Healthy Food Tips - Food Choices Made Easy
My Healthy Food Tips give you some fantastic ideas for making healthy food choices when you’re shopping. It’s easy to eat healthy when the pantry is full of good quality food!
I’ll also share my healthy food pyramid with you. I think it’s an improvement on the new food pyramid issued by the United States Food and Drug Administration in 2008. My food pyramid looks at the food groups in more detail and talks about the pros and cons of each group.
Top Seven Tips Healthy Food Tips
These healthy food tips cover the main things you need to look for when grocery shopping for healthy food. For more specific info, see my healthy food lists.
Healthy Food Tip #1: When grocery shopping, buy mostly whole foods.
These are healthy foods that look the same as they did in nature 1,000 years ago – unprocessed and untreated as much as possible. They may also be cheaper than processed foods as there are no manufacturing costs involved. The nutritional value of food that’s unprocessed is always higher – it’s always your best healthy food choice.
Why is that the case? Foods that have been processed or treated with synthetic pesticides or herbicides tend to be more difficult to digest, and may introduce toxins into your body. This means that your body spends more energy trying to detoxify, and has less energy to put into losing weight.
Whole foods should form the basis of your grocery list each week. Examples include:
• Fresh vegetables like spinach, cabbage, garlic, onions, tomatoes, beans and legumes
• Fresh herbs like basil, oregano, thyme, parsley and sage
• Fresh fruits like apples, pears and peaches
• Free-range eggs
• Unsalted nuts like walnuts, pecans, cashews and brazil nuts
• Lean meats like lean steak, chicken, lean mince,
• Fresh seafood like whole fish, prawns, squid and mussels
• Whole grains like wild rice, whole rolled oats (steel cut), and unprocessed quinoa, amaranth and millet.
Remember, even these whole foods might have been treated with a synthetic pesticide or herbicide of some sort. If you can afford it, buy certified organic foods.
Or, you could find out how to grow healthy food in your own back yard. A herb garden is a good start.
Healthy Food Tip #2: Buy healthy meats, preferably grass fed.
Many commercial meat growers feed unnatural foods to their animals, and they fatten them up faster than would occur if the animal was grazing in nature. These two things mean you could be buying unhealthy meat.
Is this meat good for you? Probably not. Fat, unhealthy animals must also be unhealthy for us!
Try to buy locally grown meat that is fed on fresh, natural pasture.
Cows and sheep eat grass. They don’t eat grains. ‘Grain fed meat’ is a marketing ploy. Steer clear of it.
Healthy Food Tip #3: Read and understand food labels. Packaged and processed foods may contain added ingredients. Reading food labels helps you to choose good quality food.
Food labels have important information about how much carbohydrate, protein and fat is in the food, and also whether there are any additives, unhealthy ingredients, or allergenic ingredients like gluten.
In some countries, food labels have to show exact amounts of specific ingredients like trans fat and gluten. This is very important for people who have food allergies or food intolerances. It takes time to read food labels, so simply look at one label each time you shop. For example if you’re buying tomato paste, look at all the available brands and find the one that’s healthiest. Then remember that brand and buy it next time. After a few weeks your shopping becomes much easier!
Also, consumer choice drives food trends. If more people start buying better quality foods, they will become more popular and supermarkets will stock more of them.
Click here for more information on reading food labels.
Healthy Food Tip #4: Always start your day with healthy breakfast foods.
Starting your day with a meal means that you kick-start your metabolism. Healthy breakfast foods are essential to keep you energized and feeling good throughout the day.
Healthy breakfast foods have a good balance of protein, carbohydrates, fibre and healthy fats. If your breakfast lacks any of these, you might start a blood sugar rollercoaster which means you’ll have trouble maintaining your energy levels throughout the day.
Healthy Food Tip #5: Have a good supply of healthy snacks on hand.
Have you notice that there seems to be only two speeds in the day – very fast and stressful, and stop? Life seems to have become much busier these days and full of scheduled commitments. Having a supply of healthy, nutritious snack food on hand will stop you reaching for convenient junk food.
Just like breakfast, you want your healthy snack food to be balanced in protein, carbohydrates and fats, and free of unhealthy preservatives or artificial sweeteners.
Healthy Food Tip #6: Avoid foods that make you feel unwell.
Some people have food allergies. But even more people have food intolerances, which can be hard to diagnose. Some people can react poorly to healthy whole foods, like oranges or tomatoes.
Do you feel funny after eating certain foods or drinks – headachy, itchy, hyperactive, irritated?
Keeping a food diary is one way to figure out whether you have a reaction to certain foods like bread, or oranges, or chilies. With this level of awareness, you can choose to avoid those foods.
Healthy Food Tip #7: On a special diet? Choose healthy diet foods.
If your doctor has put you on a special diet to manage a health condition you might need to buy low salt foods, low fat foods or low sugar foods.
But be careful.
Sometimes special diet foods substitute so called bad ingredients for even worse ones. For example, low fat foods are often high in sugar or preservatives. Think of it this way – anything with ‘artificial’ ingredients is foreign to your body. Your body will have to find a way to deal with those previously-unknown ingredients.
Go back to tip #1 – whole foods are the healthiest diet foods.
Foods labeled as ‘diet foods’ (e.g. Diet yoghurt) often contain artificial preservatives and/or artificial sweeteners. There is a lot of medical research linking artificial sweeteners to cancers and Parkinson’s disease, among other things. And there has been some recent research suggesting that artificial sweeteners can actually make you fat.
Choose your diet foods very carefully.
The healthy food pyramid?
There has been debate over the years about whether the standard food pyramid is really a healthy option for everybody.
Here is the latest version of the food pyramid, published by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
There are a few things about the food pyramid that don’t stack up for me. Two main issues are:
1. The food pyramid promotes several serves of grain per day and three serves of dairy foods.
Yet our ancestors ate mainly fruit and vegetables, with less meat, nuts and seeds. They didn’t eat bread and cheese, creamy pasta, or milkshakes.
Too much processed carbohydrates – e.g grains – affect our blood sugar levels and fat storage. Too much sugar can contribute to high cholesterol levels, poor insulin control, diabetes, syndrome X and metabolic syndrome.
An increasing number of people are being diagnosed as intolerant of or allergic to certain grains and cows milk protein. This food pyramid is unsuitable for them.
2. The food pyramid fails to address balance.
Each meal and snack you eat needs the right balance of carbohydrates, protein and fat. That’s what a balanced diet really is. And every person has different needs. For example, a busy, stressed person usually needs more protein in their diet.
Many health professionals know that eating a carbohydrate-only meal (e.g. grains, breads, cereals) can contribute to reduced calcium absorption (due to the phytates in grains), and a blood sugar disaster that causes cravings, low energy and overeating. This is an oversight in the food pyramid.
My new food pyramid
My approach to the food pyramid maximizes the healthiest carbohydrate sources – fruit and veg – and minimizes dairy foods and grains.
It also focuses on balance and diversity to increases your chance of getting the full spectrum of vitamins and minerals you need from your diet.
My food pyramid is simply:
1. Handfuls of green and leafy vegetables as the staple
2. A portion of protein at breakfast, lunch and dinner
3. Healthy fats at breakfast, lunch and dinner.
4. A small serve of starchy carbohydrates - fruits, grains and root vegetables - at breakfast, lunch and dinner, and before workouts.
5. 'Sometimes foods' - at perhaps 2 meals per week - includes anything outside of the above.
This simple approach delivers maximum nutritional punch with minimal nutritional risks.
It is a way of eating that's natural, offers minimal processing, reduces inflammation and is more alkaline.
The proof is in the pudding - try it yourself!
At each meal or snack roughly divide your plate into quarters. Each quarter is roughly assigned like this:
• Non starchy vegetables and low glycemic fruits should be ¼ to ½ of your plate
• Starchy vegetables (e.g. root vegetables) and grains should be ¼ or less of your plate
• Lean protein should be at least ¼ of your plate
• Healthy fats should be ¼ of your plate or less
Everyone has slightly different needs, but this is a reasonably good guideline for most people.