A healthy diet is a diet that maintains or improves overall health. A healthy diet provides the body with essential nutrition: fluid, macronutrients such as protein, micronutrients such as vitamins, and adequate fiber and food energy.
A healthy diet may contain fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and may include little to no processed food or sweetened beverages. The requirements for a healthy diet can be met from a variety of plant-based and animal-based foods, although a non-plant source of vitamin B12 is needed for those following a vegan diet.
Consuming a healthy diet throughout the life course helps to prevent malnutrition in all its forms as well as a range of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) and conditions. However, increased production of processed foods, rapid urbanization, and changing lifestyles have led to a shift in dietary patterns.
People are now consuming more foods high in energy, fats, free sugars, and salt/sodium, and many people do not eat enough fruit, vegetables, and other dietary fiber such as whole grains.
The exact make-up of a diversified, balanced, and healthy diet will vary depending on individual characteristics (e.g., age, gender, lifestyle, and degree of physical activity), cultural context, locally available foods, and dietary customs. However, the basic principles of what constitutes a healthy diet remain the same.
A healthy diet includes the following:
- Fruit, vegetables, legumes (e.g., lentils and beans), nuts, and whole grains (e.g., unprocessed maize, millet, oats, wheat, and brown rice).
- At least 400 g (i.e., five portions) of fruit and vegetables per day, excluding potatoes, sweet potatoes, cassava, and other starchy roots.
- Less than 10% of total energy intake from free sugars which is equivalent to 50 g (or about 12 level teaspoons) for a person of healthy body weight consuming about 2000 calories per day, but ideally is less than 5% of total energy intake for additional health benefits.
- Less than 30% of total energy intake is from fats. Unsaturated fats (found in fish, avocado, and nuts, and in sunflower, soybean, canola, and olive oils) are preferable to saturated fats (found in fatty meat, butter, palm, and coconut oil, cream, cheese, ghee, and lard) and trans–fats of all kinds, including both industrially-produced trans–fats (found in baked, and fried foods, and pre-packaged snacks and foods, such as frozen pizza, pies, cookies, biscuits, wafers, and cooking oils and spreads) and ruminant trans–fats (found in meat and dairy foods from ruminant animals, such as cows, sheep, goats, and camels). It is suggested that the intake of saturated fats be reduced to less than 10% of total energy intake and trans–fats to less than 1% of total energy intake. In particular, industrially-produced trans-fats are not part of a healthy diet and should be avoided.
- Less than 5 g of salt (equivalent to about one teaspoon) per day.
Practical advice on maintaining a healthy diet
Fruit and vegetables
Eating at least 400 g, or five portions, of fruit and vegetables per day reduces the risk of NCDs and helps to ensure an adequate daily intake of dietary fiber.
Not all fat is the same. While bad fats can wreck your diet and increase your risk of certain diseases, good fats protect your brain and heart. In fact, healthy fats—such as omega-3s—are vital to your physical and emotional health. Including more healthy fat in your diet can help improve your mood, boost your well-being, and even trim your waistline.
Reducing the amount of total fat intake to less than 30% of total energy intake helps to prevent unhealthy weight gain in the adult population
Salt, sodium, and potassium
Most people consume too much sodium through salt (corresponding to consuming an average of 9–12 g of salt per day) and not enough potassium (less than 3.5 g). High sodium intake and insufficient potassium intake contribute to high blood pressure, which in turn increases the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Reducing salt intake to the recommended level of less than 5 g per day could prevent 1.7 million deaths each year.
Carbohydrates are one of your body’s main sources of energy. But most should come from complex, unrefined carbs (vegetables, whole grains, fruit) rather than sugars and refined carbs. Cutting back on white bread, pastries, starches, and sugar can prevent rapid spikes in blood sugar, fluctuations in mood and energy, and a build-up of fat, especially around your waistline.
In both adults and children, the intake of free sugars should be reduced to less than 10% of total energy intake. A reduction to less than 5% of total energy intake would provide additional health benefits.
Consuming free sugars increases the risk of dental caries (tooth decay). Excess calories from foods and drinks high in free sugars also contribute to unhealthy weight gain, which can lead to overweight and obesity. Recent evidence also shows that free sugars influence blood pressure and serum lipids, and suggests that a reduction in free sugars intake reduces risk factors for cardiovascular diseases.
As well as leading to osteoporosis, not getting enough calcium in your diet can also contribute to anxiety, depression, and sleep difficulties. Whatever your age or gender, it’s vital to include calcium-rich foods in your diet, limit those that deplete calcium, and get enough magnesium and vitamins D and K to help calcium do its job.
Eating foods high in dietary fiber (grains, fruit, vegetables, nuts, and beans) can help you stay regular and lower your risk for heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. It can also improve your skin and even help you to lose weight.
It is proven that the best lifestyle diet, exercise, and rest for the right hours are important pillars to maintaining a healthy and active life; in the same way, it will be necessary to look for relaxation techniques, to stay away from stress, and thus avoid anxiety states.
How to choose the best lifestyle diet?
Eating a healthy diet is not about strict limitations, staying unrealistically thin, or depriving yourself of the foods you love. Rather, it’s about feeling great, having more energy, improving your health, and boosting your mood.
Healthy eating doesn’t have to be overly complicated. If you feel overwhelmed by all the conflicting nutrition and diet advice out there, you’re not alone. It seems that for every expert who tells you a certain food is good for you; you’ll find another saying exactly the opposite.
The truth is that any diet includes large amounts of vegetables, fruits, legumes, and foods with a high concentration of fiber, and decreases in smaller amounts of meats and proteins. Do not go to extremes, do not exaggerate, and do not stuff yourself with snacks and junk food.
Avoid processed food and eat a balanced diet, supplemented with some exercise that you do regularly to strengthen bones and raise your energy. Also, try to eat foods of all groups in moderate amounts, creating healthy and rich recipes that will help you lose those extra pounds.
By using these simple tips, you can cut through the confusion and learn how to create—and stick to—a tasty, varied, and nutritious diet that is as good for your mind as it is for your body.
1. To set yourself up for success, try to keep things simple.
Eating a healthier diet doesn’t have to be complicated. Instead of being overly concerned with counting calories, for example, think of your diet in terms of color, variety, and freshness. Focus on avoiding packaged and processed foods and opting for more fresh ingredients whenever possible.
2. Prepare more of your own meals.
Cooking more meals at home can help you take charge of what you’re eating and better monitor exactly what goes into your food. You’ll eat fewer calories and avoid the chemical additives, added sugar, and unhealthy fats of packaged and takeout foods that can leave you feeling tired, bloated, and irritable, and exacerbate symptoms of depression, stress, and anxiety.
3. Make the right changes.
When cutting back on unhealthy foods in your diet, it’s important to replace them with healthy alternatives. Replacing dangerous trans fats with healthy fats (such as switching fried chicken for grilled salmon) will make a positive difference to your health.
4. Read the labels.
It’s important to be aware of what’s in your food as manufacturers often hide large amounts of sugar or unhealthy fats in packaged food, even food claiming to be healthy.
5. Focus on how you feel after eating.
This will help foster healthy new habits and tastes. The healthier the food you eat, the better you’ll feel after a meal
6. Drink plenty of water.
Water helps flush our systems of waste products and toxins, yet many of us go through life dehydrated—causing tiredness, low energy, and headaches. It’s common to mistake thirst for hunger, so staying well hydrated will also help you make healthier food choices.
We all know that exercise is very important to be fit & healthy. To keep maintained fitness, we should follow the best lifestyle diet and healthy lifestyle diet in our routine life.
Switching to a healthy diet doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing proposition. You don’t have to be perfect; you don’t have to eliminate foods you enjoy, and you don’t have to change everything all at once—that usually only leads to cheating or giving up on your new eating plan.
A better approach is to make a few small changes at a time. Keeping your goals modest can help you achieve more in the long term without feeling deprived or overwhelmed by a major diet overhaul. Think of planning a healthy diet as several small, manageable steps—like adding a salad to your diet once a day. As your small changes become a habit, you can continue to add more healthy choices. Also, you can use our app in this regard.