What are the best ingredients to look for to keep a healthy lifestyle?

I love your question! So many people want to live a healthy/happy life, but many of them don’t know exactly what is needed to achieve that goal. I don’t think there is one set “guideline” to achieving a healthy lifestyle. But a good place to start is to look at your diet and determine where improvements could be made.

A healthy diet should have some basic components. These are (complex) carbohydrates, fruits/vegetables, lean proteins, and water. I encourage my patients to select healthy “ingredients” from each of these groups when they go to the grocery store. Let’s start with the carbohydrate group. A slice of white bread is considered a carbohydrate. However, this is generally stripped of many healthy vitamins, minerals, and fiber. So, a smarter carbohydrate choice would be a slice of whole grain bread. It contains many nutrients that are good for one’s health, including fiber. When choosing carbohydrates at the supermarket (pasta, cereal, bread, rice etc), look for fiber! Opt for brown rice instead of white rice skip the enriched pasta and choose whole wheat pasta. You may even try a healthy and high protein/fiber grain like quinoa, barley, or farro! Fruits and vegetables should be a huge staple in your diet. Make this ingredient top of your list and try to select a fruit or veggie from each color of the rainbow. Keep in mind that frozen produce can be a healthy option as well. Vegetables can be such an important addition to sauces, soups, and casseroles. Fruits can top fresh salads and can jazz up a smoothie. Protein is an important ingredient to a healthy lifestyle because it helps aid the growth and repair of our muscles and helps to stabilize our lean body mass. I urge my patients to limit protein that is high in saturated fat or processed (some red meat, processed pork products) and select lean protein like: boneless skinless chicken, lean turkey, fish, low fat dairy products, nuts, seeds, beans, eggs. So, an alternative “ingredient” to a typical dinner could be substituting a turkey or black bean burger for one made with ground beef. Instead of grilling up a steak on the weekend, why not grill up a tuna fish filet?

One of the most common questions I get asked is: “What ‘bad’ foods should I eliminate from my diet?” I do not tell my patients to never eat certain foods (unless they are intolerant or allergic to the food). I think all foods can fit healthfully into one’s diet. However, one major diet component that I urge one to limit is sugar. Americans consume far too much sugar each year. Sugar consumption causes unhealthy spikes in blood sugar and can lead to rebound cravings later, which may put someone at risk for weight gain. Be sure to limit foods with added sugar: cookies, candy, cake, brownies, ice cream, soda, fruit punch, etc. Selecting foods that are more natural and that contain healthy fiber and protein is a great way to consume a diet filled with healthy ingredients!

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