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8 simple ways to a balanced diet

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approx. 4 Minutes

A balanced diet is key to improving your nutrition, performance, and overall well-being because good food creates the energy and keeps you going throughout the day. And the habits that support a balanced diet are just as important as the food itself. Build healthy habits and learn how to eat a balanced diet with these eight tips.

1. Skip highly processed and sugar-sweetened products.

Part of eating a balanced diet is understanding which foods to avoid and why. As you probably know, highly processed foods and sugary drinks have little to no nutritional value and are often high in calories. These foods are often available as quick fixes that you'll stretch out later in the day as the sugar wears off. If you can identify these opportunities for better nutrition choices, you've taken an important step in the right direction.

2. eat more protein, add more vegetables

Think outside the box and find nutrient-dense options that maximize your food intake and support overall wellness. Protein, for example, is crucial to feeling satisfied during and between meals, which helps ward off overeating. Vegetables are also packed with nutrients that can provide a variety of health benefits. And if you can combine the two, you'll really get the best of both worlds.

For example, try adding protein-rich vegetables to your diet

  • Lentils - 17.86 grams of protein per cup
  • Edamame - 16 grams of protein per cup
  • Peas - 6.99 grams of protein per cup
  • Spinach (cooked) - 5.35 grams of protein per cup

3. find time for satisfying meals

When meals are balanced in all aspects, you're more likely to feel satisfied sooner and longer, which will keep you from overeating and snacking unnecessarily. If you sit down to a plate of brown bits of this and a beige spoonful of that, you're already dissatisfied and thinking about what you can eat later. But if the food is vibrant and smells delicious, you're excited and it's already starting to satisfy your cravings. Incorporate foods in a range of colors, textures and flavors into your meal when you take time to sit down to eat. Then you can really enjoy your food, have fewer cravings between meals, and eat less overall.

4. separate feelings and food

Examine the "why" behind your eating habits. Why you eat is just as important as what you eat. When you use food to satisfy emotional needs, you often reach for unhealthy choices like cookies, ice cream or pizza. The satisfaction lasts for a few moments while you eat, but the feelings come back quickly when you're done. The result is that you still feel unhappy, and now you've eaten poorly, too. Therefore, when you focus the "why" of your eating on nutrition and livelihood, you are more likely to choose healthy options that support your balanced diet.

5. rest and recover

When you're well rested, you're more likely to make rational, positive choices in support of your goals. For example, think about how you feel when you're tired: everything is a bit of a blur, the simplest tasks seem like so much work for you, and you just want the easiest option for everything, including food. Unfortunately, the easiest food options you're likely to reach for will be those highly processed and sugary foods you want to avoid. So give yourself a fighting chance and make time for rest days and respect the need for sleep. Support yourself in all aspects of building the foundation for a healthy diet.

6. eat when you are hungry

Skipping meals, whether accidentally or intentionally, leads to low energy, mood swings and overeating. This, in turn, can lead to lackluster food choices like energy drinks, candy bars and other vending machine indulgences. Listen to your body because if you can tune into your natural hunger signals, you'll know exactly when it's time to eat. After that, you'll be less likely to deviate from your goals.

7. create a supportive environment

Take time for meal prep because not every day will go as planned. Meal prep makes it easy to choose balanced meals, especially when you're tired or short on time. Also, replace the processed foods and sugar-sweetened beverages in your home with healthy snacks. A home environment with healthy options and no temptation makes it so much easier to choose foods that are part of a balanced diet.

8. Don't let weekends be a failure.

Focusing on a balanced diet doesn't stop when you leave work on Friday afternoon. A little fun eating is fine, but you'll still want to stick to your goals for long-term success. So you'll want to plan ways to help yourself avoid setbacks.

Challenge yourself to find solutions to common weekend scenarios before they happen:

  • What healthy change can you make to restaurant food when you go out to dinner?
  • How will you stay busy so you don't eat out of boredom?
  • What types of healthy meals can you prepare in advance if you're spending a day at the lake?
  • What will you eat before you go to the movies so you won't be tempted by popcorn?

Keep these tips in mind if you want to know how to eat a balanced diet. Certain vitamins, minerals and other nutritional details are certainly important, but a strong foundation of healthy habits is what will help you achieve your goals.

More information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure that the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

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