Some Basic Principles of Healthy Eating

Variety and quality are two essentials when it comes to eating well and reducing your risk of chronic diseases. In all of his books, Dr. Arthur Agatston explains that a healthy diet must feature a wide variety of nutritious foods, including vegetables, legumes, fruits, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats.

While the basic principles of healthy eating are quite simple, unfortunately the majority of Americans fail to follow them, and we’re paying the price in terms of our nation’s current epidemics of obesity, prediabetes, and diabetes. If you want to improve your eating habits, resolve to do the following:

Embrace variety. Don’t base your diet predominantly on just a few foods. Consuming a wide variety of healthy foods, especially nutrient-dense, high-fiber vegetables and fruits in a rainbow of colors, provides you with the phytonutrients (plant chemicals) you need to stimulate your body’s immune cells and infection-fighting enzymes and prevent a host of ailments.

Evaluate the foods you eat. Pay attention to the quality of the carbohydrates, protein, and fats you eat. Avoid refined starches and sugars and saturated fats from fatty meats and full-fat dairy. Choose high-fiber whole fruits, whole-grains, and legumes; lean meat, poultry, and seafood; and low-fat dairy products instead. And stick with the good unsaturated fats found in olive oil and canola oil.

Avoid empty-calorie foods and beverages. Some foods and beverages, such as packaged baked goods and sugary sodas, are filled with empty calories to begin with. Others, like white bread and white rice, are stripped of their nutrients and fiber during processing, destroying much of their nutritional value. And don't assume that products labeled “gluten free” are necessarily healthy. Many can be high in sugar, fat, and sodium. Always read the Nutrition Facts panel and the ingredients list on all packaged products before buying. And keep in mind that taking vitamin and mineral supplements is not a substitute for a healthy whole-foods diet.

Stop counting. Counting every calorie or gram of fat, protein, or carbohydrate, and weighing your food to the ounce, is simply not conducive to a pleasurable lifestyle or useful for keeping extra weight off over the long run. When you make healthy food choices most of the time for your meals and snacks, you will be satisfied with reasonable food quantities, and counting becomes superfluous.

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