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How to Eat for Lifelong Health

Step 1

Include whole foods and limit processed foods in your diet. Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans and nuts, and lean animal proteins. Food should look similar to its original form, and you should understand the ingredients on a label.

Step 2

Limit saturated fats, and avoid trans-fats. Red meat, full-fat dairy products and fried foods are primary sources of saturated fat. Trans-fats are found in some processed foods, such as cookies and crackers.

Step 3

Keep added sugars and sodium in check. Excess dietary sugar can contribute to weight gain and the onset of type 2 diabetes, and too much sodium can lead to high blood pressure and heart disease.

Step 4

Tailor your healthy eating habits to your food preferences and nutritional needs to make it easier and more enjoyable to maintain — not as a diet, but as a lifestyle. For example, eating healthfully might include a moderate amount of meat, the occasional serving of meat or no meat at all. Whichever you choose, select healthful, sustainably raised meats (e.g., hormone- and antibiotic-free, free-range, and fed a natural diet), or consume vegetarian protein alternatives, such as legumes, nuts and low-fat dairy products.

Step 5

Shift gradually to healthy eating rather than overhauling your diet all at once. Incremental changes will be easier to adjust to and maintain. Try omitting one or two unhealthy foods from your diet, and settle into the new routine for a week or two. Don’t ban these foods completely if you love them, though; you can have them occasionally as part of a balanced lifestyle. Meanwhile, add in good foods, or replace foods with healthier options, such as whole-wheat bread instead of white bread. Take your time with the shift so you can find your ideal routine.

Step 6

Keep in mind that good eating habits can reap a host of health benefits. A primary benefit of consuming fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins is protection against heart disease, high cholesterol and type 2 diabetes. Healthy eating can help control weight and might prevent certain types of cancers, as well. Also, eating a wide variety of quality foods brings with it the vitamins and minerals your body needs to function and look its best.

Step 7

Make healthy eating delicious. It does not have to be bland and boring. Think of oatmeal blueberry pancakes, a turkey sandwich on whole-grain bread and colorful roasted vegetables with pesto. Eating well can include countless flavors, beneficial fats (such as from nuts, olive oil, avocado and salmon) and an array of foods. There's no need to chain yourself to salads, grapefruit or cabbage soup. Try new foods, experiment with new recipes, and you'll find it's easy to eat for lifelong health.

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