Most people understand the importance of eating healthfully and what that looks like: eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, focusing on whole foods and minimizing heavily processed foods and listening to your hunger and fullness cues. Yet consistent healthy eating can seem unattainable because it feels too difficult, feelings of hunger and deprivation overwhelm or there's a lack of knowledge and support. Fortunately, science has provided a solid understanding of what healthy eating really looks like. Similar to the importance of a solid, concrete foundation before building a house, structure and balance are essential for the foundation of healthy eating.
How often you eat does matter. Fuel your body with regular nourishment: eat within the first hour of waking and approximately every three to five hours after that during your waking hours—for most of us, that's about 16-18 hours a day. Simply put, that would look like eating three main meals and one or two snacks. This is to help with control of physical hunger.
When you eat, you need to include the essential nutrients in your meals and snacks throughout the day. Essential nutrients are carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals and water. They fuel your body and provide it with everything it needs. When you are repeatedly lacking in one or more of these nutrients your diet is unbalanced—which can lead to health issues such as high blood pressure, type II diabetes, weight issues, gut problems and so on.
You can get these essential nutrients by utilizing the tools provided by MyPlate and focusing on a balance between the five food groups—grains, fruits, vegetables, protein and dairy. To make a balanced meal, you should strive for at least three of the five food groups. An example would be two scrambled eggs with one slice of whole wheat toast and a half cup of berries. In this sample meal you would get protein, carbohydrates, fat, vitamin C, iron, B-vitamins and so much more. That will fuel your body for three to four hours! If you are having a snack, consider it a mini-meal—it should consist of one to two food groups.
Building a foundation of structured eating and balance in food groups will keep you feeling fuller quicker and for longer—all things we strive for when trying to eat healthy!
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