A balanced diet is key to improving your nutrition, performance, and overall wellbeing because good food creates the energy and to sustain you throughout the day. And, the habits that support a balanced diet are just as important as the food itself. Build healthy habits and learn how to eat a balanced diet with these eight tips.
Part of knowing how to eat a balanced diet is understanding which foods you should avoid and why. As you likely know, highly processed foods and sugary beverages carry little to no nutritional value and are often high in calories. These foods are common quick fixes that will leave you dragging later in the day as the sugars wear off. Once you can identify these opportunities for better nutrition choices, you've made an important step in the right direction.
Aim to think outside the box and find nutrient-dense options that maximize your food intake and support overall wellbeing. Protein, for example, is crucial to feeling satisfied during and between meals, which helps to fend off overeating. Also, vegetables are packed with nutrients that can provide a variety of health benefits. And if you can combine the two, you'll really get the best of both worlds.
Try incorporating high-protein vegetables, for example:
Lentils - 17.86 grams of protein per cup
Edamame - 16 grams of protein per cup
Peas - 6.99 grams of protein per cup
Spinach (cooked) - 5.35 grams of protein per cup
When meals are balanced in all aspects you are more likely to feel satisfied sooner and longer, which keeps you from overeating and unnecessary snacking. If you sit down to a plate of food with a brown piece of this and a beige scoop of that, you're already unsatisfied and thinking about what you can eat later. But if the food is vibrant and smells delicious, you're excited to eat and it's already starting to satisfy your needs. Include foods in a range of colors, textures, and flavors when you make time to sit down for your meal. Then you can truly enjoy your food, have fewer cravings between meals, and eat less overall.
Review the "why" behind your eating habits. Why you're eating is just as important as what you're eating. When you use food to satisfy emotional needs, you often turn to unhealthy choices such as cookies, ice cream, or pizza. The satisfaction lasts for a few moments while you eat, but the feelings come rushing back once you're done. As a result, you still feel unhappy and now you've eaten poorly too. Therefore, if you keep the "why" of your eating focused on nutrition and sustenance, you're more likely to choose healthy options that support your balanced diet.
When you're well rested, you're more likely to make rational, positive choices to support your goals. For example, think about how you feel when you're tired: everything's a little hazy, the simplest tasks seem like so much work, and you just want the easiest option for everything, including food. Unfortunately, the easy food options you're likely to reach for will be those highly processed and sugary foods you aim to avoid. So give yourself a fighting chance and make time for rest days and respect the need for sleep. Support yourself in all aspects of building the base for a healthy diet.
Skipping meals, whether accidental or purposeful, leads to poor energy, mood swings, and overeating. This, in turn, can lead to lackluster food choices like energy drinks, candy bars, and other vending machine downfalls. Listen to your body, because when you can tune into your natural hunger cues you'll know exactly when it's time to eat. Subsequently, you'll be less likely to stray from your goals.
Make time for food prep because not every day is going to go as planned. Food prep makes it easy to choose balanced meals, especially when you're tired or short on time. Also, make a point to replace the processed foods and sugar-sweetened drinks in your home with healthy snacks. A home environment filled with healthy options and free of temptation makes it that much easier to select foods that are part of a balanced diet.
Focusing on how to eat a balanced diet doesn't end when you leave work on a Friday afternoon. A little fun eating is okay, but you'll still want to stick to your goals for long-term success. Therefore, you'll want to plan ways to help yourself avoid setbacks.
Challenge yourself to find solutions to common weekend scenarios before they happen:
What healthy change can you make to restaurant food if you eat out for dinner?
How will you stay busy to avoid eating out of boredom?
What types of healthy meals can you make ahead if you're spending a day at the lake?
What will you eat before you go to the movies so that you're not tempted by popcorn?
Keep these tips in mind when your clients want to know how to eat a balanced diet. Specific vitamins, minerals, and other nutritional details are certainly important, but a strong base of healthy habits is what will help you stick to your goals.
And, for more information on the secrets to coaching clients to nutrition success, check out ISSA's Fitness Nutrition Certification here.
USDA Food Composition Databases. (2018, April). Retrieved from United States Department of Agriculture: https://ndb.nal.usda.go
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