The consumption of a nutritious and well-balanced diet is one of the most important things you can do to safeguard your health. You can prevent up to 80% of premature heart disease and stroke by making healthy lifestyle choices and adopting active habits, such as eating a nutritious diet and being physically active.
On the other hand, making significant dietary changes can appear to be a daunting task at times. So instead of making sweeping changes, it may be preferable, to begin with, a small number of smaller ones. And it’s probably more manageable to start with one thing rather than trying to tackle them all simultaneously.
Creating healthy habits at home is essential for maintaining overall health and well-being. Here are some tips to help you establish healthy habits:
Plan and prepare healthy meals: Plan your meals in advance and make sure they are nutritious and balanced. Incorporate a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats into your meals. Cook at home as much as possible to have more control over the ingredients and portion sizes.
Keep healthy snacks on hand: Stock your pantry and fridge with healthy snacks like fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. Avoid keeping junk food and sugary snacks in the house to reduce temptation.
Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of water throughout the day to keep your body hydrated. If you find plain water boring, try adding sliced fruit or herbs to your water for flavor.
Get moving: Make physical activity a regular part of your day. Take a walk, do some stretching exercises, or have a dance party with your family. Aim for at least 30 minutes of activity each day.
Practice good sleep hygiene: Establish a regular sleep routine and aim for 7-8 hours of sleep each night. Avoid electronic devices before bedtime and create a relaxing environment in your bedroom.
Manage stress: Practice relaxation techniques like deep breathing, meditation, or yoga to help manage stress. Make time for hobbies and activities that you enjoy.
Stay connected: Stay connected with your family and friends. Social support can help reduce stress and improve overall well-being.
Remember, creating healthy habits takes time and effort. Start with small, achievable goals and gradually build on them. With consistency and dedication, you can create a healthy home environment that promotes well-being for everyone.
We reached out to the experts for their advice on starting healthy eating habits; check out all they had to say.
What are the differences between a keto and paleo diet?
People following the keto or the Paleo diet have different dietary restrictions and health goals. With keto, the diet is centered around reducing carbohydrate intake to a very low level. When ketogenic diets are used as medical nutrition therapy for epilepsy, the diet may also be high in fat. However, when the general public uses keto for weight loss or blood sugar control in diabetes, the diet often restricts carbs without being high fat.
Healthy keto diet staples include meats, chicken, seafood, cheese, Greek yogurt, non-starchy vegetables, nuts, seeds, and berries. Grains, most legumes, many fruits, starchy vegetables (such as potatoes and corn), and foods with added sugar are restricted on keto.
The Paleo diet focuses on eating in a way closer to how it is believed our Paleolithic ancestors ate, not carb restriction. The rules for the Paleo diet can differ a little depending on who you’re talking to, as it is not a medical nutrition therapy. In general, Paleo focuses on limiting processed foods and grains, legumes, most dairy products, and (usually) white potatoes.
Some Paleo-friendly foods not generally eaten on keto diets are sweet potatoes, corn, apples, and mango. A few examples of keto-friendly foods that are not suitable for Paleo include cheese and low-carb drinks made with artificial sweeteners. Both diets restrict bread, grain-based pasta, dairy milk (zero sugar milk can be used on keto), and lentils.
Most common ultra-processed foods (think fast-food french fries, chips, cookies, sugary cereals, etc.) are eliminated on both diets. This may be why adherents may feel better or lose weight with the diet.
-Summer Yule from summeryule.com
How to get started with intuitive eating
Since the pandemic started, we’ve collectively been eating at home more than we have in several decades. While this can be great for our wallet, for many people, being stuck home alone with their kitchen all day turned to disordered eating behaviors.
Why is this occurring? Disordered eating behaviors are how some people cope when stressed, feeling trauma, or avoiding something. This is similar to how an alcoholic turns to drink to numb out and avoid. So it makes a lot of sense that we saw a significant uptick in these coping skills when the pandemic caused trauma for the world. You can’t undo your experiences, but you can use this time alone as a time to get to know yourself better and get healthy from the inside out.
A term you may have heard of is “Intuitive Eating.” Popularized by two expert Dietitians, intuitive eating consists of 10 “principles,” or lessons, in re-learning to trust your body to know what it actually needs to eat. Intuitive eating rejects the diet culture that surrounds us in society by leaning into your body’s biofeedback mechanisms and allowing ALL foods. It rejects the concept of “good foods” and “bad foods.” Food has no moral value, it cannot be good or bad, and you are not good or bad for eating it.
A common question that people learning about intuitive eating ask is, “If I eat whatever I want, won’t I just eat [chocolate] all day?” (or insert whatever food you’ve convinced yourself is “bad” that you love). My answer is, you probably will eat a lot of [chocolate] for the first few days, as you allow yourself to eat what you’ve forbidden, but as you really listen to your body, you will crave all varieties of food. You will crave vegetables, lean proteins, and every other kind of food. Your body knows to eat a variety to get all your essential nutrients. You just have to trust it. This is much easier said than done after a lifetime of external voices telling you, “eat this, not that.”
If this intrigues you and you want to learn more about how to get to a place of intuitive eating and meeting your individual nutrition needs, find a Registered Dietitian specializing in this area (important note: they should NOT be promoting weight loss if they are doing intuitive eating). You’ve just read a very simplified overview of a complex subject of breaking old habits and ways of thinking, and it takes some structure and support to bridge the gap to really having freedom with food. The Dietitians at Not Your Average Nutritionist are happy to help you with this.
-Libby Parker Owner and Clinical Director: Not Your Average Nutritionist
What is the Mediterranean diet and how to follow it?
The Mediterranean diet is a healthy eating pattern and lifestyle based on the traditional diet of the countries that border the Mediterranean Sea. In addition to food, the Mediterranean diet emphasizes physical activity, social connections, and joy surrounding food. The Mediterranean diet truly looks at the bigger picture of wellness, rather than just one specific aspect, something missing in most western-style diets.
The diet focuses on building meals around plant-based foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, olive oil, nuts, seeds, and beans/legumes. These are considered the building blocks of most meals and are one of the main reasons it’s such a healthy way to live. In addition, the plant-focused diet offers a lot of anti-inflammatory and antioxidant-containing foods, which may help explain the reduced risk of stroke, heart disease, diabetes, and cognitive decline associated with this lifestyle.
Following a Mediterranean diet is much simpler than other fad or trendy diets. Unlike other diets with a very long list of “rules” and dictate what to eliminate from your diet, the Mediterranean diet is refreshing because the focus is on what to add to your meals for better health. Nothing is off-limits or forbidden. Instead, it’s more about finding the balance between foods eaten every day and those that are more of an occasional treat. Everyone’s style of eating is different, and so are their nutrition requirements, but in general, following a Mediterranean diet means building your meals around the following categories –
- Daily – fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, olive oil, water
- Often -,fish and seafood
- Moderate – poultry, eggs, cheese, yogurt, red wine
- Occasional – red meat and sweets
This diet is considered one of the healthiest globally because of the overall combination of foods. No single food or ingredient is going to make or break your health. A well-balanced lifestyle means variety, movement, and taking care of yourself.
-Brynn McDowell from The Domestic Dietitian
What are some vegan options for meat substitutes that provide proteins?
– Beans and legumes. Especially chickpeas and lentils; are extremely versatile and offer a lot of fiber. They are also inexpensive! They don’t taste much like meat, but they provide a lot of protein and are a great addition to most diets. If you’re a snacker, roast some chickpeas and sprinkle some sea salt and seasoning, or try pea chips which are jam-packed with plant-based protein.
– I love tofu! It’s relatively inexpensive and contains a lot of protein and calcium. You can marinate it or cook it in sauces to absorb more flavor. There are many different kinds of tofu, and I suggest using a firm or extra firm tofu to replace meat.
– Lastly, there are tons of brands out there that make vegan meat products! I love Gardein’s crispy tenders, beyond meat burgers, and nearly all The Very Good Butcher products. These foods are a little more expensive but still cheaper than real meat. They taste delicious and satisfying (in fact, these days, some people can’t tell the difference between plant-based meat products and actual meat). And they contain lots of protein and other micronutrients.
-Em von Euw, cookbook author and creator of This Rawsome Vegan Life
How can you get the whole family involved with healthy eating?
It starts with modeling healthy eating habits! How we talk and behave around food matters because our children learn how to live by watching us. We must ask ourselves: Are we choosing mostly nutritious foods and indulgences in moderation? Are we eating regular meals as a family? Are we showing them how to cook? Are we speaking kindly about our bodies and others? Are we allowing all the food groups? Are we avoiding negative terms like “bad,” “fattening,” and “unhealthy” when referring to various foods?
We want kids to understand that they are not “bad” for eating a slice of cake, and eating a cheeseburger is not going to make them instantly “fat” or “unhealthy.” This black-and-white thinking can set them up for disordered eating down the road.
The second thing is ensuring that the home is filled with nutritious foods with indulgences in moderation. I fill my fridge and pantry with things I want my kids to eat and limit their access to sweets and junk food. It’s important to mention here that sweets and junk foods are not “off limits,” rather, I tell my children these are “less nutritious foods” that we eat “less of.” Nutritious foods help us grow and feel our best!
We must empower kids to choose foods that make them feel good, not use fear or shaming. Part of this empowerment is giving them choices within healthy parameters, respecting food preferences and fullness, inviting them to explore new foods, and getting them involved in grocery shopping and food prep. The goal is to instill healthy eating habits that will last a lifetime!
-Sarah Wilkins at The Nutritionist Mom
Could you share with us the recipe for your favorite plant-based dinner?
My absolute favorite vegan dinner recipe is The Best Easy Vegan Ramen; it’s perfect for a busy weeknight cozy dinner, especially in cold winter.
Why do I love this recipe? Well, who doesn’t love slurping up noodle soup?
Vegan ramen soup is full of healthy, nourishing ingredients that bring incredible flavor to the broth. It’s hard to believe the broth is totally plant-based; it has so much flavor! By using simple ingredients to make a rich and smooth ramen broth instantly, loaded with all the essential classic toppings. (pan-fried tofu, mushrooms, sweet corn, and shredded nori) that everyone will genuinely love. Sometimes I just add any vegetables in my fridge, such as baby bok-choy, bamboo shoots, baby spinach, etc.
And I love these little enoki mushrooms – you can use fresh or raw! They are so tiny they will cook enough in the ramen broth if you like it a bit crunchy. Enoki mushrooms are delicate yet flavorful mushrooms that have a savory flavor and a crunch from the thin strands.
This quick and easy vegan ramen recipe is hands-down the best bowl of homemade ramen noodles I’ve ever made. Even my non-vegan friends or guests will want to wow and prove how delicious this vegan ramen truly is, and it is not in any way a diet of deprivation or loss of flavor for going vegan!
-Shu-Chun from Joyful Dumplings
Would I need to take supplements If I follow a vegan diet? Which are the best sources for calcium, protein, omega, and zinc?
If you are wondering if you need to take supplements if you follow a vegan diet, the answer will vary. It is best to speak to your doctor or a nutritionist who knows your health history and other underlying conditions. Many vegans find that they need to supplement B12. When it comes to getting enough calcium, protein, omegas, and zinc, if you are eating a balanced vegan diet, you will more than likely be getting your needed daily intake. For example, calcium can be found in tofu, figs, or almonds. Vegan protein can be sourced from nuts and tofu. You can source omegas from chia seeds, hemp seeds, and flax seeds for vegan omegas. You can find zinc in tofu, tempeh, whole grains, legumes, and more in a vegan diet!
-Cindy Gordon from Vegetarian Mamma
What are the best sources of healthy fats when eating plant-based?
I always gravitate towards cold-pressed olive oil, unrefined coconut oil, and avocado oil and try to consume whole plant-based fats like nuts, seeds, and avocados.
Is it expensive to follow a plant-based diet?
On the contrary, eating plant-based foods can be pretty affordable, especially when not purchasing meat, fish, dairy, and processed foods. Dried beans, lentils, and whole grains like quinoa or farro go a long way and are filling and satisfying. Fiber-rich fruits and veggies are also satiating while being relatively low cost.
-Sylvia Fountaine from Feasting at Home
Is there a difference between a vegan and a plant-based diet?
While plant-based and vegan diets are very similar, there are some significant differences. Someone who eats plant-based diet centers their food choices around plants, including vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, and fruits. While the focus of their diet is centered around plants, they may occasionally consume animal products. On the other hand, a person who follows a vegan diet is a strict vegetarian who never consumes food from animals. This includes meat, eggs, or dairy products. An ethical vegan will also abstain from using or purchasing items such as leather and honey, as these items come from, or are produced by, animals.
-Faith VanderMolen from The Conscientious Eater
Top 10 herbs that should not miss in your kitchen and their benefits
We all know that herbs are suitable for cooking and can offer many health benefits. However, not all of them are created equal. Some herbs should always be at home because they have excellent healing properties:
1. Basil is delicious in any Italian dish. It’s also good for fighting off colds and improving cognitive function.
2. Parsley is a great way to add green color to any dish. It’s great for giving energy and calcium reducing inflammation.
3. Bay leaves have great flavor and also help with digestion.
4. Mint herb has digestive properties which soothe stomach aches.
5. Tarragon herb promotes healthy blood vessels.
6. Pepper has a lot of vitamin C, and it helps with digestion.
7. Thyme is used in many recipes to make them taste better.
8. Chives are usually sliced up on pizza along with pepperoni, cheese, and tomato sauce.
9. Bay leaves are used to add flavor to soups, stews, and sauces.
10. Arugula is a green salad high in vitamin C and low in calories. It’s also rich in antioxidants.
In conclusion, herbs are a great way to add flavor and complexity to your dish. Going beyond just dried, they can be incorporated into your dish as a substitute for traditional vegetables or as an added ingredient. The benefits of herbs include reducing inflammation and allergy symptoms, improving digestion, and providing a healthy source of vitamins A and C.
-Cindy Wilson from Nutri Inspector
A person’s overall well-being can be improved by implementing healthy-eating tips. If you want to improve your overall health, you must incorporate healthy eating habits into your daily routine. Even though trendy diets and lifestyle overhauls are all the rage, the truth is that simple changes and substitutions can lead to significant health benefits.
Contact a registered dietitian for specific recommendations if you have a chronic disease or other special nutritional needs.