Sometimes it seems like there are a million different ways to live a healthy lifestyle. It can be confusing to keep up with all of the research. As a registered dietitian, it’s my job to help people figure out what works for each individual and their body. Everyone is different and there is no one-size-fits-all diet. However, I do believe there are some general principles that are beneficial for everyone.
Here are 11 healthy living principles everyone should practice:
1) Eat Enough Calories
Not eating enough sends your body into starvation mode and makes it harder to lose weight.
2) Practice Moderation
Allow yourself to eat the things you really want every once and a while. It’s perfectly fine to enjoy things like ice cream, cookies or a latte with whipped cream. Just don’t make it an every day occurrence.
3) Eat Breakfast
Skipping breakfast does nothing but lead to low blood sugar, moodiness and overeating later. Just remember that you aren't limited to “traditional” breakfast foods. Focus on putting together a breakfast with complex carbs, lean protein and healthy fats. It will increase your metabolism, energy and focus.
4) Limit Processed Foods
Processed foods are almost always packed with sodium, sugar, artificial ingredients and other things your body doesn’t need.
5) Drink Water
Remember that the calories in your drinks count towards your total calories for the day! Choose water most of the time and remember that if you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated. Take a water bottle with you everywhere to remind you to drink more often. And use additions like berries, mint or lemon to flavor your water if you don’t like it plain.
6) Eat More Vegetables
Make an effort to increase your vegetable intake every day, especially the non-starchy kind. Also try to eat a variety of different vegetables and colors so that you get all the different nutrients they offer.
7) Cook More at Home
When you do the cooking, you control the ingredients. Cook extra for dinner and pack the leftovers for lunch. If you do eat out, be smart about it. Watch your portion sizes, save half for later, order extra veggies instead of starches, and ask for things like dressings and sauces on the side.
8) Buy Local and Choose Organic (When Possible and Practical)
Shop your local farmer’s market. You’ll often find fruits and vegetables that were picked that very day and haven’t lost their nutrients while traveling or sitting on a shelf. Know the "dirty dozen" (foods that have the most pesticide residue) and focus on buying organic versions of those fruits and vegetables.
9) Be Aware of What You’re Eating
Learn proper portion sizes and take the time to learn about the quality of the foods you’re eating and where they come from. Pay attention to how often you’re eating and make sure you’re not doing so out of boredom.
10) Be Physically Active
Physical activity can help control your blood pressure, cholesterol and triglyceride levels, as well as your weight. It can also help improve your brain function, concentration and sleep quality.
11) Sleep Enough
Aim for eight hours every night. To help meet this goal, power down and disconnect from your electronics at least one hour before bedtime and focus on more calming activities like meditation, reading or journaling. When you’re tired, you’re more likely to eat poorly — so make an effort to get enough sleep each night.
If you’re looking to improve your health, these 11 simple ideas are a great place to start! Instead of trying to tackle them all at once, choose a few to work on immediately and slowly add more as they turn into healthy habits.