- 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.
- The fundamentals of healthy eating
- Making the switch to a healthy diet
- Moderation: important to any healthy diet
- Add more fruit and vegetables to your diet
- Plan quick and easy meals ahead
- Plan your meals by the week or even the month
- Shop the perimeter of the grocery store
- Cook when you can
- Maintaining a Healthy Lifestyle
- Reflect, Replace, and Reinforce
- How to Eat a Healthy Diet
- How much food should I eat each day?
- Key pregnancy nutrition
- Foods to eat
- Foods to limit
- Foods to avoid
- Pregnancy diet misconceptions
- Weight gain during pregnancy
- 8 Healthy Foods You Should Eat Every Day
- Black Beans
- Nutrition-Packed Foods You Should Eat Every Day
- 1. Oatmeal
- 2. Eggs
- 3. Turmeric
- 4. Oranges
- 5. Tomato sauce
- 6. Dark chocolate
- 7. Pistachios
- 8. Hot water with lemon
- Top Ten Vegetables and Fruit You Should Eat Everyday
- 10 Easy Ways to Eat More Vegetables Every Day
- Foods to Avoid: 5 “Healthy” Foods You Really Should Never Eat
- 5 Unhealthiest “Health” Foods to Avoid
- Final Thoughts
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.
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 Healthy Eating Pyramid
The Harvard Healthy Eating Pyramid represents the latest nutritional science. The widest part at the bottom is for things that are most important. The foods at the narrow top are those that should be eaten sparingly, if at all.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Plan quick and easy meals ahead
Healthy eating starts with great planning. You will have won half the healthy diet battle if you have a well-stocked kitchen, a stash of quick and easy recipes, and plenty of healthy snacks.
Plan your meals by the week or even the month
One of the best ways to have a healthy diet is to prepare your own food and eat in regularly. Pick a few healthy recipes that you and your family like and build a meal schedule around them. If you have three or four meals planned per week and eat leftovers on the other nights, you will be much farther ahead than if you are eating out or having frozen dinners most nights.
Shop the perimeter of the grocery store
In general, healthy eating ingredients are found around the outer edges of most grocery stores, while the center aisles are filled with processed and packaged foods that aren’t good for you. Shop the perimeter of the store for most of your groceries (fresh fruits and vegetables, fish and poultry, whole grain breads and dairy products), add a few things from the freezer section (frozen fruits and vegetables), and visit the aisles for spices, oils, and whole grains (like rolled oats, brown rice, whole wheat pasta).
Cook when you can
Try to cook one or both weekend days or on a weekday evening and make extra to freeze or set aside for another night. Cooking ahead saves time and money, and it is gratifying to know that you have a home cooked meal waiting to be eaten.
Challenge yourself to come up with two or three dinners that can be put together without going to the store—utilizing things in your pantry, freezer, and spice rack. A delicious dinner of whole grain pasta with a quick tomato sauce or a quick and easy black bean quesadilla on a whole wheat flour tortilla (among endless other recipes) could act as your go-to meal when you are just too busy to shop or cook.
What you eat each day affects your health and how you feel now and in the future. Good nutrition plays a major role in helping you lead a healthy lifestyle. When combined with physical activity, your diet can help you reach and maintain a healthy weight and reduce your risk of chronic conditions such as diabetes or heart disease, and promote overall health and wellbeing.
Creating and maintaining healthy eating habits doesn’t have to be hard. If you start by incorporating small changes into your daily habits, you can make a big impact on your eating pattern and create lasting, healthy eating habits. Try including at least six of the following eight goals into your diet by adding one new goal each week.
1. Make half your plate fruits and vegetables
Choose red, orange, and dark-green vegetables along with other vegetables for your meals. Add fruit to meals as part of main or side dishes or as dessert. The more colorful you make your plate, the more likely you are to get the vitamins, minerals, and fiber your body needs to be healthy.
2. Make half the grains you eat whole grains
Switch from a refined-grain food to a whole-grain food. For example, choose whole-wheat bread instead of white bread. Read the ingredients list and choose products that list a whole-grain ingredients first. Look for things like: “whole wheat,” “brown rice,” “bulgur,” “buckwheat,” “oatmeal,” “rolled oats,” quinoa,” or “wild rice.”
3. Switch to fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk
Both have the same amount of calcium and other essential nutrients as whole milk, but fewer calories and less saturated fat.
4. Choose a variety of lean protein foods
Protein foods group includes not only meat, poultry, and seafood, but also dry beans or peas, eggs, nuts, and seeds. Select leaner cuts of ground beef (where the label says 90% lean or higher), turkey breast, or chicken breast.
5. Compare sodium in foods
Use the Nutrition Facts label to choose lower sodium versions of foods like soup, bread, and frozen meals. Select canned foods labeled “low sodium,” “reduced sodium,” or “no salt added.”
6. Drink water instead of sugary drinks
Drink water to cut back on unnecessary calories from sugary drinks. Soda, energy drinks, and sports drinks are a major source of added sugar and calories in American diets. To add flavor to your water, add a slice of lemon, lime, apple or fresh herbs like mint or basil.
7. Eat some seafood
Seafood has protein, minerals, and omega-3 fatty acids (heart-healthy fat). Adults should try to eat at least eight ounces a week of a variety of seafood. Children can eat smaller amounts of seafood. Seafood includes fish such as salmon, tuna, and trout and shellfish such as crab, mussels, and oysters.
8. Cut back on solid fats
Eat fewer foods that contain solid fats. The major sources for Americans are cakes, cookies, and other desserts (often made with butter, margarine, or shortening); pizza; processed and fatty meats (e.g., sausages, hot dogs, bacon, ribs); and ice cream.
Maintaining a Healthy Lifestyle
To maintain your healthy eating habits, try the following tips.
Add More Fruits & Veggies
- Mix veggies into your go-to dishes. Swap meat for peppers and mushrooms in your tacos or try veggie pasta instead of grain pasta like one made out of black beans for more plant-based protein.
- Use fresh fruits and veggies whenever possible. Watch for sodium in canned veggies and look for canned fruit packed in water instead of syrup.
- Pack your child’s lunch bag with fruits and veggies: sliced apples, a banana or carrot sticks.
Prepare Healthy Snacks
- Teach children the difference between everyday snacks such as fruits and veggies and occasional snacks such as cookies and sweets.
- Keep cut-up fruits and veggies like carrots, peppers, or orange slices in the refrigerator.
- Prepare your meals for the week by making them ahead on weekends or on a day off.
Reduce Fat, Salt, and Sugar
- When eating out, choose baked or grilled food instead of fried and do the same at home.
- Make water your go-to drink instead of soda or sweetened beverages.
- Read labels on packaged ingredients to find foods lower in sodium.
- Reduce amounts of salt added to food when cooking and use herbs and spices instead to add flavor like paprika, turmeric, black pepper, garlic or onion powder.
Control Portion Sizes
- When preparing meals at home, use smaller plates.
- Don’t clean your plate if you’re full, instead save leftovers for tomorrow’s lunch.
- Portion sizes depend on the age, gender, and activity level of the individual.
Practice Healthy Eating in School
- Bring healthy snacks into your child’s classroom for birthday parties and holiday celebrations, instead of providing sugary treats.
- Pack healthy lunches for children including whole grains, fruits and veggies, and fat-free or low-fat dairy products.1
Reflect, Replace, and Reinforce
Making sudden, radical changes to eating habits such as eating nothing but cabbage soup, can lead to short-term weight loss but it won’t be successful in the long run. To permanently improve your eating habits:
- Reflect on all your habits, both good and bad, and your common triggers for unhealthy eating.
- Replace your unhealthy eating habits with healthier ones.
- Reinforce your new, healthier habits.
- Keep a food diary for a few days to evaluate what you eat every day. Note how you were feeling when you ate – hungry, not hungry, tired, or stressed?
- Create a list of “cues” by reviewing your food diary to become more aware when you’re “triggered” to eat for reasons other than hunger. Note how you’re feeling at those times.
- Circle the cues on your list that you face on a daily or weekly basis.
- Ask yourself about the cues you’ve circled; is there anything else you can do to avoid the cue or situation? If you can’t avoid it, can you do something differently that would be healthier?
- Replace unhealthy habits with new, healthy ones.
- Reinforce your new, healthy habits and be patient with yourself. You can do it! Take it one day at a time! 2
To make sure your meals are balanced and nutritious, use the MyPlate, MyWins at choosemyplate.gov to create healthy eating solutions that work for you.
How to Eat a Healthy Diet
If you are what you eat, it follows that you want to stick to a healthy diet that’s well balanced. “You want to eat a variety of foods,” says Stephen Bickston, MD, AGAF, professor of internal medicine and director of the Inflammatory Bowel Disease Center at Virginia Commonwealth University Health Center in Richmond. “You don’t want to be overly restrictive of any one food group or eat too much of another.”
Healthy Diet: The Building Blocks
The best source of meal planning for most Americans is the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Food Pyramid. The pyramid, updated in 2005, suggests that for a healthy diet each day you should eat:
- 6 to 8 servings of grains. These include bread, cereal, rice, and pasta, and at least 3 servings should be from whole grains. A serving of bread is one slice while a serving of cereal is 1/2 (cooked) to 1 cup (ready-to-eat). A serving of rice or pasta is 1/2 cup cooked (1 ounce dry). Save fat-laden baked goods such as croissants, muffins, and donuts for an occasional treat.
- 2 to 4 servings of fruits and 4 to 6 servings of vegetables. Most fruits and vegetables are naturally low in fat, making them a great addition to your healthy diet. Fruits and vegetables also provide the fiber, vitamins, and minerals you need for your body’s systems to function at peak performance. Fruits and vegetables also will add flavor to a healthy diet. It’s best to serve them fresh, steamed, or cut up in salads. Be sure to skip the calorie-laden toppings, butter, and mayonnaise, except on occasion. A serving of raw or cooked vegetables is equal to 1/2 cup (1 cup for leafy greens); a serving of a fruit is 1/2 cup or a fresh fruit the size of a tennis ball.
- 2 to 3 servings of milk, yogurt, and cheese. Choose dairy products wisely. Go for fat-free or reduced-fat milk or cheeses. Substitute yogurt for sour cream in many recipes and no one will notice the difference. A serving of dairy is equal to 1 cup of milk or yogurt or 1.5 to 2 ounces of cheese.
- 2 to 3 servings of meat, poultry, fish, dry beans, eggs, and nuts. For a healthy diet, the best ways to prepare beef, pork, veal, lamb, poultry, and fish is to bake or broil them. Look for the words “loin” or “round” in cuts of meats because they’re the leanest. Remove all visible fat or skin before cooking, and season with herbs, spices, and fat-free marinades. A serving of meat, fish, or poultry is 2 to 3 ounces. Some crossover foods such as dried beans, lentils, and peanut butter can provide protein without the animal fat and cholesterol you get from meats. A ¼ cup cooked beans or 1 tablespoon of peanut butter is equal to 1 ounce of lean meat.
- Use fats, oils, and sweets sparingly. No diet should totally eliminate any one food group, even fats, oils, and sweets. It’s fine to include them in your diet as long as it’s on occasion and in moderation, Bickston says.
Healthy Diet: Eat Right and the Right Amount
How many calories you need in a day depends on your sex, age, body type, and how active you are. Generally, active children ages 2 to 8 need between 1,400 and 2,000 calories a day. Active teenage girls and women can consume about 2,200 calories a day without gaining weight. Teenage boys and men who are very active should consume about 3,000 calories a day to maintain their weight. If you’re not active, you calorie needs drop by 400 to 600 calories a day.
The best way to know how much to eat is to listen to your body, says Donald Novey, MD, an integrative medicine physician with the Advocate Medical Group in Park Ridge, Ill. “Pull away from the table when you’re comfortable but not yet full. Wait about 20 minutes,” he says. “Usually your body says, ‘That’s good.’ If you’re still hungry after that, you might want to eat a little more.”
Healthy Diet: Exercise Is Part of the Plan
At the bottom of the new USDA food pyramid is a space for exercise. Exercise is an important component of a well-balanced diet and good nutrition. You can reap “fabulous rewards,” says Dr Novey, just by exercising and eating “a healthy diet of foods that nature provides.”
Learn more in the Everyday Health Healthy Living Center.
How much food should I eat each day?
This is a reference amount to help us determine how much of the four groups of foods we should consume each day. Look at the examples below:
Share on PinterestHalf a regular-sized can of vegetables such as chickpeas constitutes one serving.
- Fruit and vegetables: 1 piece of fruit, half a cup of fruit juice, half a cup of canned or frozen fruit or vegetables, 1 cup of leafy raw vegetables or salad
- Grains: Half a bagel, 1 slice of bread, half a tortilla, half a pitta, half a cup of cooked couscous, rice or pasta, one ounce of cold cereal, three-quarters of a cup of hot cereal
- Milk and alternatives: 1 cup milk, 1 cup of soy drink, three-quarters of a cup of yogurt, 1 and a half ounces of cheese
- Meat and alternatives: 2 and a half ounces of cooked fish, lean meat, poultry or lean meat, 2 eggs, 2 tablespoons of peanut butter
Consuming fruit and vegetables: Experts say you should consume at least one dark green and one orange colored vegetable each day. Examples of dark green vegetables include spinach, kale, and broccoli.
Go for fruit and vegetables with either no sugar, salt, or fat, or at least as little as possible. It is recommended to steam, bake, or stir fry the vegetables. Limit or avoid foods that are deep fried. Whole fruit and vegetables are a better choice than their juices, as they provide more nutrients and fiber. They are also more filling which can deter overeating.
Consuming grains: Health authorities say we should aim for whole grains for at least half our grain consumption. Go for variety, including wild rice, quinoa, oats, brown rice, and barley. Whole grain pasta, oatmeal, and breads are better than those made from refined cereals.
A good grain should not have a high sugar, salt, or fat content. Alternatives to grains that contain many of the same nutrients are beans, legumes, quinoa, and starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes and peas.
Consuming milk (and alternatives): Consume 2 cups per day for good vitamin D and calcium intake. If you don’t drink milk, have fortified drinks. Limit your intake of milk with added sugars and other sweeteners. Low-fat milk may be recommended if you are limiting your total fat or saturated fat intake for heart health reasons.
Meat and alternative: Make sure you are eating alternatives, such as tofu, lentils, and beans regularly. It is recommended to have fish at least twice a week. Beware of certain types of fish for mercury exposure. Opt for lean meats, such as chicken or turkey.
Rather than frying, try roasting, baking, or poaching. If you are eating processed or prepackaged meat, select low-salt and low-fat ones. Limit your overall intake of processed meats since you may have an increased risk for cancer with regular intake.
When eating carbohydrates, choose unrefined carbs, such as whole grains, which are high in fiber and release energy slowly, so that you feel full for longer.
Limit saturated fats and avoid trans fats as much as possible. It is recommended to consume not more than 10 percent of your total calories from saturated fat. Plant oils, fish, and nuts are the best sources.
Make sure to get plenty of fiber. When eating fruit and vegetables, eat a variety of colors. If you are not a great milk-drinker, make sure your consumption of calcium is adequate.
If your main concern is to know how much food you should eat, you still have to be aware of their calorie values. With high-calorie foods, the quantity will have to be less, while with lower-calorie ones you can eat more.
What a woman eats and drinks during pregnancy is her baby’s main source of nourishment. So, experts recommend that a mother-to-be’s diet should include a variety of healthy foods and beverages to provide the important nutrients a baby needs for growth and development.
Related pregnancy articles from Live Science:
- Having a Baby: Stages of Pregnancy
- Are You Pregnant? 12 Early Signs of Pregnancy
- Am I Pregnant? Taking a Home Pregnancy Test
- Is the Baby Coming? 6 Signs of Labor
- Miscarriage: Signs, Symptoms & Causes
Key pregnancy nutrition
A pregnant woman needs more calcium, folic acid, iron and protein than a woman who is not expecting, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). Here is why these four nutrients are important.
Also known as folate when the nutrient is found in foods, folic acid is a B vitamin that is crucial in helping to prevent birth defects in the baby’s brain and spinal cord, known as neural tube defects.
It may be hard to get the recommended amount of folic acid from diet alone. For that reason the March of Dimes, an organization dedicated to preventing birth defects, recommends that women who are trying to have a baby take a daily vitamin supplement containing 400 micrograms of folic acid per day for at least one month before becoming pregnant. During pregnancy, they advise women to increase the amount of folic acid to 600 micrograms a day, an amount commonly found in a daily prenatal vitamin.
Food sources: leafy green vegetables, fortified or enriched cereals, breads and pastas, beans, citrus fruits.
This mineral is used to build a baby’s bones and teeth. If a pregnant woman does not consume enough calcium, the mineral will be drawn from the mother’s stores in her bones and given to the baby to meet the extra demands of pregnancy, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Many dairy products are also fortified with vitamin D, another nutrient that works with calcium to develop a baby’s bones and teeth.
Pregnant women age 19 and over need 1,000 milligrams of calcium a day; pregnant teens, ages 14 to 18, need 1,300 milligrams daily, according to ACOG.
Pregnant women need 27 milligrams of iron a day, which is double the amount needed by women who are not expecting, according to ACOG. Additional amounts of the mineral are needed to make more blood to supply the baby with oxygen. Getting too little iron during pregnancy can lead to anemia, a condition resulting in fatigue and an increased risk of infections.
To increase the absorption of iron, include a good source of vitamin C at the same meal when eating iron-rich foods, ACOG recommends. For example, have a glass of orange juice at breakfast with an iron-fortified cereal.
Food sources: meat, poultry, fish, dried beans and peas, iron-fortified cereal.
More protein is needed during pregnancy, but most women don’t have problems getting enough protein-rich foods in their diets, said Sarah Krieger, a registered dietitian and spokeswoman on prenatal nutrition for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics in St. Petersburg, Florida. She described protein as “a builder nutrient,” because it helps to build important organs for the baby, such as the brain and heart.
Food sources: meat, poultry, fish, dried beans and peas, eggs, nuts, tofu.
Foods to eat
During pregnancy, the goal is to be eating nutritious foods most of the time, Krieger told Live Science. To maximize prenatal nutrition, she suggests emphasizing the following five food groups: fruits, vegetables, lean protein, whole grains and dairy products.
When counseling pregnant women, Krieger recommends they fill half their plates with fruits and vegetables, a quarter of it with whole grains and a quarter of it with a source of lean protein, and to also have a dairy product at every meal.
Fruits and vegetables:
Pregnant women should focus on fruits and vegetables, particularly during the second and third trimesters, Krieger said. Get between five and 10 tennis ball-size servings of produce every day, she said. These colorful foods are low in calories and filled with fiber, vitamins and minerals.
Pregnant women should include good protein sources at every meal to support the baby’s growth, Krieger said. Protein-rich foods include meat, poultry, fish, eggs, beans, tofu, cheese, milk, nuts and seeds.
These foods are an important source of energy in the diet, and they also provide fiber, iron and B-vitamins. At least half of a pregnant woman’s carbohydrate choices each day should come from whole grains, such as oatmeal, whole-wheat pasta or breads and brown rice, Krieger said.
Aim for 3 to 4 servings of dairy foods a day, Krieger suggested. Dairy foods, such as milk, yogurt and cheese are good dietary sources of calcium, protein and vitamin D.
In addition to a healthy diet, pregnant women also need to take a daily prenatal vitamin to obtain some of the nutrients that are hard to get from foods alone, such as folic acid and iron, according to ACOG.
For women who take chewable prenatal vitamins, Krieger advised checking the product labels, because chewables might not have sufficient iron levels in them.
Detailed information on healthy food choices and quantities to include at meals can also be found in the pregnancy section of the USDA’s choosemyplate.gov.
Foods to limit
Consuming fewer than 200 mg of caffeine a day, which is the amount found in one 12-ounce cup of coffee, is generally considered safe during pregnancy, according to a 2010 ACOG committee opinion, which was reaffirmed in 2013. The committee report said moderate caffeine consumption during pregnancy does not appear to contribute to miscarriage or premature birth.
Fish is a good source of lean protein, and some fish, including salmon and sardines, also contain omega-3 fatty acids, a healthy fat that’s good for the heart. It is safe for pregnant women to eat 8 to 12 ounces of cooked fish and seafood a week, according to ACOG. However, they should limit albacore or “white” tuna, which has high levels of mercury, to no more than 6 ounces a week, according to ACOG. Mercury is a metal that can be harmful to a baby’s developing brain. Canned light tuna has less mercury than albacore “white” tuna and is safer to eat during pregnancy.
Foods to avoid
Avoid alcohol during pregnancy, Krieger advised. Alcohol in the mother’s blood can pass directly to the baby through the umbilical cord. Heavy use of alcohol during pregnancy has been linked with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, a group of conditions that can include physical problems, as well as learning and behavioral difficulties in babies and children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Fish with high levels of mercury:
Seafood such as swordfish, shark, king mackerel, marlin, orange roughy and tilefish are high in levels of methyl mercury, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and should be avoided during pregnancy. Methyl mercury is a toxic chemical that can pass through the placenta and can be harmful to an unborn baby’s developing brain, kidneys and nervous system.
According to the USDA, pregnant women are at high risk for getting sick from two different types of food poisoning: listeriosis, caused by the Listeria bacteria, and toxoplasmosis, an infection caused by a parasite.
The CDC says that Listeria infection may cause miscarriage, stillbirth, preterm labor, and illness or death in newborns. To avoid listeriosis, the USDA recommends avoiding the following foods during pregnancy:
- Unpasteurized (raw) milk and foods made from it, such as feta, Brie, Camembert, blue-veined cheeses, queso blanco and queso fresco. Pasteurization involves heating a product to a high temperature to kill harmful bacteria.
- Hot dogs, luncheon meats and cold cuts unless heated to steaming hot before eating to kill any bacteria.
- Store-bought deli salads, such as ham salad, chicken salad, tuna salad and seafood salad.
- Unpasteurized refrigerated meat spreads or pates.
A mother can pass a Toxoplasma infection on to her baby, which can cause problems such as blindness and mental disability later in life, reports the CDC. To prevent toxoplasmosis, the USDA recommends avoiding the following foods during pregnancy:
- Rare, raw or undercooked meats and poultry.
- Raw fish, such as sushi, sashimi, ceviches and carpaccio.
- Raw and undercooked shellfish, such as clams, mussels, oysters and scallops.
Some foods may increase a pregnant woman’s risk for other types of food poisoning, including illness caused by salmonella and E. coli bacteria. Foodsafety.gov lists these foods to avoid during pregnancy, and why they pose a threat:
- Raw or undercooked eggs, such as soft-cooked, runny or poached eggs.
- Foods containing undercooked eggs, such as raw cookie dough or cake batter, tiramisu, chocolate mousse, homemade ice cream, homemade eggnog, Hollandaise sauce.
- Raw or undercooked sprouts, such as alfalfa, clover.
- Unpasteurized juice or cider.
Pregnancy diet misconceptions
When a mother-to-be is experiencing morning sickness, the biggest mistake she can make is thinking that if she doesn’t eat, she’ll feel better, Krieger said.
The exact causes of morning sickness are not known, but it may be caused by hormonal changes or lower blood sugar, according to the Mayo Clinic. This common complaint can bring on waves of nausea and vomiting in some women, especially during the first three months of pregnancy.
And “it’s definitely not happening only in the morning,” Krieger said. “It’s any time of day.” To ease morning sickness, it’s better to eat small amounts of foods that don’t have an odor, since smells can also upset the stomach, she suggested.
It is common for women to develop a sudden urge or a strong dislike for a food during pregnancy. Some common cravings are for sweets, salty foods, red meat or fluids, Krieger said. Often, a craving is a body’s way of saying it needs a specific nutrient, such as more protein or additional liquids to quench a thirst, rather than a particular food, she said.
Eating for two:
When people say that a pregnant woman is “eating for two,” it doesn’t mean she needs to consume twice as much food or double her calories.
“A woman is not eating for two during her first trimester,” Krieger said. During the first three months, Krieger tells women that their calorie needs are basically the same as they were before pregnancy. During the first trimester, the recommended weight gain is between 1 and 4 pounds over the three-month period.
Krieger typically advises pregnant women to add 200 calories to their usual dietary intake during the second trimester, and to add 300 calories during their third trimester when the baby is growing quickly.
Weight gain during pregnancy
“Weight gain during pregnancy often has an ebb and a flow over the nine months,” Krieger said. It’s hard to measure where pregnancy weight is going, she said, adding that a scale does not reveal whether the pounds are going to a woman’s body fat, baby weight or fluid gains.
When it comes to pregnancy weight gain, Krieger advises mothers-to-be to look at the big picture: During regular prenatal checkups, focus on the fact that the baby is growing normally rather than worrying about the number on a scale.
The total number of calories that are needed per day during pregnancy depends on a woman’s height, her weight before becoming pregnant, and how active she is on a daily basis. In general, underweight women need more calories during pregnancy; overweight and obese women need fewer of them.
The Institute of Medicine (IOM) guidelines for total weight gain during a full-term pregnancy recommend that:
Rate of weight gain
The IOM guidelines suggest that pregnant women gain between 1 and 4.5 lbs. (0.45 to 2 kg) total during their first trimester of pregnancy. The guidelines recommend that underweight and normal-weight women gain, on average, about 1 pound every week during their second and third trimesters of pregnancy, and that overweight and obese women gain about half a pound every week in their second and third trimesters of pregnancy.
The IOM guidelines for pregnancy weight gain when a woman is having twins are as follows:
This article is for informational purposes only and is not meant to offer medical advice.
- The Institute of Medicine has a BMI calculator to help pregnant women figure out the right amount of weight to gain.
- Find answers to frequently asked questions about nutrition during pregnancy from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
- Learn about safe food choices and food safety risks from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
8 Healthy Foods You Should Eat Every Day
Dieting is hard, but eating is easy. Right? That means the easiest way to drop pounds and slim down is to do exactly what you’re already doing: eat! Just make sure you’re getting in the right foods. Below, we uncover which nutrient-rich foods deserve a place in your diet daily and how to sneak them into your meals. To double down on your health-improving efforts, replace those refined carbs you’ve been eating with these fat burning foods.
Substitutes: Kale, bok choy, romaine lettuce
It may be green and leafy, but spinach is no nutritional wallflower. This noted muscle builder is a rich source of plant-based omega-3s and folate, which help reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, and osteoporosis. It’s also one of the 10 salad greens healthier than kale. Bonus: Folate also increases blood flow to the nether regions, helping to protect you against age-related sexual issues. And spinach is packed with lutein, a compound that fights macular degeneration. Aim for 1 cup fresh spinach or 1/2 cup cooked per day.
Make your salads with spinach; add spinach to scrambled eggs; drape it over pizza; mix it with marinara sauce and then microwave for an instant dip.
Substitutes: Kefir, soy yogurt
Various cultures claim yogurt as their own creation, but the 2,000-year-old food’s health benefits are not disputed: Fermentation spawns hundreds of millions of probiotic organisms that serve as reinforcements to the battalions of beneficial bacteria in your body. That helps boost your immune system and provides protection against cancer. Not all yogurts are probiotic, though, so make sure the label says “live and active cultures.” Aim for 1 cup of the calcium and protein-rich goop a day. We did the legwork to find the healthiest yogurt so all you have to do at the store is grab and go.
Yogurt topped with blueberries, walnuts, flaxseed, and honey is the ultimate breakfast—or dessert. Plain low-fat yogurt is also a perfect base for creamy salad dressings and dips.
Substitutes: Red watermelon, pink grapefruit, Japanese persimmon, papaya, guava
There are two things you need to know about tomatoes: Red are the best, because they’re packed with more of the antioxidant lycopene, and processed tomatoes are just as potent as fresh ones, because it’s easier for the body to absorb the lycopene. Studies show that a diet rich in lycopene can decrease your risk of bladder, lung, prostate, skin, and stomach cancers, as well as reduce the risk of coronary artery disease. Aim for 22 mg of lycopene a day, which is about eight red cherry tomatoes or a glass of tomato juice.
Pile on the ketchup and Ragú; guzzle low-sodium V8 and gazpacho; double the amount of tomato paste called for in a recipe.
Substitutes: Sweet potato, pumpkin, butternut squash, yellow bell pepper, mango
Most red, yellow, or orange vegetables and fruits are spiked with carotenoids—fat-soluble compounds that are associated with a reduction in a wide range of cancers, as well as reduced risk and severity of inflammatory conditions such as asthma and rheumatoid arthritis—but none are as easy to prepare, or have as low a caloric density, as carrots. Aim for 1/2 cup a day.
Raw baby carrots, sliced raw yellow pepper, butternut squash soup, baked sweet potato, pumpkin pie, mango sorbet, carrot cake
Substitutes: Acai berries, purple grapes, prunes, raisins, strawberries
Host to more antioxidants than any other North American fruit, blueberries help prevent cancer, diabetes, and age-related memory changes (hence the nickname “brain berry”). Studies show that blueberries, which are rich in fiber and vitamins A and C, also boost cardiovascular health. Aim for 1 cup fresh blueberries a day, or 1/2 cup frozen or dried.
Blueberries maintain most of their power in dried, frozen, or jam form.
Substitutes: Peas, lentils, and pinto, kidney, fava, and lima beans
All beans are good for your heart, but none can boost your brain power like black beans. That’s because they’re full of anthocyanins, antioxidant compounds that have been shown to improve brain function. A daily 1/2-cup serving provides 8 grams of protein and 7.5 grams of fiber. It’s also low in calories and free of saturated fat.
Wrap black beans in a breakfast burrito; use both black beans and kidney beans in your chili; puree 1 cup black beans with 1/4 cup olive oil and roasted garlic for a healthy dip; add favas, limas, or peas to pasta dishes.
Substitutes: Almonds, peanuts, pistachios, macadamia nuts, hazelnuts
Richer in heart-healthy omega-3s than salmon, loaded with more anti-inflammatory polyphenols than red wine, and packing half as much muscle-building protein as chicken, the walnut sounds like a Frankenfood, but it grows on trees. Other nuts combine only one or two of these features, not all three. A serving of walnuts—about 1 ounce, or 7 nuts—is good anytime, but especially as a postworkout recovery snack.
Sprinkle on top of salads; chop and add to pancake batter; spoon peanut butter into curries; grind and mix with olive oil to make a marinade for grilled fish or chicken.
Substitutes: Quinoa, flaxseed, wild rice
The éminence grise of health food, oats garnered the FDA’s first seal of approval. They are packed with soluble fiber, which lowers the risk of heart disease. Yes, oats are loaded with carbs, but the release of those sugars is slowed by the fiber, and because oats also have 10 grams of protein per 1/2-cup serving, they deliver steady, muscle-friendly energy.
Eat granolas and cereals that have a fiber content of at least 5 grams per serving. Sprinkle 2 Tbsp. ground flaxseed on cereals, salads, and yogurt.
Get the New Book!
Want to lose 10, 20, even 30 pounds—all without dieting?! Get your copy of Eat This, Not That: The Best (& Worst) Foods in America!, and learn how to indulge smarter and lose weight fast!
Nutrition-Packed Foods You Should Eat Every Day
Ever wonder what the life of a nutritionist is like? Probably healthier than ours, let’s be honest. But what if we told you that nutritionists sometimes bypass the rule of having variety in their daily diets? When the food they love serves them well — it is packed with vitamins and minerals — they can eat it every day and say goodbye to the variety rule. Incorporate these nutritious foods into your diet. They have such great health benefits that you can eat them consistently, guilt-free!
Oatmeal is the perfect breakfast staple. | iStock.com
This high-fiber breakfast can help keep you full throughout the day. Foods high in fiber digest slowly, which steadies blood sugar levels for more energy. Oatmeal is the all-around perfect breakfast to eat every day due to its versatility. Vary your daily oatmeal dose by sprinkling chia seeds, berries, nuts, almond butter, or bananas on top.
Prepare your eggs any way and enjoy the many benefits. | iStock.com
This sounds pretty boring, but eggs are packed with protein, low in calories, and have plenty of vitamins. The yolk contains vitamins D and B12, riboflavin, choline, and selenium — the latter can help prevent cell damage from free radicals. Vitamin B12 gives you energy and vitamin D contains immune-fighting properties. Poach an egg, hard-boil an egg, scramble an egg, you name it, and it will benefit your body.
Throw turmeric in your next smoothie and taste its healthy kick. | iStock.com/eskaylim
You may have seen this bright orange spice on the shelves of your favorite health food store. It is the main ingredient used in curry and has a slight peppery, ginger taste. Turmeric comes from a plant and contains manganese, iron, vitamin B6, fiber, copper, and potassium. It is praised for its anti-inflammatory properties in the Chinese and Indian healing systems. And many athletic dietitians use turmeric for its anti-inflammatory properties. Throw two scoops in your next smoothie and feel it work wonders for your body.
Oranges are healthy for more than just your immune system. | iStock.com
We all know oranges are packed with vitamin C, which can keep your immune system healthy, but that’s not all these tasty fruits have to offer. According to Live Science, eating oranges may keep your heart healthy. They’re also packed with fiber, making them a great snack whenever hunger strikes. Just toss one in your bag before you head out the door.
5. Tomato sauce
Eat tomatoes a couple times a week to reap the benefits. | iStock.com
According to Tanya Zuckerbrot, MS, tomato sauce “should be a staple in the male diet.” But this foods is also great for women. Tomatoes are known for their high levels of antioxidants and lycopene content, which not only have oxidative properties (keeps our cells healthy) but also increase bone and heart health. Antioxidants also help fight against cancer. Use this info as your excuse to make spaghetti dishes a few times a week.
6. Dark chocolate
Eating healthy doesn’t mean skipping dessert. | iStock.com
Dark chocolate is an acquired taste for some, but it has an incredible amount of antioxidants. Dark chocolate (made with at least 70% cocoa or more — check the label) may help decrease blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart disease. If you are following a weight loss regimen, having a square or two of dark chocolate a night can also lead to less cravings.
Pistachios are great for keeping you energized. | iStock.com
Full of healthy fats and fiber, pistachios are a great snack to keep your energy going during that afternoon slump at work. Pistachios can also help reduce your risk of lung cancer, according to researchers at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. They are also packed with potassium, essential for a healthy nervous system and muscles.
8. Hot water with lemon
Lemon water will keep you energized throughout the day. | iStock.com
Nutritionists and health aficionados alike swear by hot water with lemon in the morning and throughout the day to energize their bodies. Lemon water wakes up your digestive tract and provides anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting benefits.
Top Ten Vegetables and Fruit You Should Eat Everyday
We all know we should be eating more vegetables and fruit. But which ones give us the biggest nutritional punch?
Below is a list of the top ten vegetables and fruits that are packed with nutrients and health benefits. Remember, the idea is to eat a variety of colours in fruits and veggies.
Blueberries contain anti-oxidants, specifically anthocyanidans, which is a flavanoid connected with cognitive ability. These little nuggets also contain Vitamin K1, which helps with blood clotting, as well as Vitamin C and manganese, a mineral associated with the metabolism of amino acids, proteins, carbohydrates and lipids.
Bell Peppers come in a multitude of colours – green, yellow, orange and red. They are full of Vitamin A, folate and potassium. One pepper can provide 169 percent of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of Vitamin C. They also contain anti-oxidants called carotenoids that help with eye health.
Cruciferous vegetables include broccoli, cauliflower and brussels sprouts, to name a few. They contain phyto-chemicals, Vitamins A, C and E, folate and fiber. They also contain anti-oxidants that can protect against cancer.
Leafy Green Vegetables
Spinach, kale and bok choy are among these nutritional powerhouses. Packed with Vitamin B and calcium, leafy greens can help lower cholesterol, improve bone health and prevent colon cancer.
Tomatoes contain lycopene, an anti-oxidant, as well as beta-carotene. They are also packed with Vitamins C and K, potassium and folate. They are believed to improve heart health, skin health and prevent cancer.
Bananas are rich is fiber, potassium and Vitamins C and B6. They contain anti-oxidants and phyto-chemicals that promote heart health. They also help the brain to produce dopamine, that can improve mood.
The Vitamin C champions, including oranges, grapefruit, limes and lemons, also contain B vitamins, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium and copper, as well as anti-oxidants. Make sure you eat the whole fruit instead of juice to get the benefits of fiber. As well, grapefruit can interact with many prescription medications, so check with your doctor.
Garlic is know to prevent and reduce the effects of colds, improve blood pressure and cholesterol. Its active ingredients, allicin, is also found in onions. It also contain selenium, magnesium and Vitamins B6 and C.
Olives, like olive oil, are high in Vitamin E, iron, copper and calcium. They contain anti-oxidants and healthy fats. Avoid olives soaked in brine, is you’re watching your sodium levels.
Ginger contains a natural oil, called gingerol, that has anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Ginger can help a host of problems, including tummy upsets and muscle pain and soreness. It may help with osteoarthritis, high blood sugar and heart disease risk factors.
Remember, Mom was right…Eat Your Veggies and Fruit!
10 Easy Ways to Eat More Vegetables Every Day
- Join a CSA or have a box of vegetables delivered every week – If a box of vegetables shows up at your door every so often, you’ll be that much more likely to eat them. As reader Vlecomte says, “I didn’t want to waste food, so I had to find a way to use everything. And it forced me to be more creative in my cooking!”
- Put your vegetables on the top shelf of the fridge – Hunky heads of cauliflower and broccoli shouldn’t get pushed to the back of the fridge or stuck out of sight in the suspiciously named “crisper” drawer; put them right up front, where you’ll see and remember them. Reader Emmi calls this a proven method, saying, “Stuff that is hidden away is ignored by fridge-goers.” Indeed!
- Prepare a whole week’s worth of vegetables over the weekend – This may go against the usual idea of eating vegetables picked up during the day and eaten as fresh possible. But it’s a lot more realistic for most of us and our busy schedules. Many readers were totally inspired by this video from Tamar Adler, showing how she preps her vegetables. This means washing, trimming, chopping, and even roasting or freezing — anything that makes it easy to grab a lunch of vegetables on the go. “If I can grab and cook,” says reader Kariwk, I am much more likely to add veggies to stuff.”
- Ask yourself: What’s my idea of irresistible vegetables? – This may sound like vague or obvious advice, but really take a moment to think about the question. What kinds of vegetables are most appealing and irresistible? Do you fall over for creamy cauliflower soup? Roasted Brussels sprouts? Indulge as frequently as you want. NY2Midmo is inspiring on this topic: “I suggest finding ways to love vegetables! For me that has meant changing my preparation: I have recently fallen in love with roasting veggies. I enjoyed Brussels sprouts for the first time in my life by roasting, and had roasted broccoli for lunch the other day.”
- Add (or double!) the vegetables in your nightly meals – There aren’t many weeknight meals that wouldn’t be made better with a handful of kale or spinach. Pizza? Top with broccoli florets. Risotto? See: handful of kale. Pasta? That’s easy — roasted carrots, beets, cabbage. See how many different vegetables you can pack in to what you’re already cooking, which is made extra easy when you’ve followed the advice above (get them delivered, roast or cook them ahead of time). Littlebluehen was just the first of many readers to advise this: “Take the everyday meals you already make and add one more vegetable — pasta sauce, mac and cheese, rice pilaf, risotto, etc. can all stand peas or zucchini or carrots or greens.”
- Eat vegetables for breakfast – Lots of breakfast dishes are better with vegetables. Think of omelets, frittatas, even toast with kale and an egg. “I prep some cooked greens in a three- or four-serving size,” says LGHEZ, “and keep them in a plastic zip bag so I can microwave a serving to eat with an egg for breakfast.” Smart!
- Drink your veggies! – Another breakfast idea is to juice your carrots, greens, and beets. Or throw them into a green smoothie, like the one Sewtrashy makes: “Smoothies! I make a green smoothie every morning. Lots of greens (spinach, mache, kale, etc.) with a piece of two of fruit, like apples or berries and two cups of water. If you do nothing else, do this. It’s so great for you and gives you a ton of vitamins and good stuff.”
- Eat a salad at every meal – I buy bags of pre-washed greens and arugula for easy, fast salads. I also keep a jar of delicious homemade salad dressing in the fridge, which helps a lot. And salads aren’t just for dinner or lunch; I am a big fan of salad with breakfast, whether it’s a true breakfast salad or a simple pile of arugula next to a cheese omelet. Escondido gives an example of a heartier sort of salad that could last well in the fridge: “We also always have a salad, maybe with cucumber/green beans/apple/pear.” Yum!
- Substitute raw vegetables for crackers, pita, tortillas, and other breads – I eat a lot of baba ghanoush and other dips, and while I don’t practice low-carb eating, I do find that a big container of cut-up bell pepper and cucumber is fresher and better for me than a box of pita chips. I also really liked this idea from SophieO who says, “Use leafy greens as wraps for tacos, sandwiches, etc., instead of tortillas or pita. Collards and lacinato kale work particularly well for this.”
- Don’t forget frozen vegetables! – While we may idealize that box of fresh, leafy greens straight from the farm, don’t overlook the humble frozen veggie. They are often frozen right at the farm, picked at their peak, and certain vegetables (peas, especially) taste great from the freezer. And they are always good for soups, scrambles, and pasta — how many times have I realized I could dump a whole bag of frozen spinach into soup? Ta-da! Kristen @Batterlicker.com agrees: “I keep several bags of frozen veggies (spinach, artichoke hearts, etc.) in the freezer for those nights/weeks when I just haven’t made it to the store/market, so I can mix some veggies in with pantry staples (rice, pasta, quinoa, etc.).
Foods to Avoid: 5 “Healthy” Foods You Really Should Never Eat
It seems like just about every week a new food or ingredient hits the market, claiming to help you shed extra pounds, kick up energy levels, and boost immune health. In fact, food companies started targeting health-conscious consumers decades ago with “healthy” products that are actually bursting with additives, chemicals, and questionable ingredients. Despite being marketed as healthy and nutritious, many of these products can have negative effects on your health.
So which foods should you limit in your diet? Here are a few foods that may not be as healthy as we’re led to believe, plus a few better options that you can swap in instead.
5 Unhealthiest “Health” Foods to Avoid
1. Farm-Raised Fish
Fish is well-known for its health-promoting properties. Packed with heart-healthy fats and essential micronutrients, fish can be an excellent addition to the diet. In fact, the American Heart Association recommends eating at least two servings of fatty fish every week to optimize your health.(1)
But while wild-caught fish can provide numerous health benefits, you should steer clear of farm-raised fish altogether. For example, farm-raised salmon, which is often marketed under the name “Atlantic salmon.” Farm-raised salmon has actually been shown to be higher in pollutants and toxins.(2) Consuming farmed fish on a regular basis can contribute to serious health problems like insulin resistance and obesity.(3)
Stick to healthier types of fish to get in your daily dose of omega-3 fatty acids and micronutrients. Alaskan wild-caught salmon, Atlantic mackerel, or Pacific sardines are all nutritious and delicious alternatives to farm-raised fish.
2. Store-Bought Granola
Although it’s often considered a healthier breakfast option than sugary donuts or pancakes drowning in syrup, a lot of granola has enough sugar and empty calories that it should actually be considered a dessert. Filling up on large amounts of sugar – especially first thing in the morning – can have detrimental effects on health, with studies showing that a high sugar intake may be linked to a higher risk of cancer, diabetes, and obesity.(4, 5, 6)
As an alternative to store-bought granola that may have anywhere from 8-12 grams of sugar per serving, try making your own granola (or granola bars!) at home using nutritious ingredients such as oats, nuts, seeds, and dried fruit for natural sweetness. You can also try using other healthy ingredients like chia seeds or hemp seeds to add a tasty crunch to your bowl of yogurt or oatmeal in place of granola.
3. Processed Juices
Despite once being considered a staple of a healthy diet, you may want to reconsider what kind of juice you’re adding to your grocery list. Store-bought green smoothies, for example, are often pumped full of extra ingredients that diminish any potential health benefits. Processed fruit juice, on the other hand, contains a concentrated megadose of all the sugar found in fruit, but with none of the beneficial fiber that you get from the whole fruits. This is important because fiber helps slow down the absorption of sugar in the bloodstream to prevent sudden spikes and crashes in blood sugar, while also helps reduce the risk of conditions like heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and high blood pressure.(7)
Whole fruits like oranges, apples, and grapes are much better alternatives to sugary fruit drinks. Not only do they provide tons of important vitamins and minerals, but they are also rich in fiber to help keep blood sugar steady and promote better health.
You can also try making your own natural juice at home with your favorite fruits and vegetables for a healthy alternative to processed juices from the store.
4. Diet Snacks
Snack foods like veggie chips or pretzels are often marketed as healthy alternatives to high-fat products like potato chips. However, many of these foods are actually deep-fried, while also being high in sodium, fat, refined carbs, and other artificial added ingredients that you’re better off without.
Instead of buying bagged snacks at the store, try baking your own veggie chips at home using kale, carrots, zucchini, or radishes. Other healthy snack alternatives to satisfy your cravings include air-popped popcorn, roasted chickpeas, or toasted pumpkin seeds.
5. Artificial Sweeteners
Often lurking in foods marketed as “healthy,” artificial sweeteners are anything but. Studies suggest that artificial sweeteners like aspartame, sucralose, and saccharin may actually increase appetite and cravings, contribute to weight gain, and even disrupt gut health.(8, 9, 10)
Keep your intake of “diet” foods with artificial sweeteners to a minimum and try sweetening your foods on your own instead. . Fresh fruit, stevia, raw honey, or maple syrup are all natural ways to add a touch of flavor and satisfy your sweet tooth without the added chemicals and junk found in artificial sweeteners.
Instead of opting for highly processed foods pumped full of additives and chemicals, try including more nutritious, whole foods in your diet. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and unprocessed meats are all excellent additions to a healthy diet that supply a wealth of nutrients and help maximize your overall health. You can also make a few simple swaps in your diet to enjoy the flavors of your favorite foods – but without the potentially negative effects on your health.