If you've ever noticed that you feel a little rundown when you don't get enough water, or that sugary snacks only make you hungrier later, you already know how important it is to make good choices about what you eat and put into your body. Making mindful decisions about food is just as important as exercising, managing your stress levels, and getting in touch with your emotions. Smart eating is the practice of following a balanced and nutritious diet, and it can guide you on your path to a healthier and happier life. To get on that path, just follow these simple steps.
Chart by Juliette Borda.
Understanding What Is and Isn't Good for Your Body
Every body is different, and some people who respond well to diets high in protein will feel their energy levels start to flag if they switch to, say, an entirely raw food diet. That's perfectly natural, and it's your body's way of telling you what it does and doesn't need. When you first start making smart decisions about food, take note of how your body responds. Keep in mind that nutritionists no longer recommend a diet based on the traditional food pyramid. Instead, aim for a diet that includes the following:
• 25 percent protein: organic meat, fish, nuts, beans, full-fat dairy, and certain grains
• 35 percent green vegetables: peas, kale, green beans, broccoli, cucumber, asparagus, etc.
• 20 percent antioxidants: fruits like apples and berries, sweet potatoes, beets, and eggplants
• 13 percent whole grains: quinoa, corn, brown rice, bulgur wheat, oats, etc.
• 5 percent fermented foods: sauerkraut, kimchi, and yogurt
• 2 percent healthy fats: olive oil, coconut oil, sunflower oil, organic butter
Notice that fruits and vegetables account for the majority (55 percent) of this updated diet, whereas the old food pyramid was focused primarily on grains. This new diet can seem tough, particularly for people who don't like eating kimchi every day, but once you start eating smart, you'll notice what an amazing effect it can have on your body. You'll have more energy, feel less stressed, and have fewer cravings for unhealthy food, and that will go a long way toward helping you achieve a happy, healthy life.
Whether you're on the move or just sitting at home watching TV, don't reach for that bag of chips when you're feeling peckish. Instead reach for a bowl of fruit, raw mixed nuts, or even kale chips to satisfy your craving. We know it's hard to eat smart when you're super busy, but simple tricks like carrying healthy snacks or opting for wraps instead of burgers can make a world of difference for busy people on the go. But remember, portion control. Your snack doesn't need to become a full-fledged meal.
This can’t be stressed enough. Among the many benefits of staying hydrated are lower blood pressure, reduced fatigue and clearer skin, because when you get enough water all of your body's systems start working better. Many people even report that proper hydration helps to manage their allergies and digestive problems. But these benefits are counteracted by sugar, salt and caffeine, so stay away from coffee, tea and sugary drinks as much as possible.
Studies prove that cultivating good gut bacteria can improve your health, weight and mood. That 5 percent of your diet devoted to fermented foods is aimed precisely at this phenomenon: The better our gut feels, the better we feel. Next time you're in the grocery store consider trying probiotic supplements or picking up some kimchi or sauerkraut to serve as a side dish. It's the best way to keep your gut healthy.
With these simple steps you can put yourself on the path to a happier and healthier life. By eating smart, making mindful choices about food, and listening to what your body says, you can reduce stress, boost energy, and give your body the fuel it needs for the long life ahead.