Healthy Eating: A Beginner’s Guide

Do you want to start eating healthy, but have no idea how to start? Do not worry. Here we give you a simple and basic guide on how to do it.

Last update: December 23, 2021

The term “healthy eating” refers to the act of meeting energy and nutrient needs in order to achieve good health at all stages of life.

Of course, the demands tend to vary from person to person. In any case, It involves consuming foods rich in nutrients and complying with a series of nutritional principles.

Now, as simple as it may seem to maintain this habit, the truth is that for many it is overwhelming, especially if they are beginners. Changing the way you eat requires discipline, time, good advice and, above all, perseverance.

Therefore, this time we share a guide that can serve as a starting point to start eating better. Put it into practice!

Why is it important to eat a healthy diet?

First of all, this phrase from the Spanish Society of Community Nutrition should be explained: “Eating better is gaining health”.

Eating healthy lowers the risk of developing or worsening certain diseases. For example, heart disorders, type 2 diabetes, cancer and others that are among the leading causes of death in the world.

Also, healthy eating is key to improving many other aspects of life, such as performing better in sports, concentrating more on school or work, staying rejuvenated, and overall good health.

This occurs because food, through its nutrients and calories, stimulates the cells and organs of the body to function well. The opposite occurs if the intakes are of low nutritional quality. So that, the key is to maintain a healthy and balanced diet, without going to any extreme.

Maintaining a healthy diet is essential to reduce the risk of chronic diseases.

How to apply a healthy diet?

Eating a healthy diet is not as difficult as many think. First, you must prioritize the consumption of foods that promote well-being. In addition, it is necessary to consider that everyone has their own health needs.

In this sense, It is essential to avoid the adoption of strict or similar diets. Instead, implement the beginner’s guide and, if possible, consult your nutritionist. Let’s see in detail what the general recommendations are.

1. Eat enough macro and micronutrients

The three macronutrients in food are protein, carbohydrates, and fat. The first two provide 4 calories for every gram eaten. That is, if you eat 20 grams of protein, you get 80 calories. Also, when consuming 30 grams of carbohydrates there is a contribution of 120 calories.

Fats are the nutrients with the highest caloric density, since one gram provides 9 calories. By consuming 15 milliliters of oil, you get a total of 135 calories. Fiber is part of carbohydrates, but since it is not digested, it does not add caloric value.

Micronutrients are the vitamins and minerals that are needed in smaller doses. They are considered essential, as they must be obtained through diet to survive. Some of the most important are the following:

  • Vitamins A, C, E, K and complex B.
  • Iron.
  • Magnesium.
  • Potassium.
  • Zinc.
  • Calcium.

2. Ensure a complete diet

The diet must contain the necessary calories and nutrients. For it, It is suggested that the beginner know about the «nutrient density», since not all foods contribute them.

As the magazine refers Nutrients, the ideal is that the total caloric contribution of the food comes from the calories that each nutrient produces when it is digested. Some foods generate only calories without any nutrients. That is why they are called “empty calories.”

So that the feeding is complete It must provide both calories and macro and micronutrients distributed in one or more foods. For example, yogurt, walnuts, avocado, oily fish contain healthy fats, calories, and other important nutrients.

For their part, fruits and vegetables are abundant in vitamins and minerals, but low in calories. This is bad? No. Calories can be obtained from other foods. The important thing is to meet the requirement.

3. Maintain a balanced diet

Specialists recommend that each dish has an optimal dose of protein, fat and carbohydrates high in fiber. In this way, the dish will be more balanced in nutrients, abundant and appetizing.

For example, when enjoying a cup of strawberries you can add Greek yogurt or almond butter. This will not only improve the flavor, but will also add an extra dose of protein and fat.

Anyway, not all meals have to be strictly balanced all the time. The obsession with balance or calories can lead to eating disorders.

4. Increase the consumption of fruits and vegetables

Vegetables and fruits contain micronutrients and fiber, which improves constipation and digestion. There are many functions that minerals and vitamins perform to maintain and protect the normal functioning of the body.

In fact, several studies agree that eating these foods can reduce inflammation markers that trigger heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and other chronic disorders.

What is the proper amount? The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) specifies that you have to consider age, gender and physical activity. To understand it better, let’s look at the following examples:

  • A young woman between the ages of 19 and 30 should eat 2 cups of fruits and 2.5 cups of vegetables a day.
  • In those over 50, fruits are reduced to 1.5 cups of fruits and vegetables to 2 cups a day. Something similar happens in men.

5. Replace refined cereals with whole grains

A whole grain cereal includes the 3 parts that make up the whole grain. Bran – on the outside – is the main source of fiber and B vitamins. Then there is the endosperm, which is a source of starch and protein.

Finally, there is the germ or embryo within the endosperm, which provides B-complex vitamins, healthy fats, and antioxidants such as vitamin E.

A recent review found that consuming whole grains, such as rice, whole grain pasta, oatmeal, quinoa, and whole grain bread, instead of refined ones, can lower the risk of cardiovascular disease and improve total cholesterol levels.

Whole grains have a superior nutritional quality. Therefore, its intake is recommended above the refined ones.

6. Avoid ultra-processed foods

Ultra-processed foods, such as fast food, cured meats, sugary cereals, French fries, among others, contain many additives. It has been described that, when eating them in excess, they cause an increased risk of heart problems or chronic diseases such as cancer.

In particular, processed meats are seen as carcinogenic, since their additives are capable of stimulating the growth of malignant cells. They are also related to cardiovascular diseases and diabetes, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

And although it is not necessary to avoid them completely, Yes it is advisable to limit your intake so that the diet is healthier.

7. Choose healthy fats

It should not be ignored that fat, to a certain extent, is necessary for the body. However, some sources are negative for health. For example, saturated fats and trans fats can increase blood lipid levels. These are found in products such as industrial pastries, fried foods, among others.

Because of this, the American Heart Association suggests reducing the consumption of saturated fat to less than 6% of daily calories, while recommending increasing unsaturated fats, as they can be beneficial. In this sense, the recommended foods are the following:

  • Olive oil.
  • Seeds and nuts.
  • Avocado.
  • Blue fish.

Some specialists confirmed that, by substituting 5% of saturated fats for polyunsaturated ones, the risk of coronary heart disease was significantly reduced.

8. Become aware of what you eat and how much you eat

Structuring a healthy plate requires control over portion sizes. In general terms, the ideal thing is that half of the plate is fruits and vegetables, a quarter is protein foods and the other quarter corresponds to whole grains.

Other recommendations include the following:

  • Serve the food on small plates.
  • Always read product labels.
  • Be careful with sugary drinks that are added with cream.
  • Do not abuse the portion of foods with essential nutrients, but that contain many calories, such as nuts.

What to avoid and how to complement it?

A healthy diet should limit certain foods, such as those mentioned below:

  • Trans fatThese are fats that are hydrogenated or processed in industry, which have been linked to heart disease.
  • Refined carbohydrates: refined cereals and their derivatives are related to obesity and metabolic diseases.
  • Sugary productsSugary foods and drinks are associated with type 2 diabetes and obesity.
  • Low fat foods: These products are often presented as an alternative in diets. However, many have more sugar added to give it more flavor.

Healthy eating is one of the fundamental pillars for good health. However, this must be accompanied by other healthy habits, such as the following:

  • An exercise plan.
  • Sleep well.
  • Stay well hydrated throughout the day.
  • Practice relaxation techniques.
  • Make regular consultations to the nutritionist.

Do you intend to eat a healthy diet? Without a doubt, implementing this beginner’s guide will be of great help. Anyway, it does not hurt to consult with the nutritionist to determine the best meal plan based on individual characteristics such as age, health, and weight.

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