A lot of people think they are eating a well-rounded, healthy diet. Truth is, most of us struggle with healthy eating. There are too many fad diets out there to name and getting the recommended amounts of protein, carbohydrates, and fats can be confusing. I’ve found the best approach is to keep it simple. Eat real, unprocessed foods. Make sure you eat lots of vegetables and some fruit. Eliminate or severely cut back on added sugars and refined carbs (white breads, pasta, desserts). Replace them with slowly digested, fiber-rich carbohydrates such as sprouted grain bread, sweet potatoes, or quinoa. And include a lean protein source—chicken, turkey, fish, tofu, and occasionally red meat—with every meal and snack.
A Daily Guide to Eating Healthy
To take the guesswork out of eating healthy, I’ve put together a full day’s menu similar to what we serve to the patients who enroll in Whitaker Wellness’ Back to Health Program. Try these delicious meals and snacks, be sure to drink plenty of water (yes, coffee and tea count toward your daily fluid intake)—and see how healthy eating pleases your palate and keeps you in the pink.
Many of the convenient breakfast items (cold cereal, bagels, pastries, donuts, muffins) have no place in a healthy eating plan. They are loaded with sugar and refined carbohydrates, and most offer little to nothing in the nutrition department. As mentioned above, you’ll want to make sure your morning meal contains protein. One way to do this is with eggs or egg whites. Another option is protein-rich Greek yogurt. Grab some nonfat, plain Greek yogurt, a handful of berries (strawberries and blueberries work well), and sprinkle in a little stevia if the sweetness of the fruit isn’t enough for you. If you’re looking for an added crunch, top it off with some chopped almonds or walnuts or a little low-sugar, high-fiber cereal.
Snacking is an essential component of eating healthy. Eating small portions frequently—every two to three hours—helps prevent blood sugar drops that may make your tired, unfocused, and ravenously hungry. A hard-boiled egg along with a small handful of almonds (10-12) is a great combo. The egg contains protein to keep you full and almonds are rich in vitamin E and healthy fats—all good things when it comes to healthy eating.
My go-to lunch for healthy eating is a big salad brimming with dark leafy greens and colorful chopped veggies and topped with lean protein such as four to six ounces of grilled salmon or chicken. For added fiber add a handful of chickpeas and sprinkle with a quarter-cup of freshly ground flaxseed. Instead of store bought dressings, which are loaded with chemicals and added sugars, make your own. Mix equal parts extra-virgin olive oil and vinegar or lemon juice together and add your favorite fresh or dried herbs along with a little black pepper and salt.
If you feel the need to have an afternoon snack a few hours after lunch, celery, carrots, or other raw vegetables plus a tablespoon or two of almond or peanut butter are a good choice. Another healthy snack option is raw veggies with a little hummus for dipping.
Eating healthy at dinnertime doesn’t have to be boring. Nor do you have to forego your favorite foods—you just have to tweak them a little. Instead of frying fish, poultry, and meat, broil, grill, bake, roast, or braise. Steam, roast, or lightly microwave fresh vegetables and perk them up with a little extra-virgin olive oil and a variety of herbs and low-salt seasonings to bring out their flavors. Include a side salad with dinner, and try new combos of vegetables to mix it up. Above all, opt for “real food” and fresh ingredients whenever you can, and don’t be afraid to think outside the box. The Southwest Wrap recipe below is a great example of a healthy eating spin on Mexican food, which is traditionally doused with cheese and sour cream. To reduce the carbs, you could place all of the ingredients on a bed of lettuce or other leafy greens and turn it into a taco salad, using fresh salsa or pico de gallo as your “dressing.”
Dessert on a healthy eating plan? It can be done. Berries—particularly raspberries—are full of fiber, they’re low on the glycemic index (they won’t cause big spikes in blood sugar), and sprinkled with a little stevia, they can easily satisfy a sweet tooth. Baked apples and pears are great too. Just core, cut in half, place on a baking sheet, and sprinkle with cinnamon. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes. Delicious and good for you too. That said, if you’re not hungry after dinner, skip dessert. No need to add extra calories to your day if you don’t need to.
1/2 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
4 ounces boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into 1/2 inch strips
1/2 green bell pepper, sliced lengthwise
1/2 red bell pepper, sliced lengthwise
1 cup red onion, sliced lengthwise
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 cup cooked black beans, rinsed and drained
4 sprouted grain, whole wheat, or low-carbohydrate tortillas
3/4 cup low-sodium cheddar cheese
2 cups lettuce, shredded
1 tomato, chopped
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
Fresh salsa (optional)
Avocado or guacamole (optional)
Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet. Add chicken, peppers, and onions, and cook until chicken is done and vegetables are tender-crisp, about 5 minutes. Drain, if necessary.
Meanwhile, heat beans in a small saucepan or a covered dish in the microwave until just warm (not piping hot).
Warm tortillas by placing one at a time in a large skillet over medium heat. Heat for 30-60 seconds on each side.
On the center of each tortilla, place 1/4 of the chicken, beans, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, and cilantro. Roll up like a burrito, and tuck in bottom edge.
Note: You can speed this up by using cooked chicken or turkey and 1 cup total of raw peppers and onions. Heat tortilla as directed, but everything else can be cold or at room temperature.
Per Serving (excluding optional salsa/avocado/guacamole): 296 Calories; 9g Fat; 21g Protein; 41g Carbohydrate; 6g Dietary Fiber; 38mg Cholesterol; 215mg Sodium.
Healthy Eating Recap
So there you have it, an entire day’s worth of healthy eating meals. I hope you’ll enjoy this menu of delicious foods. If you have healthy recipes to share, email them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Bon appétit!