What are the Basic Principles of a Good Diet?

It’s tough trying to eat healthy, especially if you grew up being a picky eater! It’s much easier to eat whatever tastes good. It seems as if everyone in my family is a picky eater, which is awful trying to find healthy meals that everyone will enjoy. It’s taken me a long time trying to figure out how to eat healthy and to feed my family things that are good for them and that they’ll enjoy. I can’t say I have it all figured out, but I am definitely doing a better job of it today than I used to.

I’m Kris Rockwell, a Certified Natural Health Professional, and I’m going to share with you the basic principles of a good diet. Today you’ll find out which foods to avoid, which foods to include, the number of servings of each and what constitutes a serving.

Let’s start with which foods to avoid.

Foods to Avoid:

  • Refined white flour products (bread, pasta, cake, muffins, and pretzels)

  • Refined sugar products (cereal, candy, and baked goods)

  • Processed food – these are high in sugar and fat and/or salt (canned soup, theater-style popcorn, potato chips)

  • Margarine & shortening

  • Smoked/cured meat – these have nitrates & nitrites (bacon, hot dogs, luncheon meat, sausage)

  • Meats cooked at high temperature

  • Heavily/artificially sweetened soft drinks, flavored drinks, and teas

  • Fried foods (french fries, corn chips, doughnuts)

You could consider these non-foods, food that really isn’t food. They taste good but there is little to no nutritional value in them; they actually take away nutrition from your body because they use up your nutritional stores to process without adding any. Unfortunately, they give you instant gratification with a delayed negative reaction. Consuming these types of foods can lead to different types of diseases down the road.

Foods to include are vegetables, good oils/fats, whole grains, beans, fruit, protein, and dairy (optional). Let’s take each one separately.

Vegetables should obviously be the main focus providing needed vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, and protein; not to mention phytochemicals that fight cancer. Don’t over-cook them because they’ll lose nutrients and flavor. Lightly steam, bake, or quick stir-fry is best. Only boil if using in a soup because all the nutrients get pulled out into the cooking water. Fresh is best, with frozen being a close second; try to avoid canned.

There are 3 categories of vegetables:  you should get 5-7 servings total daily

  • Leafy green & cruciferous

  • Low-glycemic

  • Starchy

1 serving = 1 cup raw leafy vegetable such as spinach, ½ cup raw non-leafy, cooked, or fresh vegetable juice

2-4 servings daily of leafy greens & cruciferous vegetables, these include:

Alfalfa sprouts chinese cabbage parsley
beet greens collard greens spinach
bok choy dandelion turnip greens
broccoli endive watercress
brussels sprouts escarole  
cabbage kale  
cauliflower lettuce (darker is better)  
chard mustard greens  

2-3 servings daily of low-glycemic vegetables which includes:

Artichoke cucumber radishes
asparagus fennel rhubarb
bean sprouts mushrooms string beans (green or yellow)
bell peppers okra summer squash
carrots onions tomatoes, tomato paste, tomato sauce, tomato juice, vegetable juice cocktail
celery peas (fresh or frozen) zucchini

1-2 servings daily of starchy vegetables including:

Beets pumpkin winter, acorn, or butternut squash
potatoes rhubarb yams or sweet potatoes
parsnips rutabagas  

Good oils & Fats which includes raw nuts & seeds, and vegetable oils: 4 servings daily

Almonds pumpkin seeds olive oil
brazil nuts sunflower seeds coconut oil
flax seeds walnuts  
pecans flax seed oil  

Flax seed oil should only be used raw (no cooking with it). Olive oil can be used to saute vegetables. Coconut oil is more heat tolerant and can be used for cooking.

Recommended is: 1 serving nuts daily = ¼ cup

3 servings oil daily = 3 tablespoons

Whole grains gives more nutrients, complex carbohydrates, and fiber: 3-5 servings daily

Whole grain bread – wheat, rye, or other whole grain cereal cooked whole grains – amaranth, barley, millet, oats, quinoa, brown rice, spelt, and wheat
whole grain pasta corn  

1 serving = 1 slice bread or ½ cup

Beans/legumes; provides more protein then grains, soluble fiber, and stabilizes blood sugar. Canned beans are convenient and quick, while retaining they’re fiber and flavonoids. 2-3 servings daily

1 serving = ½ cup

Fruit great between meal snack, dessert, and/or with breakfast. 3-4 servings daily

1 serving = 1 medium fruit, ½ cup cut up fruit, 4 oz 100% juice, or ¼ cup dried fruit

Protein: 2-3 servings daily

fatty fish provides omega 3 fatty acids, preferably wild caught – salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines; limit fish to 6 servings of 7 oz each per week

red meat should be limited to twice a month, lean cuts, don’t charbroil and not well done – beef, veal, lamb, buffalo

chicken, turkey, and eggs from free range chickens fed flaxseed are great lean sources

1 serving = 3-4 oz which is about the size of a deck of cards

Dairy is optional; preferably organic and/or fermented such as yogurt or kefir. 1-2 servings daily

1 serving = 1 cup, or 1 oz cheese

Take aways:

  • avoid anything processed/manmade
  • whole grains 3-5 servings daily
  • focus on vegetables 5-7 servings daily
  • beans 2-3 servings daily
  • 2-4 servings daily leafy greens/cruciferous
  • fruit 3-4 servings daily
  • 2-3 servings daily low glycemic
  • protein 2-3 servings daily
  • 1-2 servings daily starch
  • dairy 1-2 servings daily optional
  • good fats 4 servings daily

Eat a variety of food that changes from meal to meal, daily, weekly, and seasonally to make sure you’re getting all the nutrients your body needs. Getting stuck eating the same things over and over leaves holes in your nutrition where you might not be getting enough of a certain vitamin or mineral that your body requires leading to deficiencies

Start incorporating these guidelines into your daily habit today by adding one vegetable to one meal. Keep doing this until it becomes a habit that you don’t have to think about anymore. When you’re ready add in a fruit and keep going either adding in or taking away.

There is no easy quick fix to bad lifestyle habits. Life is a journey; enjoy the journey for as long as you can by incorporating good lifestyle habits into your daily regime. A little here, a little there goes a long way. These are the basic principles of a good diet.

Let me know if you liked this article and if you would like more articles like this one. If you liked the article please share it with your friends.

Reference: Murray, M. and Pizzorno, J. (2005). The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods. New York: Atria Books.

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