Following a few simple nutrition principles can set you up for a lifetime of health.

Healthy Eating Principles Worth Considering for a Lifetime

Changing your diet doesn’t have to be as complicated as many diet books make it sound. By following some relatively simple principles, you can develop a healthy eating plan that’s balanced, sustainable, and easy to follow.

1. Consume real, whole foods

As much as possible, choose foods that have been minimally processed. Ask yourself: “where did this come from? Can I decipher what it is? Would my great grandparents consume this regularly?”

2. Make vegetables a principle part of your intake

Take every opportunity that you can to include them in your meals and snacks. The goal is to consume 4-5 servings per day. One serving is equivalent to 1/2 cup cooked, 1 cup raw, and 2 cups of raw leafy greens. Aim to eat vegetables of all colors to get the widest possible variety of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients.

3. Learn to read and analyze food labels

Examine the ingredient lists for the type of flour used to make the product. Whole grain (or whole wheat) flour, sprouted, or stone ground grains or flour are good indicators of a whole grain food. It’s also beneficial to ensure that the fiber per serving is 3gm or more.

4. Stay hydrated

Drinking plenty of water is one of the most integral ways to support balanced blood sugar control.

5. Avoid sweetened beverages

Train your body and brain to enjoy water, add fruit or herbs to it, trial unsweetened sparkling varieties, herbal/decaffeinated teas, cow’s milk, or unsweetened nut milks.

6. Properly pair your foods

Choose quality portions of whole grains or fruit or milk/yogurt and pair it with a quality protein. This helps with blood sugar control and increases the body’s ability to absorb and use nutrients.

Examples Include:

  • 3/4 cup blueberries + a cupped handful of walnuts
  • 1 slice whole grain toast + 2 Tbsp natural nut butter
  • 1/2 cup pineapple + 1/2 cottage cheese
  • Small orange + 1 string cheese
  • Small Apple + a cupped handful of nuts + handful of baby carrots

Ashley Fortenberry is a registered dietician and health educator at Kaiser Permanente in San Francisco, providing nutrition education to individuals and groups, including nutrition education for physicians, work-site wellness, pediatrics, oncology, pregnancy, diabetes, renal disease, mindful eating, and eating disorders. She enjoys working with people to effectively motivate behavioral change, taking into account individual needs and equipping them to make informed nutritional choices and build their own path to wellness.