We are what we eat, and the choices that we make with regards to diet & nutrition have a great impact on us. While diet refers to the food and drinks we consume daily, nutrition refers to not just a good diet. It refers to nourishment on every level. It involves our relationship with nature, our bodies, the community, and the world.
Find out what healthy eating should look like, and how we can create a balanced and healthy diet for a healthy lifestyle.
How diet impacts health
Our eating habits greatly affect our health and influence our risk of heart diseases, stroke, or type 2 diabetes. There are several initiatives underway to improve public nutrition in Asia. Your diet should be adjusted depending on a wide variety of factors such as existing health, lifestyle, and medical history.
Breastfeeding mothers require special dietary considerations. In particular, they need more calories to meet their nutritional needs while breastfeeding. An additional 330 to 400 kilocalories (kcal) per day is recommended for well-nourished breastfeeding mothers, compared to the amount they were consuming before pregnancy (approximately 2,000 to 2,800 kcal per day for breastfeeding women versus 1,600 to 2,400 kcal per day for moderately active, non-pregnant women who are not breastfeeding). Certain types of seafood like fish should be consumed in a limited amount as they may contain amounts of mercury that could adversely impact the infant’s brain and nervous system. It is best to consume only certain types of fish.
Long working hours can lead to major changes in your diet, leading to gastrointestinal problems which then worsen with stress, schedule changes, and jet travel. As much as possible, eat a variety of healthy foods, such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, and seafood. Try not to eat as much processed or red meat, and avoid foods that are high in saturated and trans fats, added sugar, and salt. Eat high fibre snacks like unsalted nuts and dried foods every few hours and stay well hydrated.
Check out this other article dedicated to intermittent fasting and how you can adopt it.
Tips for healthy eating
It’s important to have a well-rounded diet! Living a nutritious lifestyle should be easy and fun.
In building a healthy meal, whole grains should take up ¼ of your plate. Vegetables and fruits should take up ½ the plate and protein should take up the remaining quarter. Diet quality is important – the type of carbohydrate is more important than how much carbohydrates you consume.
Here are some steps you can take to improve your diet:
1. Add healthy fats
Limit food with trans fats, which increase the risk of heart disease. Good sources of healthy fats include extra virgin olive oil, nuts, seeds, salmon, tuna, and avocados. These are important for your brain and heart.
2. Cut the sodium
Sodium, or salt, increases blood pressure, which raises the risk of heart disease and stroke. Avoid processed and prepackaged foods which are full of sodium, such as pizza and deli meats. Opt for food products with “low sodium” on the label. Instead of using salt, you can add flavour to your meals with a squeeze of lemon juice, fresh herbs, or no-salt spice blends.
3. Eat more fibre
Fibre helps control blood sugars and lowers cholesterol levels. Try to steam veggies instead of boiling them. Slice up raw veggies as a quick snack. Start your day with a high fibre breakfast like whole grain oatmeal sprinkled with pecans or macadamia nuts. Add half a cup of peas or beans to your salad to add fibre and flavour.
4. Have a variety of colours on your plate
Greens, oranges, tomatoes, are all loaded with vitamins, fibre, and minerals. Try sprinkling fresh herbs over a salad or whole wheat pasta. Add diced veggies like peppers, broccoli or onions to stews and omelettes to give a boost of colour and nutrients.
5. Drink water, coffee, or tea
Avoid sugary drinks and limit juice or milk to only one or two glasses a day.
6. Eat healthy protein
Healthy protein includes fish, poultry, beans, and nuts, which can be mixed with salad or vegetables. Avoid red meats, bacon, and sausages.
7. Choose healthy plant oils
Low-fat doesn’t equate to healthy. Choose healthy vegetable oils like olive, canola, soy, corn, sunflower, peanut, etc. Avoid partially hydrogenated oils as they contain unhealthy trans fats.
8. Choose whole grains
Avoid refined grains like white bread and rice. Choose whole wheat, barley, wheat berries, quinoa, brown rice, and oats.
Prepare food for health and safety
Food safety is extremely important. Here are some steps you can take to ensure the food you eat is safe for consumption:
- Wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap before, during and after preparing food and before eating
- Wash all cooking utensils and tabletops with hot soapy water.
- Separate raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs from ready-to-eat foods in the fridge. Use separate cutting boards and plates to avoid cross-contamination, which spreads germs.
- Use a food thermometer to ensure foods are cooked to a safe internal temperature. Check out this chart for a list of safe minimum cooking temperatures.
- Never leave perishable food out for more than 2 hours, as bacteria can multiply quickly if left at room temperature. Only thaw frozen food in cold water or on the microwave, never on the tabletop.
Improve eating habits
Changing eating habits can be hard, so what are some ways to improve our eating habits? Create a list of your eating habits, such as a food diary, and write down everything you eat, and the time of day you eat it. Doing so helps you to reflect on any unhealthy habits you have, such as overeating. You can then replace those unhealthy habits with better ones. It will take some time to reinforce your new habits, so be patient with yourself.
Check out our article on nutritional deficiencies to find out what are the must-have nutrients that you need every meal.
Drinking water and intake
It’s essential to drink sufficient water every day for overall health. Plain water is calorie-free and helps with managing body weight and reducing caloric intake. It prevents dehydration, mood change, constipation, and kidney stones. Drinking enough water helps prevent headaches, pass out toxins, helps you think clearly, and be in a more positive frame of mind.
For coffee lovers, drink a cup of water for every cup of coffee you take. Drink a cup of water before a meal to prevent overeating and aid digestion. Add small fruits like strawberry, lime, or mint leaves, to zest up your zero-calorie drink.
Healthier drink options
Other healthier drink options include drinks with low calories and important nutrients. This includes low-fat milk, unflavoured soy or almond milk, or 100% fruit or vegetable juice. These should be drunk in moderation.
As Hippocrates once said, food is medicine. The best way to ensure a long life with no illnesses is to ensure your diet and nutrition is well-rounded and balanced.