Eating for Health
Question: What is the best way to eat for optimal health?
Answer: There is no single diet that is best.
Does this surprise you? When we hear about so many different “diets” from the internet, TV or friends and family members, knowing what to do can be confusing. Here are 3 important guideline to help YOU figure out a good eating plan that will keep you healthy and well-nourished.
- Look for balance, moderation and variety
This simply means making sure you eat foods from many different food groups: vegetables, fruit, grains (especially whole grains), protein, and calcium. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020, eating from all food groups helps to ensure you are not getting too much of one nutrient and too little of another. It has the added benefit of offering many different flavors and textures, which makes eating more enjoyable.
- Be aware of appropriate portion sizes
The World Health Organization states, “The exact make-up of a diversified, balanced and healthy diet will vary depending on individual needs (e.g. age, gender, lifestyle, degree of physical activity), cultural context, locally available foods and dietary customs.” In other words, the amount you need to eat depends on if you are male or female, your age, your height and weight, your activity level, and your health goals (example: are you trying to lose weight? Gain weight?). The Dietary Guidelines recommend specific amounts for each food group to help you follow this recommendation. For more information on your individual needs, check out the links below:
- Focus on the nutritional needs of your body
Some recommended “diet” plans are missing entire food groups. Sometimes, a person may be unable or unwilling to eat a certain food group. For example, think of someone with lactose intolerance who can’t eat dairy products; are they getting enough calcium? Consider someone with a gluten allergy and can’t eat wheat; are they getting enough trace minerals and fiber? What about a vegetarian or vegan who chooses to avoid animal products; are they getting enough protein and vitamin B12? These ways of eating can be very healthful, but extra care needs to be taken to ensure they are nutritionally sound. If you find yourself in a situation where you have to avoid certain foods or food groups, ask to meet with a registered dietitian to help you figure out how to find balance and optimal nutrition.
One last thing to keep in mind, considering the holidays are fast approaching, is that NO way of eating is perfect, and no one eats as well as they intend to 100% of the time. Our advice: be mindful during the holidays, but enjoy your food, too. If you want to practice the above recommendations (and we hope you do!), make sure you eat some fruit and vegetables along with all those festive holiday treats!