So, how do you go from listening to what ways of eating work for everyone else to pinpointing the best foods for you? You have to silence the outside noise and focus on your needs and intuition. Once you have that knowledge, you can zero in on foods, recipes, and meal delivery services that fit your diet criteria.
Here’s how to tune in and figure out what you should be eating.
1. Make a list of your food likes and dislikes
How often do you find yourself choosing a meal because it’s what you think you should be eating? Maybe you’re reaching for foods you don’t much care for because you’ve heard others say they’re healthy or can help you get fit.
Eating is a joyful experience - not one that should be boring, unpleasant or feel like a chore. Of course, eating what you enjoy isn’t a hall pass to binge on foods that should be enjoyed in moderation, like pizza and sweets. Depriving yourself of your favorite dishes is not a sustainable way to eat and may actually increase food cravings and lead to overeating.
Try making a list of your favorite meals and ingredients. This will give you an idea of the ingredients you should look for when ordering from a menu, selecting a meal delivery, or searching for recipes and provide insight as to where your current diet could be improved.
2. Choose meals that fit your dietary patterns
Do you identify with a certain way of eating? Examples include following vegan, vegetarian, raw, ketogenic, or kosher lifestyles. This expands on your food dislikes. Even if you don’t follow a defined eating pattern, there may be some foods you don’t eat out of personal preference.
For example, some people choose to not eat red meat or anything made with artificial ingredients. If you follow a certain eating style or would like to start, you’ll automatically have a list of do’s and don’ts to help guide you when deciding on what to eat.
3. Pay attention to how you feel after eating
When you’re eating the right foods for your body, you should feel satisfied, energized, and clear-headed. However, research suggests 1 in 5 people have food sensitivities or intolerances that leave them feeling less than stellar after eating. People with food sensitivities don’t suffer from allergic reactions but may experience subtle symptoms like bloating, diarrhea, and headaches.
The best diet for you should eliminate any foods that upset your stomach, cause heartburn, or otherwise don’t agree with you. Read food labels thoroughly to help you decide what foods to include and pass on to feel your best.
If you suspect you may have a food sensitivity, speak with your healthcare provider and try removing that food from your diet for several weeks to see if you feel better.
4. Consider your health goals
Are you trying to eat more plant-based meals or lose weight? Have you set a goal to spend less money on eating out and cook more of your own meals?
Your goals will provide extra guidance in helping you select what to eat. From grocery shopping to meal planning and prepping, there’s a lot involved in overhauling your diet to achieve your goals.
Small changes certainly add up over time. However, if you’re pressed for time or recipe ideas, a meal delivery service that aligns with your goals can be a valuable resource. If your goal is getting fit, a meal service that focuses on weight loss, like Factor, may be worth considering. If your goal is to cook more meals at home, HelloFresh may be a good choice.
5. Choose fewer processed foods
Most diets agree on this point: the number of processed foods you eat should be minimized. Processed foods refers mostly to packaged snacks, like crackers, chips, cookies, granola bars, cereal, candy, and baked goods.
Processed foods tend to lack nutrition and may contain ingredients, like trans fats, sugar, artificial ingredients, preservatives, and additives that should be avoided for optimal health. Eating processed foods regularly is linked to excess weight and poor health.
There are more brands making healthier alternatives today, but the bottom line is that these types of foods should not be replacing your core food groups: fruit, vegetables, animal or plant-based proteins, whole grains, and healthy fats.
6. Eat more fruit and veggies
There’s no getting around this one. Fruit and vegetables are the cornerstone of a healthy diet, no matter what kind of eating pattern you follow.
Eating more fruit and vegetables can improve blood pressure, blood sugar levels, and body weight, which lessens the risk of developing major health issues like heart disease and diabetes. Including fruit and vegetables at every meal automatically improves the quality and nutrient density of your diet by increasing your intake of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber.
It’s worthwhile to squeeze as much variety as you can into those servings. That’s because different fruits and vegetables are sources of different vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. More variety = greater health benefits.
7. Fiber and protein are your besties
Fiber and protein are digested slowly, which helps provide sustained energy, stabilize blood sugar, and keep you feeling full between meals. This helps reduce food cravings, snacking throughout the day, and overeating — all important whether you’re trying to lose weight or just eat better. Getting enough fiber also supports healthy digestion.
Food is the preferred source over supplements for fiber and protein. Good sources of fiber include produce and whole grains, like oatmeal, quinoa, and brown rice. You’ll find protein in both animal and plant foods like meat, poultry, seafood, dairy, beans, lentils, and nuts. No matter what diet you follow, try to include a source of both protein and fiber at each meal and snack.
8. Embrace fat — the good kinds
Healthy diets include healthy fats. This is another universal truth, no matter what kind of diet you eat. Dietary fat is no longer the enemy when it comes to health. Healthy fats are embraced for providing energy, helping you feel full between meals, and anti-inflammatory benefits.
The healthiest types of fats come from plants, like nuts, seeds, and avocados, as well as fatty fish, like salmon. These types of fats are associated with improved health markers, like decreased inflammation and healthier cholesterol and triglyceride levels — important factors in reducing your risk of heart disease. Fat also adds flavor to your meals and enhances your satiety. Try to include a healthy fat source with each meal.
9. Be mindful of your beverages
What you drink can either enhance or take away from your healthy eating efforts. Many beverages are sweetened with sugar, which means they’re full of calories that don’t fill you up or offer much in the way of quality nutrition.
Steer clear of sugary drinks like soda, most juices, energy drinks, sports drinks, and even flavored coffee creamers if you’re trying to eat better. Sugar-free versions are not necessarily a healthier choice. Sugar substitutes are controversial and there is some research that suggests regularly consuming them increases sugar cravings
Water, herbal teas, and coffee or caffeinated tea in moderation are your best bets. Coffee and tea contain antioxidants that support immunity and help combat cellular damage that contributes to aging and disease.
10. Learn to build a healthy plate
If it feels overwhelming to create meals that include fruits, vegetables, protein, fiber, and healthy fat, there’s a simple tool to help you get your fill of these foods. Harvard’s Healthy Eating Plate is a visual tool based on the latest nutrition research.
The formula shows you how to divide your plate into sections to help you build healthy meals. Half your plate should be followed with vegetables and fruit and the other half is divided between animal or plant-based proteins and whole grains.
All diets should include plenty of fruits and vegetables and meals should contain a source of fiber, protein, and healthy fat to keep you satisfied and meet your nutritional needs. But the truth is, eating right is a highly individual process. It won’t look the same for any two people. Your customized eating plan depends on your unique preferences, lifestyle, and physical makeup.
If you’re in search of a meal delivery service that fits your dietary needs and lifestyle, it can be tough to decide with all of the options available to you. Taking inventory of your favorite foods and which foods make you feel the best is a good starting place to figuring out the right eating style and meal delivery service for you.