Healthy eating made easy

Eating healthily should not be complicated.

Healthy eating means enjoying a variety of foods in the right portions. There is room for all types of food; each one adding its own goodness. Having a varied diet ensures you get all nutrients you require to stay healthy and bursting energy.

Easy steps to a healthier you

The first step you should take for healthy eating is balancing your food needs and lifestyle. It is a simple equation: energy in must equal energy out. Eating more leads to excessive weight gain. Eat less and you'll feel tired.

Everyone could benefit from more fruits and vegetables. They provide essential vitamins and minerals, and the all important antioxidants. Start simple. Take the five a day challenge first. When you have reached your five a day goal, you can think of the seven a day, or nine a day. It is not that difficult. There are many ways to add fruit or vegetables to a meal.

At breakfast, you can top cereal, granola, muesli or pancakes with fresh berries or dried fruit. Fruit compote is a great sweetener for yogurt, and healthy too. Grapefruit, banana, or apple slices are great on toast. Whatever you eat, remember: don't skip breakfast.

Try to swap fruit for cookies or pie as snacks. Dried fruit makes an excellent snack with lots of fiber. Always include fresh fruit in packed lunches. Salads, any season, are another good lunch option.

At dinner, ask for extra vegetables, as pizza toppings or with pasta. Add carrots, leeks, and onions to casseroles. Use pureed vegetables to thicken gravy. Frozen vegetables are almost as good as fresh; use them when you are pressed for time.

Count whole grain cereals as an excellent source of fiber, which will keep you satisfied for longer, leaving less room for fatty foods. Fiber in your diet will significantly reduce your risk of disease; it is worth it. Whole grain cereals are also an important source of B vitamins, the ones that help to extract energy from food.

Most of us should reduce the amount of fat we have. Low fat and control are the key words. Switch to unsaturated oils -olive oil is best- if you have not already done so. Add salad to your sandwiches and skip the butter. Try cottage cheese and jelly on toast, instead of butter. There is really no need for butter if the topping is moist.

Cottage cheese or low fat yogurt with herbs and spices make wonderful toppings for salads or baked potatoes. Try a baked potato topped with cottage cheese and chives for lunch or supper.

Lower the amount of salt you have, aiming for one tea spoon a day maximum, including salt in processed food. Herbs and spices will give flavor and aroma, reducing the need for salt.

Drink 6 to 8 cups of liquid every day. One cup of juice adds to your fruit and vegetable count. One cup of milk will boost your calcium intake. One or two cups of tea, or coffee, provide antioxidants. Nevertheless, drink water the most. Sodas should be just an occasional treat. If you like alcohol, have small amounts regularly, always with food. A moderate consumption is 1 cup wine or 2 cups beer for women, 2 cups wine or 3 to 4 cups beer for men in a day. Regularly does not mean daily; there is no need to drink alcohol every day.

Now that you have a healthy diet, remember to eat at steady intervals during the day, to keep your stamina. There are only two more factors to include for maximum benefit: exercise and sleep. Be sure to get enough sleep, around 7 hours –anything between 6 and 8 hours- for adults. Teenagers need more sleep hours than full grown adults, and children even more. Keep moving when you are awake. Though exercise is not food, consider it equally essential to your well being; we will never stress enough the importance of exercise in any healthy diet.

How much you will have to change your habits depend on how you eat now, but it is worth. Healthy eating will lead to more energy, weight loss - keeping it off- and prevention of disease. Plus healthy eating is delicious and fun when it is done right.