Depending on the diet you’ve settled on, what constitutes a “diet food” will vary, with many diets offering downright contradictory guidelines. While there are few foods that will be universally acceptable with all diets, there are a number of things to keep in mind in order to ensure what you eat is conducive to good health. It’s important to make sure that the diet you’re on assists not only in weight loss but promotes a healthy lifestyle overall.
Whether you’ve gone low-fat, low-carb, calorie counting, or Mediterranean there are a number of general guidelines you should be following. One important thing to avoid is sugar. Sugar is not only very high in calories, but it is nutritionally vacuous and responsible for increasing the risk of a number of serious health complications, such as diabetes and heart disease. Try to identify sources of sugar besides the obvious like candy and soda. Fruit juice can also be very high in sugar, and consuming white flour or rice should also be avoided. Whatever diet you’re on, if grains are allowed opt for whole grain instead of white, as whole grains are more nutritious and contain fiber.
Trans fats are another big no-no when it comes to a healthy diet. These have been linked to an increased risk of coronary artery disease, and they also swing the body’s balance of good-to-bad cholesterol levels the wrong way. Small amounts of trans fats can be found in red meat like beef or lamb, but the majority come from processed vegetable oils used in food preservation. Avoiding the classic “junk foods” such as chips, cookies, cakes, fast food, frozen pizza and candy will go a long way toward avoiding trans fats completely. There are, however, now a growing number of these products that are listed as containing “0 trans fats” so if they cannot be avoided, at least choose this lesser of two evils.
Processed foods in general are not a great choice for those seeking a healthy diet. These products are usually high in sugar, trans fats, sodium and nitrates and should be avoided most of the time. Many people have noticed that while at the grocery store it is helpful to attempt to shop around the “perimeter” of the store, while avoiding the middle aisles that tend to contain the processed and junk foods. The vegetables, fruits, whole grains, meats, dairy and seafood are very often found on the sides of the grocery store.
Whatever your diet requires you eat or eschew, try to keep it varied and natural. Plant foods rich in vitamins and minerals should be a staple of every meal. If you’re a meat eater, try to keep it lean and unprocessed. Drinks should be limited to water, coffee and tea to avoid unnecessary liquid calories. Try to make this diet a lifelong lifestyle change to promote good health, and not just a means to short-term weight loss.