How to Eat Right and Be Healthy

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We’d all like to be healthy, and most of us would like to be thin. But studies show that most of us are failing to reach these goals, as the majority of Americans are overweight or obese. Obesity can increase the risk of a long list of medical problems, and though it is possible to be overweight while enjoying good nutrition and be in otherwise good health, most individuals are not living in such a way. Our diets are full of “empty calories” in the form of nutrient-poor and calorie-rich processed foods.

You’ll be healthier and ultimately happier if you eat better, as studies connect good nutrition to good mental health. Here are a few tips to help you adapt better eating habits.

Balance macronutrients

If you eat more calories than you burn, you gain weight. By that logic, you might think burning more than you eat will mean you lose weight, but the reality is that the matter is much more complicated. And, besides, there’s much more to nutrition than just eating less of things.

The most basic way to begin tracking your nutrition is to balance your intake of the three big categories of nutrients, called macronutrients. The macronutrients are carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.

Calculate the best balance for you, and start checking the nutrition facts on the things you eat. You’ll begin to feel better if you get better nutrition.

Know what’s actually bad for you (and what’s actually good for you)

It’s a common misconception that both calories and fats are bad, but once again, the truth is far more complicated.

Our bodies can get too much fat, but the reality is that our bodies actually need at least a little bit of both fats and calories in order to perform vital processes. And calories are not exactly good or bad, nor are all types of calories created equal.

What you need to do is know the difference between good and bad fats. Steer clear of trans fats, but incorporate healthy fats into your diet. And keep your intake of fats balanced with your intake of other macronutrients.

Now that you know things aren’t always as healthy or unhealthy as they seem, apply this lesson more broadly. Check the labels on those “low-fat” and “healthy” foods to see what’s really going on. Are fats being substituted for other high-calorie things — perhaps even at the cost of nutrients? That is the case with peanut butter and a few other foods, which actually get less healthy in low-fat form.

Eat nutrient-rich “whole foods”

There are a lot of different vitamins and nutrients to keep track of, but there are simpler ways to eat right than tracking every last little nutrient that you consume.

Rather than creating a super-detailed (and unsustainable) plan to get exactly the right amount of every nutrient, just focus on eating “whole foods.” Whole foods are unprocessed foods, which include things like vegetables and meats, rather than super-processed junk foods like potato chips and snack crackers.

Food loses much of its nutritional value when it is processed, which is how we end up with empty calories. Whole foods retain their nutrients, and often offer lots of those nutrients in exchange for relatively few calories. Vegetables, in particular, tend to offer a lot of bang for the caloric buck. You can eat a lot of vegetables and still not consume that many calories, which makes vegetables great food items to fill up on if you’re trying to shed some pounds.

Since they’re filling, sometimes light on calories, and generally packed with nutrients, whole foods should be the foundation of your diet. Just eating different types of whole foods regularly and making sure that whole foods are the centerpieces of your meals will go a long way toward giving you a sustainable and healthy diet.

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