With so much conflicting information out there on “good” and “bad” foods, it’s hard to know exactly what you’re supposed to be eating to stay healthy and keep your weight under control. Are carbohydrates good or bad? Is fat the enemy, or is sugar the real problem? And what the heck is a “superfood?”
Luckily, there is hope. Fads come and go, but real nutrition is still primarily a matter of common sense. If you eat a wide variety of foods, concentrating on whole foods closer to their natural form (an orange) as opposed to processed foods (an orange-flavored snack), there’s no need to beat yourself up over the occasional slice of pizza or bowl of ice cream. There’s actually a place for everything in a balanced diet, provided you focus on the word “balance.”
According to the most recent U.S. Government standards, a healthy diet starts with plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and dairy products that are either reduced in fat or fat free. For protein, it includes beans and nuts – a great choice for vegetarians -- as well as lean meat, poultry, fish and eggs. In other words, it includes a variety of foods to suit just about every taste.
When it comes to foods you should consume in lower quantities, the list is a lot shorter. It basically consists of saturated fats and trans fats, cholesterol, salt and added sugars. These nutritional no-no’s tend to be found most frequently in processed foods like chips, snack foods and frozen or fast-food dinners. And beware – those “light” and “fat free” options typically pack a lot of sodium and/or sugar, so avoiding so-called convenience foods in favor of cooking your own meals – or at least eating simpler foods – is usually much healthier.
A little awareness is key. Read labels, think about what you’re eating, plan your meals in advance. That way, when you get the occasional craving for a fast-food cheeseburger, you can indulge without worrying.
At least some of the time.