Variety and quality are two essentials when it comes to eating well and reducing your risk of chronic disease. In his book, The South Beach Diet Wake-Up Call, Dr. Arthur Agatston explains that a healthy, nutritious, disease-fighting diet must feature a variety of whole 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, consider these principles, adapted from The South Beach Diet Wake-Up Call:
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 disease.
Evaluate the foods you eat. Pay attention to the quality of the carbohydrates, protein, and fats you eat and learn how your food is produced. Be aware that the nutrient value of the animal protein that ends up on your plate can vary widely depending on what the cow, pig, lamb, chicken, or fish was fed. You’ve heard of “you are what you eat” — perhaps it should be “you are what you eat . . . ate.”
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; while others, like white bread and white rice, are stripped of their nutrients and fiber during processing, destroying their nutritional value. And remember, taking vitamin or mineral supplements is not a substitute for a healthy whole-foods diet.
Be aware that calories count, but … stop obsessing about calories, grams of fat, carbohydrates, protein, or anything else. Counting every calorie and weighing your food down 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.
For more tips and advice on healthy eating, order Dr. Agatston’s book The South Beach Diet Wake-Up Call, which is available wherever books are sold. Get your copy today!