Experts offer plenty of advice on optimal eating, but the truth is that one size does not fit all when it comes to maintaining a healthy diet.
Individual nutrition needs vary, and your lifestyle plays a significant role in the types of food you eat — and when and where you eat them. Some people enjoy cooking from scratch, while others love eating out. For some, simple meals suffice. For others, meal enjoyment is all about culinary experimentation.
March is National Nutrition Month, and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics encourages you to “Go Further with Food” — the month’s theme — by eating right for your lifestyle. How can you tweak your current eating plan to maximize nutrition in a way that works best for you?
The Basics of a Healthy Diet
The media reports on a dizzying array of nutrition studies, and the information often appears contradictory. Mastering the basics of nutrition can seem complicated, but experts say you should focus on the big picture when it comes to what you eat.
In general, ignore fad diets, and try to eat real food as close to its natural state as possible. Most people need a variety of nutrients — fat, protein, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals — to stay healthy.
The American Heart Association notes that a healthy diet is one of the best tools for fighting cardiovascular disease. You can build a healthy diet by first knowing how many calories your body needs each day. Most people require about 2,000, but your needs may vary based on your age, gender, weight and activity level; consult with your doctor to determine the correct level for you.
Once you know your daily calorie needs, you can create a meal plan that includes nutritious choices from all the food groups, including vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, nuts and legumes, and lean proteins. Experts advise that you limit trans fats, saturated fats, red meats, sodium and sugars.
Eating Right for Your Lifestyle
Healthy eating does not have to include strict limits on the quantities you eat or depriving yourself of foods you love. For many people, dining out or home-cooked meals serve as a form of entertainment and a way to connect with favorite people.
By incorporating general healthy guidelines — eating more fruits and vegetables, for instance — you can adapt a healthy diet to your personal needs and preferences. If you don’t enjoy salads and raw vegetables, for instance, research recipes that involve cooked vegetables that you like. If you’re dining out, choose restaurants that offer healthy options that fit into your eating plan.
How can you “Go Further with Food” during National Nutrition Month and throughout the year? Understand what a healthy diet looks like for you — after consulting with your doctor — and create a strategy for getting the nutrients you need in the settings you enjoy.