Foods to Eat to Be Healthy
With so much information about diets and how to be healthy, it can be confusing to know what to eat. In this article, we’ll review the basics of a real food diet and what foods to eat to be healthy. This article also includes a list of ten of the healthiest foods to eat everyday.
What to Eat Daily
It seems like every year there is a new diet trend. But, despite all the trends that come and go, the one thing that nutritionists and scientists seem to agree upon is that we should be eating more real, whole foods and fewer processed and ultra-processed foods. Real foods mean those that are in their natural state and ultra-processed foods are ones that come in a box.
On average, a grown healthy woman needs somewhere in the range of 2,000 calories per day. This amount of calories can vary greatly on activity level and whether a woman is pregnant or not. Men likely need closer to 2,500 calories per day.
For some women, even where she is in her cycle will change the amount of calories she needs on any given day. Read more on how to eat for your cycle.
Categories of Foods to Eat
Macronutrients refer to the three main types of nutrients in food and include protein, fat, and carbohydrates.
A basic guideline for the amount of macronutrients within the 2,000 calories can include:
- 15-30% lean protein (0.8-2 grams per kilogram of body weight)
- 20-45% carbohydrates (depending on activity level); ideally carbs would include a mix of green vegetables and starchy vegetables
- Fat to satiety
Depending on the type of food, it will have a different percentage of each macronutrient. For example, a food like chicken includes both fat and protein, while vegetables and fruit are usually comprised of mostly carbohydrates.
A balanced diet includes all three macronutrients, but how much protein, fat, and carbohydrates you eat depends on what you personally need.
How to Fill Your Plate
When in doubt, you can always just fill your plate appropriately, assuming you eat about three meals a day. The following “formula” will get most people to an appropriate macronutrient ratio and calorie minimum without worrying as much about counting grams.
- Protein: ¼ of your plate, approximately one palm to one hand
- Starchy carbohydrates: ¼ of your plate, approximately half a cup to one cup
- Non-starchy carbohydrates: ½ plate, approximately one to three cups
- Fat: about one to two tablespoons of added fat
Micronutrients refer to the vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients that are present in food. Every whole food contains micronutrients. Some foods are particularly micronutrient-dense, such as “superfoods” like cacao, berries, and liver.
Colorful fruits and vegetables are also a great source of antioxidants, a type of phytonutrient. Check out my list of 15 of the best purple vegetables and some ideas on how to eat them.
One of the big differences between real foods and processed foods is the amount of natural micronutrients. Where real whole foods are usually packed with micronutrients, processed foods and ultra-processed foods usually do not have many naturally-occurring micronutrients.
In general, we cannot manufacture our own micronutrients, and our bodies require them in certain amounts through our food. The US government has a daily recommended intake for each micronutrient. Deficiencies in micronutrients can lead to health problems.
Healthiest Foods to Eat Every Day
If you’re looking to move to a more whole food/real food diet, then you may want to consider adding the following foods to your diet. These foods are all nutrient dense and part of a healthy diet.
Please note that this list is not comprehensive or listed in order of importance. Nature has provided us with numerous healthy foods to incorporate into our diets.
Berries like blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, and blackberries are full of antioxidants, fiber, and nutrients and have a low glycemic impact. The health benefits of berries are well documented and should be included in most people’s daily diets.
2. Dark leafy greens
Dark leafy greens are packed with antioxidants, fiber, and nutrients. These healthy vegetables include foods like spinach, kale, and collard greens, and are especially high in vitamin K, magnesium, and folate.
Read my article on how to eat more green vegetables.
3. Wild-caught cold-water fish
Wild-caught fish is one of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids and also is a good source of lean protein. Fish is considered to be very nutrient dense and part of a healthy diet.
Grass-fed liver other organ meats provide high levels of nutrients that are difficult to find in such concentrated amounts elsewhere, such as Vitamin A in the form of retinol. If you don’t want to eat liver, you can get it in a supplement.
Though they’re higher in natural sugars than berries, plantains pack a nutrient punch with high levels of potassium, vitamin C, and vitamin B6.
7. Sweet potatoes
Orange sweet potatoes, yams, and purple sweet potatoes are full of antioxidants and contain high levels of B vitamins and beta carotene.
8. Cruciferous vegetables
This class of vegetables includes broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and others. They’re high in phytonutrients, vitamins, and minerals, and contain the anti-cancer agent sulforaphane.
Get my Anti-Cancer Smoothie Recipe that includes frozen broccoli florets!
9. Nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds are true nutrient powerhouses. Nuts and seeds are high in polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats and contain high levels of phytonutrients, antioxidants, and other vitamins and minerals.
10. Avocados and olives
Both avocados and olives are nutrient-rich sources of monounsaturated fat. Avocados are high in potassium and B vitamins while olives are high in Vitamin E.
It’s best to start from a baseline and adjust it to your individual needs. For someone new to healthy eating, focus on getting the majority of your calories from whole foods and avoiding processed and ultra-processed foods like fake meat, sugar-sweetened sodas, packaged baked goods, and boxed foods.
Eat a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables to vary your micronutrient intake. Always have healthy food on hand, meal prep your own food, and rotate your favorite recipes. Avoid sugar as much as possible, especially added sugars. Learn more about how to go sugar-free. You might also like my post with suggestions for how to eat clean.
If you’re eating a whole foods diet, you may still need to take supplements. That is because the soil where our food grows is often depleted of minerals. Also, our modern lifestyle often creates nutrient deficiencies that supplements can help reverse. Always check with your doctor to get personalized supplements recommendations.
You may also like these articles with Best Vitamins for Women Over 30 and Best Vitamins for Women Over 50.
With so many fad diets and confusing headlines about nutrition, sometimes it’s best to get back to the basics. By choosing real foods that are mostly unprocessed and unpackaged, you can easily find a balanced approach that works for you.