Friday, June 5, 2015

Is it Too Difficult or Expensive to Achieve a Healthy Diet?

[Lifestyle and Dietary]

When the objections, ‘too difficult’ or ‘too expensive’ are raised, we have to consider that these are relative terms and they beg the question, “Compared to what?”  Having said that, I would have to say that you can cleave the universe into two parts using nearly any criteria. 

In this case, the criteria I am proposing is whether individuals are putting up unnecessary obstacles.  The obstacles 'too difficult' or 'too expensive' are relative to the effort and perceived expense associated with  making a decision in one’s life; choosing a direction rather than having your life merely occur (which is still a decision).  Some people put up unnecessary barriers that hold so many of the good things in life at arm’s length from them: a good job, a nice home, a loving relationship, a healthy lifestyle and so on.  I say this, because, this is more commonly the single greatest barrier to a healthy lifestyle.

So, in reality, the simple answer is, yes, many people do find numerous obstacles, which they manufacture and accept as barriers between them and a healthy lifestyle.  Having said that, the truth is that it really is not all that difficult, and certainly not more expensive to have a healthy diet.

You can research for hours a day and never have too much information in areas of health and nutrition, but that much effort truly would be a barrier for nearly everyone.  The Healthy Eating Plate and the Healthy Eating Pyramid from the Harvard School of Medicine (both shown below)  reflect the most recent research into what a healthy diet is comprised of and at what ratios. These diagrams make it extremely easy to understand what constitutes a healthy diet (easy being the operative word).

Source: Harvard Medical School

Source: Harvard Medical School

Additionally, here are some very basic points to consider when embarking on achieving a healthy diet:
  • 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.  This seems to be one of the greatest obstacles for people, yet it is also the most fundamental because this shift from processed and fast foods will profoundly impact the quality of your diet.
  • Make the right changes. When cutting back on unhealthy foods in your diet, it’s important to replace them with healthy alternatives. Replacing animal fats with vegetables fats (such as switching butter for olive oil) will make a positive difference to your health.
  • Keep it simple. Instead of being overly concerned with counting calories, think of your diet in terms of color, variety, and freshness. Focus on avoiding packaged and processed foods and opting for more fresh ingredients.
  • Go with plants. Eating a plant-based diet is healthiest. Choose plenty of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and healthy fats, like olive and canola oil. 
  • Cut way back on American staples. Red meat, refined grains, potatoes, sugary drinks, and salty snacks are part of American culture, but they’re also really unhealthy. Go for a plant-based diet rich in non-starchy vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. And if you eat meat, fish and poultry are the best choices.
  • Read the labels. If you are going to consume packaged foods, it’s important to be aware of what’s in your food as manufacturers often hide large amounts of sugar and salt in packaged food, even food claiming to be healthy.
  • Listen to what you body is telling you. This will help foster healthy new habits and tastes. The more healthy food you eat, the better you’ll feel after a meal. The more junk food you eat, the more likely you are to feel uncomfortable, nauseous, or drained of energy.
  • Drink plenty of water. Water helps flush our systems of waste products and toxins, yet many people 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.
  • Take a multivitamin. Taking a multivitamin can be a good nutrition insurance policy.
  • Maybe have a drink. This may seem a bit out of place when discussing a healthy diet, but moderate drinking for many people, such as one glass of wine, can have real health benefits, although it certainly is not for everyone. Those who don’t drink shouldn’t feel that they need to start.
Hopefully, this information will help overcome the thinking that a healthy diet requires too much effort to even confront.  But beyond understanding what constitutes a healthy diet, you will be surprised how easy it is to prepare your own meals, and over time, you will develop techniques that will save you time and effort as well.

As far as expense is concerned, you may be surprised to find how economical a home cooked meal is compared to the cost of packaged or prepared foods.  For the cost of a couple of cheeseburgers, fries and soft drinks at a drive-thru you could have a meal including roasted chicken breasts, steamed broccoli and wild rice, all of which are unexpectedly easy to prepare.

On a final note, a healthy diet is a great start, but to be truly healthy, it needs to be built on a base of regular exercise, which keeps calories in balance, weight in check, your body toned and flexible, and your mind vibrant and alive.

No comments:

Post a Comment