Taking care of your heart health and overall wellbeing is one of the best things you can do for yourself, but it can be difficult to build healthy habits. Here are some ways you can set yourself up for success by choosing healthy foods.
1. Build your meals out of vegetables first
Vegetables are the cornerstone of a healthy diet. If you make them the primary component of your meals, you maximise your nutrient intake and decrease your energy intake. For managing your weight long term, this is one of the most important things you can do.
For more on how vegetables promote health in your body and how much you should be eating every day, check out All about veggies.
2. Become a salad aficionado
Salads are one of the best ways to help you meet your daily vegetable intake and can be easily incorporated into plenty of different meals. Follow these simple steps for building a great salad:
- Pick a leafy base: lettuce, spinach, rocket or cabbage
- Pick some colour: yellow capsicum, orange carrot, purple onion, red tomato, green cucumber
- Add some flavour (optional): parsley, coriander, basil
- Add some healthy fats (optional): avocado, nuts, seeds.
For more ideas on how to easily include vegetables into your day, check out 8 easy ways to eat more veggies.
3. Find the right amount of carbohydrate for you
One trending diet has been the keto diet, an eating pattern so low in carbohydrate it forces your body into a metabolic state called ketosis. This diet is very difficult to stick to and has left many people confused about eating carbohydrates.
The truth is that weight loss, a healthy body and good nutrition can and should include carbohydrates. And the best way for you is the one that suits your lifestyle long term.
If you’re not sure what’s right for you, check out All about carbs.
4. Include whole food sources of carbohydrate in your diet
The best carbohydrates are the ones that come from minimally processed foods. This way, not only are you getting carbohydrates, you’re getting fibre, vitamins and minerals as well.
Here are 5 healthy carbohydrate-rich foods and how to include them in your diet.
5. Strive for diet quality, not restriction
There are many ‘diets’ out there that tout restrictive food rules, many of them unnecessary. Often the best way to make sustainable, long-term changes to your diet is to focus on including more healthy foods, rather than focusing on cutting out foods. By focusing on including greater amounts of nutritious food, you increase your overall diet quality.
When it comes to including more healthy foods, a good place to start is with protein. To help increase your intake of quality sources, check out All about protein.
6. Learn how to manage your appetite
Sometimes, a really challenging part of eating well is constantly feeling hungry or getting to certain points in your day when you’re so hungry you’ll eat just about anything.
There are many factors that influence your appetite – ensuring you have a good source of protein at your main meals is one of them.
Here are 5 protein-packed meals and snacks to help get you through the day.
7. Love your fat-rich whole foods
Similar to carbohydrates, the messages around eating fats have been contradictory over the years, meaning many people are confused about what they should and shouldn’t be eating. As you’ve probably guessed, the best food choices are the minimally processed ones, and this goes for fats too. Options you can regularly enjoy include avocados, nuts and seeds.
For more on the latest evidence on fats, check out All about fat.
8. Build your skill in the kitchen
Good nutrition is as much about knowing how to cook and prepare food as it is about knowing what healthy food is. Many people may know how to be a healthy eater, but are unsure about how to put this into action.
When it comes to making food taste good, using healthy fats and feeling confident with how to use them in your cooking is a good first step. Here are 5 high-fat foods you can eat more of, plus tips on what to do with them.
9. Value prevention over cure
For long-term health, it pays to focus on prevention rather than treating ill health when it occurs. This is especially true when it comes to diabetes – which, if caught early enough, could be reversed in some cases. An important part of effectively avoiding diabetes is understanding the risk factors that drive its development and then changing your eating habits accordingly.
10. Keep an eye on your biochemistry
Blood cholesterol levels are one particular part of your biochemistry to keep an eye on, as high cholesterol levels are a risk factor for heart disease. For long-term health, it pays to keep an eye on them and take steps to keep them in the healthy range.
Blood cholesterol is affected by the kinds of fats you eat. But that’s not all – check out what else plays an important part in keeping your cholesterol levels healthy and 4 ways diet can help lower cholesterol.
11. Keep an eye on salt
A high salt intake is associated with increased blood pressure, so it’s worth making some changes to your diet if your salt intake is high. In doing this, focus on your intake of processed foods rather than the salt you add when cooking or eating (unless it’s a lot!). Processed foods contain ‘hidden’ salt, meaning that a food may not taste very salty, yet it contains a decent amount, eg, bread.
Find out how you can moderate your salt intake as well as 3 easy ways to help lower blood pressure.
12. Develop a holistic view of health
We can’t blame poor health on just one or two dietary factors. Nor can we blame food alone. Health is the accumulation of many lifestyle factors, including movement, our diet, our stress levels and our sleep.
It pays to take the same approach to heart health. All the dietary strategies above will promote long-term heart health, but don’t forget to take care of yourself in other ways too.
- Take time to relax and reduce your stress levels.
- Ensure you’re getting plenty of sleep.
- Keep your body moving, as often as possible.
- Don’t forget to have fun – laughter can do good!
About the author
The Healthy Eating Hub
This article was written by an Accredited Practicing Dietitian from The Healthy Eating Hub. The Healthy Eating Hub is a team of university-qualified nutritionists and dietitians who are passionate about helping people develop long term healthy eating habits through offering evidence-based and practical nutrition advice that people can put into practice straight away.