Nutrition theory is constantly changing and often very conflicting. So there are many different views on what constitutes a “healthy diet”. In my view, everyone is unique so you need to figure out what foods work for you and whether you should follow a ketogenic, vegan or other program. In addition, to what to eat, there are very different views on how often we should eat - from six small meals a day to one meal a day or fasting for one or more days. Your personal preferences, health goals, genetic makeup and lifestyle choices will also factor into what makes up your perfect healthy plate.
Regardless of what you consider to be a “healthy diet”, here are a few common mistakes that could undermine your goals:
1. Following the Latest Craze
Often people choose a diet plan because it's the latest health craze or because a friend or family member swears by it. Some programs can be quite restrictive and may limit many healthy foods such as beans, nuts and fruit because of the calorie count or amount of carbohydrates and are not appropriate for everyone. When we are not satisfied with our meal, it leaves room for late night snacking or binging on not-so-healthy options. When changing your diet, be sure to notice how it makes you feel to know if that program is right for you. Keep in mind also your schedule and your ability to maintain the program for the long-term.
2. Eating Mindlessly
With our hectic schedules, it is so easy to just grab something to eat while you are doing something else like watching TV or sending emails. We also tend to eat quickly without properly chewing our food, a critical step in the digestion process. So our bodies are unable to properly absorb all the nutrients of your healthy meal. In addition when we are distracted, we may not recognize the signals from our body that we are full, which may lead to over-eating. Before you sit down for your next meal, pause to appreciate the meal in front of you and take your time to savour each bite.
3. Eating the Same Foods
When we think we have found the right recipe, we don't like to change it. At the market, we buy the same fruits and vegetables and tend to prepare meals in the same way. While the meals may be healthy, when you eat the same foods you miss out on the vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and antioxidants that all other foods provide. It's OK to have your favourites, but when you are shopping try to include a few different foods that you don't eat as often.
4. Ignoring the Drinks
One thing more important than a healthy diet is drinking enough water. Our bodies are made up of approximately 75% water and each of our cells need to be hydrated to function effectively. You can get the most out of your healthy diet if you pair it with an adequate intake of water.
It is also important to pay attention to the amount of sugars in green juices and smoothies. While these drinks can form an important part of a healthy diet, not all smoothies and green juices are created equal. Other drinks such as coffee and tea are another place where sugar can be hiding.
Even the healthiest among us may choose to unwind with an alcoholic drink or two. While many consider moderate alcohol consumption to be one drink a day for women and up to 2 for men, some studies show that there is no healthy level of alcohol consumption.
5. Buying into “Healthy” Snack Foods
Food marketing companies have long caught-on to the growing health revolution and have been adding attractive claims to products to make them appear healthier such as “gluten-free”, “multigrain” and “baked”. Many of these so-called “healthy snacks” are very processed and can contain excess sodium, sugar as well as chemical additives and preservatives. Nuts and fruits are healthy and convenient snacks that you can grab when you are on the go.
6. Becoming too Rigid
While some people see food just as fuel, I believe food is an important part of life to enjoy and savour. It provides a great opportunity for us to bond with friends and family. However when our diet is too restrictive, it can make it difficult for us to enjoy a meal in a social setting. In addition, it can lead to feelings of guilt if you veer off the program. Ultimately, it is important to cultivate a healthy relationship with food.
I believe healthy is a journey and not a destination. So wherever you are on your journey, be mindful of these common mistakes and trust the process.