Healthy Eating - HelpGuide.org (2023)

healthy eating

Confused by all the conflicting nutrition advice out there? These simple tips can show you how to plan, enjoy, and stick to a healthy diet.

Healthy Eating - HelpGuide.org (1)

What is a healthy diet?

Eating a healthy diet is not about strict limitations, staying unrealistically thin, or depriving yourself of the foods you love. Rather, it’s about feeling great, having more energy, improving your health, and boosting your mood.

Healthy eating doesn’t have to be overly complicated. If you feel overwhelmed by all the conflicting nutrition and diet advice out there, you’re not alone. It seems that for every expert who tells you a certain food is good for you, you’ll find another saying exactly the opposite. The truth is that while some specific foods or nutrients have been shown to have a beneficial effect on mood, it’s your overall dietary pattern that is most important. The cornerstone of a healthy diet should be to replace processed food with real food whenever possible. Eating food that is as close as possible to the way nature made it can make a huge difference to the way you think, look, and feel.

By using these simple tips, you can cut through the confusion and learn how to create—and stick to—a tasty, varied, and nutritious diet that is as good for your mind as it is for your body.

The fundamentals of healthy eating

While some extreme diets may suggest otherwise, we all need a balance of protein, fat, carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins, and minerals in our diets to sustain a healthy body. You don't need to eliminate certain categories of food from your diet, but rather select the healthiest options from each category.

Protein gives you the energy to get up and go—and keep going—while also supporting mood and cognitive function. Too much protein can be harmful to people with kidney disease, but the latest research suggests that many of us need more high-quality protein, especially as we age. That doesn't mean you have to eat more animal products—a variety of plant-based sources of protein each day can ensure your body gets all the essential protein it needs. Learn more »

Fat. Not all fat is the same. While bad fats can wreck your diet and increase your risk of certain diseases, good fats protect your brain and heart. In fact, healthy fats—such as omega-3s—are vital to your physical and emotional health. Including more healthy fat in your diet can help improve your mood, boost your well-being, and even trim your waistline. Learn more »

Fiber. Eating foods high in dietary fiber (grains, fruit, vegetables, nuts, and beans) can help you stay regular and lower your risk for heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. It can also improve your skin and even help you to lose weight. Learn more »

Calcium. As well as leading to osteoporosis, not getting enough calcium in your diet can also contribute to anxiety, depression, and sleep difficulties. Whatever your age or gender, it's vital to include calcium-rich foods in your diet, limit those that deplete calcium, and get enough magnesium and vitamins D and K to help calcium do its job. Learn more »

Carbohydrates are one of your body's main sources of energy. But most should come from complex, unrefined carbs (vegetables, whole grains, fruit) rather than sugars and refined carbs. Cutting back on white bread, pastries, starches, and sugar can prevent rapid spikes in blood sugar, fluctuations in mood and energy, and a build-up of fat, especially around your waistline. Learn more »

Making the switch to a healthy diet

Switching to a healthy diet doesn't have to be an all or nothing proposition. You don't have to be perfect, you don't have to completely eliminate foods you enjoy, and you don't have to change everything all at once—that usually only leads to cheating or giving up on your new eating plan.

A better approach is to make a few small changes at a time. Keeping your goals modest can help you achieve more in the long term without feeling deprived or overwhelmed by a major diet overhaul. Think of planning a healthy diet as a number of small, manageable steps—like adding a salad to your diet once a day. As your small changes become habit, you can continue to add more healthy choices.

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Setting yourself up for success

To set yourself up for success, try to keep things simple. Eating a healthier diet doesn't have to be complicated. Instead of being overly concerned with counting calories, for example, think of your diet in terms of color, variety, and freshness. Focus on avoiding packaged and processed foods and opting for more fresh ingredients whenever possible.

Prepare more of your own meals. Cooking more meals at home can help you take charge of what you're eating and better monitor exactly what goes into your food. You'll eat fewer calories and avoid the chemical additives, added sugar, and unhealthy fats of packaged and takeout foods that can leave you feeling tired, bloated, and irritable, and exacerbate symptoms of depression, stress, and anxiety.

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Make the right changes. When cutting back on unhealthy foods in your diet, it's important to replace them with healthy alternatives. Replacing dangerous trans fats with healthy fats (such as switching fried chicken for grilled salmon) will make a positive difference to your health. Switching animal fats for refined carbohydrates, though (such as switching your breakfast bacon for a donut), won't lower your risk for heart disease or improve your mood.

Read the labels. It's important to be aware of what's in your food as manufacturers often hide large amounts of sugar or unhealthy fats in packaged food, even food claiming to be healthy.

Focus on how you feel after eating. This will help foster healthy new habits and tastes. The healthier the food you eat, the better you'll feel after a meal. The more junk food you eat, the more likely you are to feel uncomfortable, nauseous, or drained of energy.

Drink plenty of water. Water helps flush our systems of waste products and toxins, yet many of us go through life dehydrated—causing tiredness, low energy, and headaches. It's common to mistake thirst for hunger, so staying well hydrated will also help you make healthier food choices.

Moderation: important to any healthy diet

What is moderation? In essence, it means eating only as much food as your body needs. You should feel satisfied at the end of a meal, but not stuffed. For many of us, moderation means eating less than we do now. But it doesn't mean eliminating the foods you love. Eating bacon for breakfast once a week, for example, could be considered moderation if you follow it with a healthy lunch and dinner—but not if you follow it with a box of donuts and a sausage pizza.

Try not to think of certain foods as “off-limits.” When you ban certain foods, it's natural to want those foods more, and then feel like a failure if you give in to temptation. Start by reducing portion sizes of unhealthy foods and not eating them as often. As you reduce your intake of unhealthy foods, you may find yourself craving them less or thinking of them as only occasional indulgences.

Think smaller portions. Serving sizes have ballooned recently. When dining out, choose a starter instead of an entree, split a dish with a friend, and don't order supersized anything. At home, visual cues can help with portion sizes. Your serving of meat, fish, or chicken should be the size of a deck of cards and half a cup of mashed potato, rice, or pasta is about the size of a traditional light bulb. By serving your meals on smaller plates or in bowls, you can trick your brain into thinking it's a larger portion. If you don't feel satisfied at the end of a meal, add more leafy greens or round off the meal with fruit.

Take your time. It's important to slow down and think about food as nourishment rather than just something to gulp down in between meetings or on the way to pick up the kids. It actually takes a few minutes for your brain to tell your body that it has had enough food, so eat slowly and stop eating before you feel full.

Eat with others whenever possible. Eating alone, especially in front of the TV or computer, often leads to mindless overeating.

Limit snack foods in the home. Be careful about the foods you keep at hand. It's more challenging to eat in moderation if you have unhealthy snacks and treats at the ready. Instead, surround yourself with healthy choices and when you're ready to reward yourself with a special treat, go out and get it then.

Control emotional eating. We don't always eat just to satisfy hunger. Many of us also turn to food to relieve stress or cope with unpleasant emotions such as sadness, loneliness, or boredom. But by learning healthier ways to manage stress and emotions, you can regain control over the food you eat and your feelings.

It's not just what you eat, but when you eat

Eat breakfast, and eat smaller meals throughout the day. A healthy breakfast can jumpstart your metabolism, while eating small, healthy meals keeps your energy up all day.

Avoid eating late at night. Try to eat dinner earlier and fast for 14-16 hours until breakfast the next morning. Studies suggest that eating only when you're most active and giving your digestive system a long break each day may help to regulate weight.

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Add more fruit and vegetables to your diet

Fruit and vegetables are low in calories and nutrient dense, which means they are packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber. Focus on eating the recommended daily amount of at least five servings of fruit and vegetables and it will naturally fill you up and help you cut back on unhealthy foods. A serving is half a cup of raw fruit or veg or a small apple or banana, for example. Most of us need to double the amount we currently eat.

To increase your intake:

  • Add antioxidant-rich berries to your favorite breakfast cereal
  • Eat a medley of sweet fruit—oranges, mangos, pineapple, grapes—for dessert
  • Swap your usual rice or pasta side dish for a colorful salad
  • Instead of eating processed snack foods, snack on vegetables such as carrots, snow peas, or cherry tomatoes along with a spicy hummus dip or peanut butter

How to make vegetables tasty

While plain salads and steamed veggies can quickly become bland, there are plenty of ways to add taste to your vegetable dishes.

Add color. Not only do brighter, deeper colored vegetables contain higher concentrations of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, but they can vary the flavor and make meals more visually appealing. Add color using fresh or sundried tomatoes, glazed carrots or beets, roasted red cabbage wedges, yellow squash, or sweet, colorful peppers.

Liven up salad greens. Branch out beyond lettuce. Kale, arugula, spinach, mustard greens, broccoli, and Chinese cabbage are all packed with nutrients. To add flavor to your salad greens, try drizzling with olive oil, adding a spicy dressing, or sprinkling with almond slices, chickpeas, a little bacon, parmesan, or goat cheese.

Satisfy your sweet tooth. Naturally sweet vegetables—such as carrots, beets, sweet potatoes, yams, onions, bell peppers, and squash—add sweetness to your meals and reduce your cravings for added sugar. Add them to soups, stews, or pasta sauces for a satisfying sweet kick.

Cook green beans, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and asparagus in new ways. Instead of boiling or steaming these healthy sides, try grilling, roasting, or pan frying them with chili flakes, garlic, shallots, mushrooms, or onion. Or marinate in tangy lemon or lime before cooking.

Authors: Lawrence Robinson, Jeanne Segal Ph.D., and Robert Segal, M.A.

    • References

      U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025, 9th Edition. (2020). https://www.dietaryguidelines.gov/sites/default/files/2021-03/Dietary_Guidelines_for_Americans-2020-2025.pdf

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      Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. (2020). Scientific Report of the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. https://www.dietaryguidelines.gov/2020-advisory-committee-report

      Skerrett, P. J., & Willett, W. C. (2010). Essentials of Healthy Eating: A Guide. Journal of Midwifery & Women’s Health, 55(6), 492–501. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jmwh.2010.06.019

      Marx, W., Moseley, G., Berk, M., & Jacka, F. (2017). Nutritional psychiatry: The present state of the evidence. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, 76(4), 427–436. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0029665117002026

      Morris, M. C., Tangney, C. C., Wang, Y., Sacks, F. M., Barnes, L. L., Bennett, D. A., & Aggarwal, N. T. (2015). MIND diet slows cognitive decline with aging. Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association, 11(9), 1015–1022. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jalz.2015.04.011

      Hu, F. B., Manson, J. E., & Willett, W. C. (2001). Types of dietary fat and risk of coronary heart disease: A critical review. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 20(1), 5–19. https://doi.org/10.1080/07315724.2001.10719008

      Jakobsen, M. U., Dethlefsen, C., Joensen, A. M., Stegger, J., Tjønneland, A., Schmidt, E. B., & Overvad, K. (2010). Intake of carbohydrates compared with intake of saturated fatty acids and risk of myocardial infarction: Importance of the glycemic index. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 91(6), 1764–1768. https://doi.org/10.3945/ajcn.2009.29099

      Hu, F. B., Stampfer, M. J., Manson, J. E., Rimm, E., Colditz, G. A., Rosner, B. A., Hennekens, C. H., & Willett, W. C. (1997). Dietary Fat Intake and the Risk of Coronary Heart Disease in Women. New England Journal of Medicine, 337(21), 1491–1499. https://doi.org/10.1056/NEJM199711203372102

      Siri-Tarino, P. W., Sun, Q., Hu, F. B., & Krauss, R. M. (2010). Saturated Fatty Acids and Risk of Coronary Heart Disease: Modulation by Replacement Nutrients. Current Atherosclerosis Reports, 12(6), 384–390. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11883-010-0131-6

      F. Masana, M., Tyrovolas, S., Kollia, N., Chrysohoou, C., Skoumas, J., Haro, J. M., Tousoulis, D., Papageorgiou, C., Pitsavos, C., & B. Panagiotakos, D. (2019). Dietary Patterns and Their Association with Anxiety Symptoms among Older Adults: The ATTICA Study. Nutrients, 11(6), 1250. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu11061250

      Conner, T. S., Brookie, K. L., Carr, A. C., Mainvil, L. A., & Vissers, M. C. M. (2017). Let them eat fruit! The effect of fruit and vegetable consumption on psychological well-being in young adults: A randomized controlled trial. PLOS ONE, 12(2), e0171206. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0171206

      Veronese, N., Solmi, M., Caruso, M. G., Giannelli, G., Osella, A. R., Evangelou, E., Maggi, S., Fontana, L., Stubbs, B., & Tzoulaki, I. (2018). Dietary fiber and health outcomes: An umbrella review of systematic reviews and meta-analyses. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 107(3), 436–444. https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/nqx082

    Last updated: October 7, 2022

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    FAQs

    What is a good diet for a 70 year old man? ›

    Eat a wide variety of foods from the five food groups : plenty of colourful vegetables, legumes/beans; fruit; grain (cereal) foods, mostly wholegrain and high fibre varieties; lean meats and poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts and seeds; milk, yoghurt, cheese or their alternatives, mostly reduced fat.

    What foods should the elderly avoid? ›

    Here are eight foods that you should cut down on (or avoid eating altogether) as you get older, and why:
    • Raw or undercooked eggs, meat and poultry. ...
    • Grapefruit. ...
    • High-sodium foods. ...
    • Caffeine. ...
    • Sodas and sugary drinks. ...
    • “Sugar-free” drinks. ...
    • Alcoholic beverages. ...
    • Foods with empty calories.
    24 Jul 2022

    What food is good for old age? ›

    What to eat
    • fruit and vegetables.
    • potatoes, bread, rice, pasta and other starchy foods.
    • dairy and alternatives.
    • beans, pulses, fish, eggs and other proteins.
    • oils and spreads.

    What should a 50 year old woman eat? ›

    Try foods such as skinless chicken, fatty fish like salmon (with omega-3 fats), and vegetable protein, including soy. Enjoy a vegetarian meal a few times a week. Plant-based diets have lots of advantages. They're low in calories but rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

    What are the 3 most important foods you can eat for healthy aging? ›

    Look for important nutrients

    A healthy meal should include: Lean protein (lean meats, seafood, eggs, beans) Fruits and vegetables (think orange, red, green, and purple) Whole grains (brown rice, whole wheat pasta)

    How many eggs a week should a senior eat? ›

    How Many Eggs Can Older People Eat? There is no limit to the number of eggs older people can eat, with the exception of those with type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol or any existing heart disease who can enjoy up to 7 eggs a week.

    How often should an elderly person bathe? ›

    At a minimum, bathing once or twice a week helps most seniors avoid skin breakdown and infections. Using warm washcloths to wipe armpits, groin, genitals, feet, and any skin folds also helps minimize body odor in between full baths. However, some dementia caregivers say it's actually easier to bathe every day.

    Are hard boiled eggs good for seniors? ›

    Eggs are an inexpensive, widely available and easily digestible source of high-quality protein and contain a significant proportion of leucine, an amino acid that is important for muscle synthesis, as well as many other nutrients of significance for older people, including vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids.

    Is peanut butter good for elderly? ›

    Peanut butter provides beneficial fats, magnesium, and proteins that offer seniors a sustained energy supply throughout the day. Peanut butter is also high in vitamin E and B6, which are beneficial for brain health and antioxidants, which may help prevent blood clots and vascular damage.

    How far should a 80 year old walk every day? ›

    Generally, older adults in good physical shape walk somewhere between 2,000 and 9,000 steps daily. This translates into walking distances of 1 and 4-1/2 miles respectively.

    How much sleep does a 65 year old need? ›

    Sleep and Aging

    Older adults need about the same amount of sleep as all adults—7 to 9 hours each night.

    Is it normal for an 80 year old to be tired? ›

    ABSTRACT: Fatigue is a common symptom in elderly persons, but it is often ignored as many patients and healthcare providers assume it is a natural progression of aging or may mistake it for somnolence, dyspnea, or muscle weakness.

    What should a 50 year old woman eat for breakfast? ›

    Healthy Breakfast Ideas For Seniors
    • Oatmeal topped with fruits and nuts or seeds.
    • A veggie omelet with a side of whole-grain toast.
    • A whole-grain bagel topped with avocado and cherry tomatoes.
    • A smoothie with spinach, fruit and yogurt.
    • Hard-boiled eggs with a side of fruit.

    Are bananas good for anti aging? ›

    Loaded with magnesium and other heart-healthy nutrients, bananas are among the best anti-aging fruits. They hydrate the cells, which have a firming effect on them, and ultimately on your skin too.

    How can I speed up my metabolism after 50? ›

    How to Increase Metabolism After 50
    1. Build Muscle Mass.
    2. Get Aerobic Exercise.
    3. Stay Hydrated.
    4. Eat Healthy.
    5. Have Small Meals More Often.
    6. Get Enough Sleep.
    1 Nov 2021

    What should a 70 year old eat in a day? ›

    A sedentary male over the age of 70 requires around 2,000 calories. Consume about 2,600 calories a day if you are active. A female older than 70 years should eat between 1,600 to 2,000 calories daily if you are a sedentary to active.

    How much protein does a 70 year old man need daily? ›

    What's the Right Amount? Because of the factors above, research supports increasing the recommended intake of protein for older adults by up to 50 percent. That means people over age 65 should strive for 0.45 to 0.55 gram of protein per pound of body weight daily, or about 68 to 83 grams for a 150-pound person.

    How do I lose weight after 70? ›

    Losing weight after turning 70 is a lot like losing weight after turning 30 or 40 or 50: It's often way harder than you think it is going to be.
    ...
    Healthy Diet and Exercise Tips for Aging Adults
    1. Start with walking. ...
    2. Regular exercise. ...
    3. Portion control. ...
    4. Eat the right foods. ...
    5. Keep eating nutritiously.
    20 Nov 2017

    Is Egg good for old age? ›

    Eggs are an inexpensive, widely available and easily digestible source of high-quality protein and contain a significant proportion of leucine, an amino acid that is important for muscle synthesis, as well as many other nutrients of significance for older people, including vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids.

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