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5 healthy eating tips for beginners
From drinking more water to using the food pyramid
Food is so many things. It can be the tasty center of a gathering with family or friends. It can be a source of comfort and connection — to home, to loved ones, to a place. And for your body, food is above all else, simply fuel.
The foods we eat are packed with nutrients, vitamins and minerals that our bodies need to repair cells, build muscles and keep us feeling energized throughout the day. But if you’ve felt sluggish throughout the day or aren’t progressing towards your fitness goals, your diet could be part of why.
Thankfully, eating healthy can be easier than you might think — it’s all about making delicious yet healthy swaps and making gradual changes toward a healthier lifestyle overall.
Use these tips to start eating healthy and break past habits.
In this article:
1. Use the food pyramid
When some people hear the phrase “healthy eating,” they sometimes confuse the term with “eating as few calories as possible.” But eating too few calories can be just as dangerous as eating too many. Instead of just cutting calories, look to the food pyramid for guidance on eating better and making healthier choices.
The traditional food pyramid, once a popular symbol of healthy eating, has been replaced by more contemporary dietary guidelines.
One such replacement is MyPlate, introduced by the USDA in 2011, which offers a more practical approach to healthy eating. MyPlate depicts a plate divided into sections for vegetables, fruits, protein and grains, with a side of dairy, emphasizing the importance of portion control and a well-balanced meal. The largest food group in the new “pyramid” is vegetables, encouraging you to make fresh, nutrient-rich veggies the basis of your meal.
If you’re a beginner learning how to eat healthy, reference MyPlate as a visual guide. Aim to fill half your plate with vegetables and fruits, a quarter with lean proteins and the remaining quarter with whole grains, alongside a serving of dairy or dairy alternatives. This approach helps individuals make informed choices about their food intake, promoting a balanced and nutritious diet for overall well-being.
It also serves as a reminder of something to keep in mind as you adjust what you eat — it’s just as much as the (tasty and healthy!) things you’re putting on your plate as the (tasty but less healthy) things you’re taking off of it.
2. Limit exposure to processed foods
Processed foods undergo various alterations from their natural state before reaching your plate. These alterations often involve adding artificial flavors and sugar, which contribute to higher calorie and fat content.
While not all processed foods are inherently bad, many tend to be high in calories, sodium, and added sugars, making them less-than-ideal choices for a healthy diet. Eating too many processed foods is linked to a range of health issues, including obesity and heart disease. As such, opting for less processed foods with fewer ingredients is usually a better choice.
Avoiding processed foods helps you fill your diet with more filling and nutritionally dense foods. Here are a few tips for sticking to the right foods:
- Focus on shopping the grocery store’s perimeter, where fresh produce, lean meats and dairy products are typically located.
- Prioritize whole, single-ingredient foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins when selecting ingredients.
- Scan food labels for items with shorter ingredient lists and recognizable, natural ingredients.
- Cooking at home gives you more control over the ingredients in your food, so make an effort to prepare simple, nutritious dishes whenever possible. (More on that below.)
3. Choose hydrating beverages
Drinking plenty of water and staying hydrated is important to overall health because water is involved in nearly every bodily process. Proper hydration helps regulate body temperature, transport nutrients to cells, remove waste products, cushion joints, and support various metabolic activities.
When you’re well-hydrated, you’re better equipped to tackle daily tasks, exercise effectively, and make sound decisions. Dehydration, on the other hand, can lead to fatigue, impaired concentration, headaches and, in severe cases, may even contribute to major diseases like a stroke.
Consciously drinking enough water and consuming hydrating foods like fruits and vegetables is crucial for maintaining optimal health and well-being.
Staying properly hydrated doesn’t have to be daunting; it can be seamlessly integrated into your daily routine.
- Start your day with a glass of water to kickstart hydration, and keep a reusable water bottle with you throughout the day as a reminder to drink regularly.
- Set hydration goals, aiming for at least 8 to 10 cups (64-80 ounces) of water daily, adjusting based on your activity level and climate. Infuse your water with slices of fresh fruit, cucumber, or mint for added flavor.
- Snack on hydrating foods like watermelon, oranges, and celery to quench your thirst and satiate your hunger.
- Limit caffeine and alcohol intake when you’re feeling dehydrated.
4. Cook at home
Cooking at home is a powerful catalyst for embarking on a healthy eating journey. When you prepare your meals, you gain full control over the ingredients, portion sizes, and cooking methods. You can select fresh, whole ingredients like vegetables and whole grains. Avoid processed foods laden with added sugars, unhealthy fats, and excessive sodium as you cook.
If you have picky eaters in your household, cooking can also be a convenient way to help them try new foods in a non-threatening environment. Make cooking a family affair and invite children to help with simple and safe tasks like washing vegetables and measuring ingredients. You aren’t just building good habits for yourself, you’re setting an example for the next generation to build a lifelong love of healthy eating.
- Begin by planning simple, balanced meals that include a variety of whole foods.
- Invest in basic kitchen essentials like pots, pans, and utensils, and gradually build your collection as you gain confidence.
- Seek out beginner-friendly recipes and cooking tutorials online or through cookbooks.
- Make a weekly meal plan and grocery list to stay organized and avoid last-minute unhealthy takeout options.
- Start with familiar dishes and slowly add new ingredients and cooking techniques.
5. Snack smarter
Even if one of your main goals is to lose weight by getting healthy, you don’t need to cut snacks out completely from your diet. The key isn’t to stop snacking — it’s to replace unhealthy snacking options with smarter choices. Opt for nutrient-dense snacks like fresh fruit, Greek yogurt, or a handful of unsalted nuts to keep your energy levels steady and stave off hunger.
When cooking and shopping in your grocery store, try to stick to the perimeter of the shop when choosing your snacks and avoid processed foods. Opting for fresh fruit or nuts as a snack over processed choices like chips or cookies can help you avoid overeating. Less-processed snacks tend to have more fiber than their highly-processed counterparts, which keeps you feeling fuller longer. The right snacks can be an invaluable asset to both weight loss and total body fitness.
How Haven Life Plus can help
Eligible Haven Term policyholders enjoy access to the Haven Life Plus bonus rider, a suite of services to help you while you’re still living. Among other services, Haven Life Plus includes access to Aaptiv, a fitness app with workouts for any fitness level.
All Haven Term policyholders can enjoy the peace of mind that comes with having a life insurance policy in place, because it provides financial protection for your family in case the worst should happen.
About Sarah HorvathRead more by Sarah Horvath
Our editorial policy
Haven Life is a customer-centric life insurance agency that’s backed and wholly owned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). We believe navigating decisions about life insurance, your personal finances and overall wellness can be refreshingly simple.
Our editorial policy
Haven Life is a customer centric life insurance agency that’s backed and wholly owned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). We believe navigating decisions about life insurance, your personal finances and overall wellness can be refreshingly simple.
Our content is created for educational purposes only. Haven Life does not endorse the companies, products, services or strategies discussed here, but we hope they can make your life a little less hard if they are a fit for your situation.
Haven Life is not authorized to give tax, legal or investment advice. This material is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for tax, legal, or investment advice. Individuals are encouraged to seed advice from their own tax or legal counsel.
Haven Term is a Term Life Insurance Policy (DTC and ICC17DTC in certain states, including NC) issued by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual), Springfield, MA 01111-0001 and offered exclusively through Haven Life Insurance Agency, LLC. In NY, Haven Term is DTC-NY 1017. In CA, Haven Term is DTC-CA 042017. Haven Term Simplified is a Simplified Issue Term Life Insurance Policy (ICC19PCM-SI 0819 in certain states, including NC) issued by the C.M. Life Insurance Company, Enfield, CT 06082. Policy and rider form numbers and features may vary by state and may not be available in all states. Our Agency license number in California is OK71922 and in Arkansas 100139527.
MassMutual is rated by A.M. Best Company as A++ (Superior; Top category of 15). The rating is as of Aril 1, 2020 and is subject to change. MassMutual has received different ratings from other rating agencies.
Haven Life Plus (Plus) is the marketing name for the Plus rider, which is included as part of the Haven Term policy and offers access to additional services and benefits at no cost or at a discount. The rider is not available in every state and is subject to change at any time. Neither Haven Life nor MassMutual are responsible for the provision of the benefits and services made accessible under the Plus Rider, which are provided by third party vendors (partners). For more information about Haven Life Plus, please visit: https://havenlife.com/plus
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