When it comes to the word “diet,” most of us think of unpleasant rules, restrictions, restraint, self-control, and deprivation. Or maybe you think of counting points, calories, carbs, or macros. Either way, the diet culture of the past few decades has ingrained in us that a diet is a bad thing, when in reality, our diets are what give us life. The nutrients in the food that we consume enable us to wake up each day and take on the tasks that come our way. The nutrients in our foods also enable our immune systems to protect us and our muscles to grow and heal1 throughout our lives. So why do we tend to think of the word “diet” so negatively?
Unfortunately, at least part of the reason is because we’ve moved away from eating with the intention of giving our bodies the nutrients it needs to be healthy. We won’t waste your time telling you about the obesity epidemic,2 or about how heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S.3 Chances are, you already know all about our country’s problem with unhealthy living.4
What you might not already know is how to eat a diet that supports a healthy lifestyle. Sure, you probably know to eat lots of dark, leafy greens.5 And, sure, you probably also know to avoid trans fats6 and highly processed foods.7 But do you know how to eat a diet that supports your individual body in all its unique glory? Do you know how to make sure you have all the nutrients you need while also eating in a way that fits your lifestyle and satisfies your tastebuds?
How Do I Make Sure I’m Getting the Right Nutrients?
While every person’s body is different, and therefore our needs are different, there are many essential nutrients we all need to be healthy. For a quick refresher on Healthy Eating 101, it can be useful to check out the National Institutes of Health’s Recommended Daily Allowance.8 Here you’ll find approximately how much of each essential nutrient you should be consuming daily, from Calcium and Vitamin D to macronutrients like fat and carbohydrates. According to Harvard Health Publishing, another approach is to take a big-picture look at your diet and ensure you’re regularly eating nutrient-dense foods,8 including:
- Kale, chard, collard greens, mustard greens, and spinach
- Bell peppers
What Is Mindful Eating and How Does It Work?
In order to build a healthy diet that both satisfies you and keeps you healthy, it’s important to take the basics of healthy eating and to apply them to your body and its needs. One simple way to do this is through what is called mindful eating. Mindful eating simply means thoughtfully paying attention to the food you’re eating as you eat it.9 Has all this food talk made you hungry? Go ahead and grab a snack and follow these steps for mindful eating10 as you eat it.
- Eliminate distractions.
- Let go of any negative feelings about what you’re planning to eat.
- Notice the color of the food you’re about to eat as you bring it to your mouth.
- Smell the food before you place it in your mouth.
- Take note of the texture as you begin to eat the food.
- Think about how the food tastes.
- Consider how the food makes your mind and body feel while eating it. Do you feel satisfied?
- After you’re done eating, consider again how your mind and body feels. Are you full? Are you energized? Does your stomach feel good?
These are just some simple thought starters that can help ensure you’re eating a balanced diet that’s right for you. Some additional tips for mindful eating from Harvard Health are to set a timer for 20 minutes to eat a meal and then set that time aside to thoroughly focus on eating the meal, try eating with your dominant hand or chopsticks as a reminder to focus on your food, think deeply about where the food came from and how it was made, take small bites, and always ask yourself if you’re hungry before eating.10
In this way, you’ll be helping yourself to avoid empty calories, stress eating, binge eating, or other unhealthy dietary habits that don’t lend themselves to a nutrient-rich diet.
What Nutrients Should You Take As Supplements?
Oftentimes not even the healthiest of diets can provide a body with all the nutrients it needs. It’s always worth considering taking supplements regularly to help round out your body’s needs that aren’t consistently met by your diet. Instead of rushing out and buying a multivitamin, stop and consider how your body is feeling and what your regular diet might be missing. Some of the most common nutritional deficiencies are Iron,11 Iodine,12 Vitamin D,13 Vitamin B12,14 Calcium,15 Vitamin A, and Magnesium.14 Consult with your doctor to find out if you may be deficient in any of these vital nutrients, and then consider adding a supplement to your daily routine.
Additionally, think about your individual needs and consider taking a supplement that could improve your wellbeing. For example, if you’ve been stressed lately, you may want to consider taking a supplement with Omega-316 or a supplement with Kava Kava, which helps with anxiety.17 On the other hand, if you’ve been having issues with sleeping, consider taking a supplement with Melatonin.18 Or if you’re fighting a common cold, it might be worthwhile to take a supplement with Vitamin C.19
Of course, it’s also vital that you consider your own lifestyle. If you live somewhere where there’s less sun, you might want to take Vitamin D.20 And if you’re a vegan or vegetarian, you may want to take supplements with all of the essential nutrients listed above but also should consider including Zinc in your regimen.21 As always, if you have any health concerns, you should consult with your doctor as to what is right for you.
Eating a balanced diet can play a significant role in how you feel. Really healthy food can help you be really healthy! But sometimes, our diets aren’t enough to give us all the nutrients we need for optimal health, which is why sometimes supplements in addition to a thoughtful diet can help you live the life you want. Remember, your “diet” is all about nourishing your body in a way that makes you feel your best and not about depriving yourself of the foods you love. “Diet” isn’t a bad word -- it’s simply what you make of it. So make it a delicious, healthy diet that is perfect for you!
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