Fueling your body properly is crucial to leading a healthy lifestyle. That said, nutrition is more than just what you eat; how and when you eat matters, as well. Follow these simple steps to establish good eating habits that will keep you going and support your overall health.
- Don’t bail on breakfast. “Breakfast” literally means to “break” your “fast,” or the overnight period during which you were–ideally–sound asleep. A shot of protein, carbohydrates and healthy fats in the morning will provide the energy you need to make it to lunch. Breakfast needn’t be complicated; try fruit and Greek yogurt, or cereal and fruit with some nuts for added protein.
- Drink plenty of non-caffeinated fluids. Milk, water, and–sparingly–juice are all good ways to keep your body hydrated, which is extremely important to your well-being. Be careful that you don’t drink too many calories in a day, however, to avoid putting on excess weight.
- Fill up on fiber. Legumes, veggies and whole-grain pastas, breads and cereals are all rich in soluble and insoluble forms of fiber. Fiber is essential for the health of your digestive system, and it helps to keep your feeling full and satisfied, leading to less snacking between meals.
- Stay away from processed foods. Unlike whole foods like fresh produce, meat, dried beans and so forth, processed foods have often been stripped of their nutrients during the preparation and packaging process. Processed foods are often high in fat and sugar, and many contain chemicals and preservatives. If you choose to eat chips, cookies, TV dinners and other processed foods, do so infrequently.
- Have your cholesterol checked. High levels of LDL cholesterol (or low levels of HDL, the “good” cholesterol) put you at a higher risk of cardiovascular disease and strokes. Eat high-cholesterol foods such as red meat and egg yolks in moderation, and visit your doctor regularly to keep an eye on your levels if they are found to be high.
- Eat lots of fresh produce. Fruits and veggies are some of the most nutrient-dense and healthful foods you can consume, thanks to their high levels of vitamins, minerals, fiber and more. To reap the most benefits, try to eat a “rainbow” of fruits and vegetables each day, or at least over the course of a week.
- Snack smart. Having a bite to eat between meals is not only okay, but with the right choices, it can be very good for you. Aim for snacks of 200 calories or less; string cheese, almonds, hard-boiled eggs, and crudites with low-fat dips are all great healthy options.
- Eat adequate amounts of protein. This macro-nutrient is crucial for building strong, lean muscle, and it’s essential for tissue repair and immune health. Good sources of protein include lean meats, fish, nuts, eggs, beans and legumes.
- If you cannot always eat a balanced diet, use a vitamin to supplement. A multivitamin isn’t really necessary if your diet provides the vitamins and minerals your body needs. If you are a vegetarian or have other special dietary circumstances, though, a multivitamin can make up for the nutrients on which you are missing out.
- Practice good sleep habits. While this may seem unrelated to nutrition, it’s actually key–your body performs a great deal of repair and restoration while you sleep. Missing out on shut-eye can leave you sapped and drained, even if you have a great diet. Allow the nutrients you eat to do their jobs by consistently sleeping 7-9 hours each night.
Proper nutrition is crucial to good health, no matter your age. Following these tips will provide you with the energy you need to get through the day and will enhance your body’s ability to function efficiently.