It may seem like everyone is saying something different, or what was praised as a good food, supplement, or tactic a week ago is no longer reported to be safe or effective.
If you’re overwhelmed by all the conflicting diet advice, I believe there are five simple principles that have been proven over time, and will continue to be sound advice far into the future.
When you look at the core meal plan, most diets are basically the same. If you follow these five rules consistently, you’ll gain better health, more energy, and a healthy weight.
1. Drink More Water
This may sound basic, bland and boring, but it’s extremely important.
- Water is essential for your body to function optimally.
- Water can help you to fill full.
- Thirst is sometimes misinterpreted as hunger.
- Even mild dehydration can affect your mental and physical performance.
Water is good for you, while the majority of juices, soft drinks, and other bottled beverages are calorie dense and nutrient poor. Meaning: they have lots of calories with little to no nutritional value.
Action Step: Drink 64-96 ounces of water per day.
2. Eat a Whole Food Diet
Whole foods, also called real foods, are taken from nature, minimally processed and unrefined. Examples include
- Unpolished grains
- Fruits and vegetables
- Non-homogenized dairy products.
Sometimes packaged foods appear extremely healthy, especially when they have lots of nutrition claims, but even if a food is “low-fat” and “gluten-free” it can still contain unhealthy chemicals and preservatives.
Frozen broccoli is a healthy choice (frozen fruits and vegetables retain their nutrients) but frozen broccoli in cheese sauce is not because of the additives, fillers and junk. The 100 Days of Real Food blog has great resources for eating a whole food diet.
Action Step: Eat mainly vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and raw dairy. Look for packaged foods with 5 or fewer recognizable ingredients.
3. Eat More Vegetables
Personally, I have to constantly make a conscious effort in this area. I want my kids to eat and love vegetables. The most important factor in influencing my kids to eat vegetables is that I eat them myself.
According to the CDC, the median intake (times per day) fruit is consumed is 1.1 and vegetables is 1.6, so it’s clearly an area the majority of us need improvement. Here is a calculator to determine how many servings you need based on age and activity level.
Vegetables provide valuable nutrients, fiber, and fill you up fewer calories, and may reduce risk of chronic disease.
Action Step: For long-term diet success, focus on what you SHOULD eat (vegetables) rather than what you shouldn’t. Learn to get creative, fill half your plate or more with vegetables eating 3+ servings per day.
4. Include Protein
Protein is an essential building block in the body for stronger muscle and many other functions. It can help you feel satiated and full longer, and protein sources contain other valuable nutrients and minerals.
Major sources of protein include
- meats and fish
- dairy: cheese, milk, yogurt
- beans and legumes
- nuts and seeds
Action Step: Include some form of protein at every meal and snack.
5. Be Moderate
What is one way to ensure the advice you’re following today won’t be bad news tomorrow? My advice is to be moderate.
- Avoid extreme diets, or plans that cut out entire food groups.
- Eat moderate amounts of food.
- Eat consistently throughout the day.
No one wants to lose weight only to regain the amount lost plus more by next year. So don’t go crazy on a plan that you won’t realistically be able to maintain long-term!
Action Step: Moderation in all things. Find small ways to tweak your current diet so the changes, and results, are lasting.