What Healthy Means Now
There's a lot of chatter about what healthy eating really means. How do you put healthy eating into your everyday meals and snacks?
If you're looking for a roadmap, turn to the new 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines (released in January). You can also look to organizations such as the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. And then there's your mom's tried-and-true wisdom. An apple a day may really have benefits, just like she said.
The message today may seem like a new approach, but the basic premise has remained: lots of whole foods and whole grains, plant-forward eating and more seafood than meat. The emphasis is on oil-based fats more than saturated, and a balanced diet is low in processed foods and added sugars. No foods should be eliminated, but all foods should be consumed in the right portions.
Every bite counts, and what we put into our mouths can keep us healthy (or not).
Here are a few of the other current thoughts on healthy eating:
All foods can fit. The new Dietary Guidelines want us to "personalize" healthy eating to fit into all cultures, enjoying a variety of wholesome, nutritious foods that promote health.
Plant-forward. That doesn't mean you have to exclude meat, but it doesn't have to be the center of the plate. Fruits, vegetables and whole grains take center stage, filling our plates with their disease-fighting benefits of antioxidants; fermented foods have anti-inflammatory powers.
Whole foods, minimally processed. Turning fresh-picked tomatoes into a no-salt-added tomato sauce is an example of minimally processed. Frozen vegetables are minimally processed. Choose the freshest ingredients you can, and turn them into your own creations.
Health-promoting foods. Foods that promote gut health (think probiotics in yogurt) or help prevent diseases such as heart disease (think oatmeal lowering cholesterol or salmon providing healthy omega-3 fatty acids) are foods you want to choose more often. We want to fill our plates with foods that reduce our risk of diabetes (less sugary drinks and sweets) and cancer (more antioxidants from broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower) and enhance our immune systems (foods high in vitamin A, vitamin C and protein).
Flavors and global cuisine foods. The pandemic has limited all of our physical travel, but we can still experience a new destination through its food. Trying a new cuisine offers a chance to explore. And exploring helps our mental state.