Expert advice: 10 tips for a healthy diet
The New Year is perfect for improving your diet and adopting new health habits. Here are 10 simple tips to make it happen!
1. Drink lots of water
Did you know that thirst does not appear until dehydration has already begun? That is why it is better not to wait to reach this point and instead drink continuously. The recommended amount varies according to the sex and level of physical activity of each individual, generally 8 to 12 cups of water a day.
Tip: To make yourself drink enough water each day, keep a bottle with you and/or flavor your water with slices of citrus or cucumber, mint leaves or cilantro, etc.
2. Increase fruit & vegetable intake
To make sure you eat fruits and vegetables all day long (and get the most out of fiber and nutrients), plan to eat your fruit during breakfast and snacks, and your vegetables during lunch and dinner. And colour it up! Each colour has its nutritional benefits. For example: green fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants, carotenoids and chlorophyll; orange fruits and vegetables are full of carotenoid, flavonoid, vitamins A, B6 and C, etc.
Tip: To make yourself consume more vegetables, cut them ahead of time and prepare a good amount of raw vegetables at the beginning each week. Also, always have frozen fruits and vegetables in your freezer for quick meals (they are nutritionally just as good).
3. Diversify your sources of protein
Some proteins are of animal origin (meats, fish, eggs and dairy products) and others are of plant origin (seeds, nuts, legumes and whole grain products). Proteins of vegetable origin are particularly interesting, since they are free of saturated fat and have no harmful effect on the cardiovascular system. In addition, they contain fiber and several vitamins and minerals.
Tip: When choosing your animal protein, go for lean meats (wild meat, turkey, chicken, veal, horse, etc.). For beef, lamb, pork and rabbit, go for the lean cuts. As for plant proteins, vary the ones you consume daily to benefit from a complete protein intake.
4. Choose whole grains
You like bread, pasta and rice and cereal? Expand your horizons and go for other types of grains available on the market: amaranth, wheat, spelt, kamut, quinoa, maize, millet, barley, buckwheat, rye, sorghum, etc.
Tip: Most of the grains mentioned above can be cooked like rice (see the manufacturer’s recommendations). Some of them are also offered in flour form. For example, you could substitute wheat flour for spelt or kamut flour. As for flours made from gluten-free grains, it is advisable to combine at least three in the same recipe for better results.
5. Increase your fiber intake
In addition to playing a major role in the intestinal transit, fibers have a beneficial effect on cardiovascular health and blood sugar, and create a feeling of satiety. Although on average people consume about 15g per day, it is recommended to consume 25 to 30g (through fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, seeds and nuts).
Tip: One of the best ways to increase your fiber intake is to keep half of your plate for vegetables during lunch and dinner. Also, do not hesitate to add ground seeds (flax, chia, sunflower, pumpkin, etc.) to your favorite recipes (smoothies, muffins, cookies, energy balls, salads, salad dressings, etc.).
6. Replace bad fats with good fats
Reduce intake of saturated fat (dairy products, meats and cold cuts) and turn to good fats such as avocados, seeds, nuts and vegetable oils.
Tip: Vary your sources of fat in your cooking. Remember that all oils can be used to enhance salads. Otherwise, for cooking, you can alternate between olive, peanut, camelina, canola, sunflower, grape seed and coconut oils (flax, hemp, hazelnut, nuts, sesame and soy oils should not be heated.)
7. Give up refined sugars
Refined sugar is a sugar that has been stripped of its nutrients. Having been washed, filtered and bleached, it contains only simple carbohydrates and empty calories.
Tip: To sweeten your recipes, replace white sugar or brown sugar with cane or coconut sugar, maple syrup, honey, dates, which all contain vitamins and minerals.
8. Avoid processed foods
Most processed foods contain too much salt, sugar, color, preservatives, etc. Although some products on the market may be nutritionally interesting, fresh foods and home-cooked meals are always better.
Tip: When buying prepared foods, pay attention to the list of ingredients (placed in descending order of their respective proportion). If sugar, salt or fat appears in the first three ingredients, it is better to leave the product on the shelf.
9. Eat balanced snacks between meals
Snacks help counteracting lower energy levels, help better controlling of blood sugar levels, help avoiding starvation, help avoiding going for second, help controlling cravings and help integrating nutrients we tend to neglect when eating on the go.
Tip: A balanced snack is usually a fruit or vegetable, accompanied by a protein (humus, nuts, cheese, etc.).
10. Take time to eat and recognize hunger signals
It’s good to have a varied and balanced diet. However, if your meal is gone in five minutes and with little chewing, the nutrients will not be ingested to their full capacity. Each meal should last a minimum of fifteen minutes, the time to allow us to chew well, to enjoy the maximum of nutrients and to give the brain the chance to receive information of a feeling of satiety…and pleasure!
Encyclopédie visuelle des aliments. Montréal, Les éditions Québec Amérique inc, 2005, 688 pages.
GREGER Michael. How not to die. New York, Flatiron Books, 2015, 562 pages
DUBOST Mireille. La nutrition. 3e édition, Montréal, Chenelière Éducation, 2005, 366 pages