lost if you make a mistake. But just continue on your chosen, healthier path the next day.
Everyone makes mistakes, so learn to forgive yourself and continue on the straight path to healthier eating!
Eat a full meal 3 times a day
By consistently eating 3 times a day, you avoid annoying blood sugar spikes and drops.
In fact, low sugar causes your body to ask for fuel again, which makes it more likely that you will consume unhealthy snacks (which is really regrettable given the relationship between sugar and disease).
On the other hand, if you keep your sugar level at a good level, you will automatically have less need for snacks.
In addition, you are burning energy from your fat cells between meals (which is good for your figure and combating fat rolls and obesity).
But if you eat some snacks in between, you will only get the energy from food (and burn less fat cells). And those are healthy eating guidelines!
Eat industrially unprocessed foods
The closer a food is to nature, the more suitable it is to be included in your healthy diet.
Packages and pouches, such as powdered soup, are usually highly processed. They often have added salt, sugar, and preservatives. Just try to banish this from your diet.
Cheese and yogurt are also processed but minimally and through a natural process and therefore not an industrial process.
Bread is also processed, but that in itself is not a problem. It just matters what kind of bread you buy. For example, choose whole-wheat bread without additives, made from flour, water, and a little salt.
So don’t choose a long-life white bread with added sugars, bread improvers, etc. Check with the bakery or supermarket when in doubt!
Eating highly processed foods leads to weight gain
Highly processed foods contain numerous additives to enhance flavor.
It has been scientifically established that eating such industrially processed foods is unhealthier than eating unprocessed foods.
Twenty overweight adults stayed in a research room for 4 weeks in which all participants alternated between receiving only highly processed foods for 2 weeks and unprocessed foods for 2 weeks (National Diabetes Institute in Bethesda, USA).
The heavily processed and the unprocessed meals were equal in carbohydrates, fat, sugar, salt, and calories.
The study found that 2 weeks of eating highly processed foods leads to about 2.2 pounds of weight gain.
The hunger hormone in the blood was also significantly increased, and the satiety hormone was decreased.
Interesting observation: On average, participants ate about 500 kilocalories more daily in the weeks when they were fed only highly processed foods.
In contrast, if they ate unprocessed foods, the researchers saw almost 2.2 pounds of weight loss, and the subjects reported feeling satiated for much longer.
Finally, don’t wait to eat vegetables until dinner. For example, try eat a salad, tomatoes or carrots at lunch.
Eat as fresh and varied as possible
Preferably eat fruits and vegetables that are in season. At those specific times, they are at their tastiest and most advantageous in terms of cost.
Fruits and vegetables are heart-healthy foods that lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke.
Frozen vegetables and fruits are also okay because they are frozen immediately after picking and contain more vitamins and minerals than, say, a stalk of leeks that you left for 5 days.
However, beware of fruits and vegetables from jars and preserves. This often has salt and sugar added to it. Fortunately, you can increasingly choose variants without these additives.
Canned food is not recommended and can also contain plasticizers, which can cause unwanted weight gain, among other things.
Eating healthier doesn’t have to be expensive
- Eat unsaturated fats (present in nuts, olive oil, and avocados)
- Go to the market at the end of the day because then many fresh products are still on sale at reduced prices (they are on sale at an extra discount)
- Frozen fruits and vegetables contain just as many good nutrients as fresh ones and are often cheaper. Avoid canned foods and fruits and vegetables.
- Also, cook with leftovers. For example, make a soup from vegetables you have left over or put the vegetables in a fresh omelet.
- Check out the whole-grain products like brown rice at certain cheaper discount supermarkets. They are usually a lot cheaper, so you can buy them in large quantities.
- Buy fruits and vegetables in season. For example, think strawberries in summer and cabbage in winter. That does make a difference in terms of cost!
Cook your own dishes
A good guideline is to cook as much as possible yourself.
Several studies have shown that there is generally healthier eating in families where parents cook and eat together with children.
Eating is a socially and culturally meaningful event that can strengthen our social ties.
The critical advantage is that you know what’s in it if you prepare your own food. For example, if you buy a cake at the store, you have no idea how many scoops of sugar went into it. But if you bake the cake yourself, you’ll know for sure.
The way you prepare your food also affects the nutritional value of your preparations.
Wok and steam vegetables instead of boiling them
For example, vegetables can lose their vitamins through cooking. However, the longer you cook something, the more vitamins disappear in the cooking liquid.
Briefly wok or steam your vegetables like carrots and broccoli is better than boiling them (for a long time) if you want to preserve as many vitamins as possible.
And if you do cook your vegetables, add little water. Capturing the liquid and using it for a sauce is also a wise idea (but more work).
The smaller you cut the vegetables before cooking them, the more vitamins will escape into the cooking liquid. The same goes for fruit because, unfortunately, vitamins are also lost when mashing fruit.
In addition, it is less satiating than a loose piece of fruit. That’s because you chew a piece of fruit longer.
Making the occasional smoothie is no problem, but don’t do it too often. And if you make a smoothie, do leave whole pieces of fruit in it.
Fruit juices from a pack are really a turnoff. Then you get ten apples or oranges in one sitting with thus far too much sugar.
Be careful with alcohol
For example, alcohol increases the risk of breast cancer. Even 1 glass of beer or wine a day can slightly increase your chances of developing breast cancer, both before and after menopause.
In short, the more alcohol you drink, the greater your risk of breast cancer.
Physical activity, in turn, reduces your risk of developing breast cancer.
Consider moderate-intensity exercise such as walking, swimming, cycling, and running.
The researchers do emphasize that no single lifestyle is a guarantee against cancer.
Finally, an additional tip: Eat more plant-based products and less animal-based products.
Summary of good nutrition guidelines
Below we have listed again which foods and patterns lead to health gains.
The summary advice below is appropriate for healthy people who want to stay healthy.
Drinking and beverages
- Don’t drink alcohol (advice for women who want the lowest possible risk of breast cancer) or at least no more than 1 glass a day (advice for men)
- Drink as few sugary drinks as possible (sugary soft drinks are not recommended).
- Replace unfiltered with filtered coffee
- Drink up to 3 cups of tea daily
- Delete all alcoholic beverages for a while. You’ll see that you’ll be surprisingly quick to get used to living without them. In addition, many people quickly start to feel fitter and clearer. Also, leave out drinks with sugars and sugar substitutes, such as sodas and fruit juices.
- Drink plenty of water and tea without sugar. Do you miss a little flavor in your drinks? Then try fresh ginger and mint tea or cold water with lime, mint, cucumber, and/or ginger.
- Coffee is also possible, provided you don’t have more than a few cups a day and drink the coffee black with no sugar and no milk.
- Are you used to drinking coffee with milk and/or sugar? Your taste buds need about 3 weeks to get used to the new taste. After that, you usually don’t want anything else.
Food and nutrition
- Limit the intake of table salt to no more than 0.2 ounces per day.
- Eat at least 3.2 ounces of whole-grain bread or other whole-grain products daily.
- Eat fish (preferably oily fish) once a week.
- Utilize several servings of (plant-based) dairy products per day, including milk or yogurt.
- Eat at least 0.5 ounces of unsalted nuts per day.
- Eat at least 9 ounces of vegetables and 7 ounces of fruit daily.
- Limit consumption of red meat, especially processed meat.
- Eat legumes weekly.
- Replace refined grain products with whole-grain products.
- Eat according to a more plant-based and less animal-based diet.
When you walk through the supermarket, sometimes you can’t see the forest for the trees.
More and more packaging is full of labels and stickers. But the many slogans and marketing tricks still say nothing about a product’s nutritional value or the number of useful nutrients it contains.
The best thing you can do to find out the actual nutritional value is to turn the product over and read the ingredients list.
If sugar or flour is one of the first ingredients on the list, you can assume that the product has little nutritional value.
If there are more than 5 ingredients on the ingredients list, most with unrecognizable and incomprehensible names, it’s probably highly processed.
Research shows that people automatically eat more highly processed products and thus gain weight faster from them.
Also, look out for ingredient names ending in dextrin and syrup. These, too, are sugars.
Finding the best bread can also be complicated. Many people think that brown bread is whole-wheat bread. But it doesn’t. Brown bread and especially dark brown bread tend to contain less fiber and more sugars than whole-grain bread.
If you read the label, the first ingredient should be whole-wheat flour. Otherwise, you are actually dealing with white bread.
Whole-grain bread contains the most fiber and nutrients, it satiates you faster and longer, and it is healthier.
So choose whole-wheat bread and not brown bread and certainly not white bread.
Healthy eating guidelines: Conclusion
It is really less work than you think.
And remember, consistency and not perfection is what we’re aiming for.
Eat simple, eat nutritious, and eat healthily!
Tip: You may also be interested in our other post to learn more about your metabolism: How Does Metabolism Affect Body Weight? Myths Debunked