5 Healthy Diet Tips for Health and Wellness in the New Year

A healthy diet is key to our overall health and wellness. Following a balanced plan also allows for flexibility and fun in our diets.

A smiling woman eating a plate of food in her home as part of a healthy diet

Did you know that 45 million Americans go on a diet each year? That’s a lot of dieting. This includes nearly two-thirds of Americans who are overweight or obese and those who think they are overweight.

Consuming a healthy diet can help you to both lose and maintain a healthy weight. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020–2025, a healthy eating plan consists of eating a variety of fruits and vegetables, lean proteins such as poultry, lean meats, fish, and legumes as well as eating foods that are low in saturated fats and added sugars.

However, there are many dieting myths and misconceptions surrounding weight loss that doesn’t even consider its impact on our health. These can include starving yourself, cutting out essential food groups, skipping meals, overexercising, and taking diet pills.

Not only are these suggestions false – they can cause both immediate and lingering health issues, too. A healthy diet is not about removing foods or dubbing them as “bad.” It is about establishing a relationship with food to nourish and support your mind and body.

5 Healthy Diet Plan Basics

A family of three is cooking a healthy meal in the kitchen together.
A healthy eating plan is for everyone’s overall health and wellness.

We share five healthy diet tips to maintain a healthy diet – this year – and beyond.

1. Change the way you think about dieting

First, dismiss everything you think you know about dieting as a means to lose weight. You’ve probably learned that being on a diet means restricting certain foods and only eating certain types, or even only at certain times during the day.

While it is important to eat a balanced and healthy diet, deprivation can cause you to crave foods high in fat and sugar, leading you to weight gain. You might even be depriving your body of nutrients that are considered fattening, such as meat and carbs.

2. Portion size is key

The key to a healthy diet is moderation! You can focus on eating based on your age, sex, height, weight, and daily activity level. All types of foods can be part of your healthy diet when you consume them in moderate portions. You can try this simple healthy plate guide: 

  1. Divide your plate into four parts. 
  2. Fill the first quarter with grains (rice, noodles, bread, potatoes, etc.). 
  3. Then, fill the second quarter with protein (meat, fish, eggs, etc.). 
  4. Finally, the remaining half is filled with vegetables and fruits.
  5. Some diets also account for a small portion of dairy.

3. Try the 80/20 rule

A happy couple eating cookies in the living room
Overindulgence is not good for health, but so is over limiting your foods.

There are so many amazing foods out there. Give yourself a break by following the 80/20 rule. This diet plan allows you to indulge – but only 20% of the time! Meaning, you will follow a well-balanced diet 80% of the time (six days a week). During that one “cheat” day, you can treat yourself to foods you like but may not be necessarily healthy – such as cookies, cakes, ice cream, or chips. This allows for balance, fun, and variety in your diet. It also encourages you to focus on the “big picture” plan of eating healthy while also offering flexibility when you need it.

4. Consume water and herbal drinks

Staying hydrated is also part of a healthy diet plan. Sometimes we have cravings when we are actually dehydrated. The National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine suggests men should drink 15.5 cups of fluids a day and women should drink 11.5 cups a day.

To increase your water intake, naturally sweeten it with some lemon or orange slices. You can also add herbs to regulate physiological functions and promote metabolisms such as Chinese Angelica (radix angelicae sinensis, danggui), cnidium (rhizoma chuanxiong) and red dates (fructus jujube, hong zao). Additionally, supplemental drinks can also be great for your liquid intake and weight management.

5. Prepare and cook your own food

Taking the time to prepare and cook your food has been scientifically proven to help you lose weight. A study at Johns Hopkins University found that people who consume food at home eat healthier and consume fewer calories. This awareness even translates to eating in restaurants, where these same home cooks, eat less when they go out to eat.

A great way to understand food, cooking can be a family activity where everyone learns to pitch in and create delicious, healthy meals together. This is also beneficial for kids where they can develop healthy eating habits at a young age.

Healthy Diets According to TCM

A nutritious meal comprising salmon, beans, peas, and tomatoes
A healthy diet, according to TCM, consists of grains, meat, vegetables, and fruits in proper proportions.

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), our daily diet should have balanced nutrition to maintain health, prevent diseases, and promote longevity. Ancient TCM monographs like those in the Canon of Yellow Emperor, Shennong’s Classic of Materia Medica, Invaluable Prescriptions for Ready Reference, Principles of Correct Diet have discussed in detail how diet plays a significant role in human’s physiology, pathology, health maintenance, and treatment of diseases. 

Pay attention to proper proportions

In TCM, grains, meat, vegetables, and fruits in proper proportions are key to ensuring that our body is functioning at optimal levels. TCM advocates that you should never starve your body, even if you are trying to lose weight. Starvation causes deficiencies of vital energy and blood as well as negatively impacts our immune system. This can lead to diseases such as malnutrition, anemia, or gastrointestinal issues. 

Balanced nutritional eating

A woman cooking a healthy meal with vegetables on her electric stove
If you want to try a healthy diet, be sure to cook your foods thoroughly.

TCM Physician Jolene Chong from Eu Yan Sang TCM Clinic offers a few nutritional tips for a balanced diet:  

  • Consume foods that are well cooked to ensure food safety and avoid contamination from arising 
  • Avoid foods and drinks that are cold, raw, oily, too sweet, spicy, or deep-fried 
  • Choose low-fat and low-sodium foods 
  • Go for a light diet with more fruits and vegetables, but keep balanced nutrition in mind 
  • Observe the intake of rich foods such as organ meats and seafood  
  • Ensure regular mealtimes and drink sufficient water (approximately 2 liters) every day 

Physician Chong shares that there are also many lipid-lowering traditional chinese herbs that can assist in better metabolism of lipids and the expulsion of excess water from our body. For example, alisma (泽泻, ze xie), hawthorn fruit (山楂, shan zha), cassia seeds (决明子, jue ming zi), polygonum or fleece flower (何首乌, he shou wu), coix barley (薏苡仁, yi yi ren), finger citron fruit 佛手, and others.

“Apart from observing a healthy diet, smooth bowel movement also helps promote metabolism,” she says, adding that regular exercise, good sleep quality, and maintaining a happy mood are also important.

Healthy eating doesn’t have to be complicated or restrictive. Our bodies need to be nourished to function and thrive. Learning how to eat healthy, instead of avoiding food, is one of the best ways towards living a healthy and happy life.

This is an adaptation of an article, “两大要诀- 如何与你的食物和平共处? (Two tips: how to live in peace with your food?)”, which first appeared on Health 123 website.

References

  1. Boston Medical Center. 2019. Weight Management. [Accessed on January 13, 2022]
  2. CDC. 2022. Healthy Eating for a Healthy Weight. [Accessed on January 13, 2022]
  3. MyPlate Plan. 2022. MyPlate Plan. [Accessed on January 13, 2022]
  4. John Hopkins Center. 2015. Study Suggests Home Cooking is a Main Ingredient in Healthier Diet. [Accessed on January 13, 2022]
  5. Cleveland Clinic. 2020. How Much Water Do You Need Daily?. [Accessed on January 13, 2022]

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