Healthy eating is one of the most important things you can do to improve your overall wellness. In fact, when most experts talk about how to stay healthy, they list two things before anything else. They say eat right and exercise, usually in that order. So eating a healthy diet may be the most important thing you can to do to keep your body fit and avoid illness and disease.
One example many people give about healthy eating is the idea that our bodies are like cars. What you put in the car determines how well it runs. You’re not going to get your car very far down the road if you use the wrong kind of gas, or not gas at all. So eating the wrong kinds of foods, or worse, not eating at all, isn’t going to get your body very far, either.
Most people know the kinds of foods they’re supposed to eat for a healthy body, and the kind they’re supposed to eat to lose weight, if they’re overweight. Almost anyone can look at two breakfast options, for example, and understand which is considered the healthiest. Given a choice of three doughnuts or a bowl of oatmeal with fresh fruit, most people know that the oatmeal and fruit is the healthy eating option. The doughnuts are junk-food sweets—lots of sugar, lots of calories, but no real nutritional content.
Some other distinctions are more difficult, though. Is a lettuce salad with fat-free dressing healthier than natural peanut butter on whole grain bread? When it comes to choices like these, it’s necessary to consider the rest of the day’s food to determine which one would be the better healthy eating choice. Some fat is necessary for good health, so the natural peanut butter (containing only peanuts and their natural oil) shouldn’t be discounted just based on fat content. If the rest of the day’s food intake (before and after) is going to contain a good amount of fat, then the salad might be the better choice. But if everything else holds little fat or protein, the peanut butter sandwich could be a great choice.
Much depends on the second part of the health equation—exercise. Healthy eating differs a bit from sedentary people to very active people. The more active you are, the more calories you can consume while maintaining a healthy weight. A sedentary person couldn’t eat as many calories as an active person without gaining weight.
As complicated as it sounds, though, it’s not difficult to make healthy food choices, whether you’re active or sedentary. (And if you’re sedentary, you should make an exercise plan and stick to it for the best health.) If you stick to natural, whole foods as much as possible—fruits, vegetables, whole grains instead of processed grains like flour, and beans—it’s hard to go wrong. Most unhealthy food is processed and pre-packaged. For healthy eating, avoid those pre-packaged or pre-cooked items, and choose food as close to its natural state as possible.