Auburn, Alabama —The saying “you are what you eat” couldn’t be truer when it comes to leading a healthy life.
Christina Levert, an Alabama Extension Human, Nutrition, Diet and Health regional agent, says “the food we eat can have a direct impact on our everyday health, energy levels and risks for chronic diseases. To maintain a healthy lifestyle, it is important to strive for a balanced diet.”
But what exactly is a balanced diet? According to U.S Department of Agriculture, a balanced, healthy diet incorporates the five food groups into your eating habits every day with appropriate serving sizes depending on your body weight. Serving sizes can also be dependent on one’s daily calorie intake.
Levert discusses some of the best foods to incorporate into a daily diet for a healthy lifestyle.
It’s been said that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Breakfast helps provide energy needed to start the day, helps you stay focused and also plays a role in maintaining a healthy weight. Breakfast is not only important, but can be the tastiest meal as well. For your grain serving, toast a slice of whole-wheat bread with an egg on top for a little protein. Cut down on calorie intake by using just the egg white.
Add avocado to breakfast for a great source of healthy fat. It is also great with other meals and can be added to any sandwich for added flavor. Levert says, “Avocados are an excellent source of monounsaturated fat, a type of unsaturated fat. However, they are not the only source of unsaturated fats.”
Levert says, “Peanut butter, nuts, olive oil and fatty fish are also great sources of healthy fats” are some fats to incorporate into a daily diet. Peanut butter is a delicious source of fat that can easily be added to anyone’s diet. Although a small amount is good for your diet, it can be high in calories and sodium. Great alternatives are sunflower seed and soynut butter.”
Most assume to use vegetable oil while cooking in the kitchen, however switching to olive oil is a great way to absorb some antioxidants and monosaturated fats.
“Blueberries are a wonderful source of many vitamins and minerals that are a great choice to add to a balanced diet,” says Levert. Incorporate them as a side dish for any meal. They go great in smoothies, cereal and oatmeal. Levert says many fruits can be classified as superfoods” including raspberries, strawberries and apples.
The gluten-free diet fad has been big the past few years, but what people fail to realize is taking this protein out of a daily diet does not promote weight loss.
Levert says, “There is no evidence that a gluten-free diet will contribute to weight loss. Gluten free does not mean low calorie or low fat. Gluten is a protein found in wheat that can cause GI discomfort if a sensitivity is present. However, if there is not a sensitivity, gluten is no harm.”
Levert notes that water is essential for many body functions. Lack of water can lead to dehydration, which has many negative effects on the body. Water makes up about 60 percent of the body and drinking at least 8 ounces of fluids daily has several health benefits including flushing toxins out of the body, healthy skin and carrying key nutrients throughout the body.
Sweet potatoes are rich in vitamin A, high in fiber, and contain almost no fat. They are a delicious substitute for a meal replacement or contribute as a great side item for any course. Levert says to fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables.
“Highly processed foods often contain high amounts of sodium, sugar or fat. Excessive amounts of sodium, sugar and saturated or trans fats have been linked to increased risks for many chronic health conditions,” Levert added. “While it is OK to consume these types of food on occasion, limiting intake is essential for a healthier lifestyle.”