Your Health: Diets

When you think about diets, chances are the first thing that comes to mind is losing weight. Atkins, South Beach, Slim Fast — specific diets designed to make you lose weight fast. But diets are about so much more than shedding pounds.

The food you consume plays a huge role in your life. It can affect not only your weight, but also your energy levels, your risks of getting certain diseases, and your overall well-being. Having a well-balanced diet can help you lower your weight, true, but it can also just plain make you feel good.

When you’re evaluating your diet, keep in mind that even something that’s nutritious won’t offer everything you need. You have to balance: proteins, carbs, fruits and vegetables. Start with meals that offer lean protein in the form of meat, eggs, tofu, or beans. Add whole grains. Finish off with a salad and/or other vegetables — the brighter and bolder the colors, the better. When it comes to snacks, look for treats that offer nutritional value. If possible, get snacks that offer protein, as well, to keep you feeling full longer. Some suggestions: apple slices or celery sticks with peanut butter, veggies dipped in hummus, plain yogurt with fruit or granola mixed in.

A little planning ahead can revamp your diet and fill your body with wholesome meals and snacks. Try making as many of your own meals as possible. This will help you avoid preservatives and processing that may negate some of the nutritional qualities present in your food. Plan your menu in advance so you have all the necessary ingredients to put together a balanced meal. Prepare snacks ahead of time so you’re not scurrying to the vending machine when a craving strikes.

Be on the lookout for empty calories. Sweets, salty snacks, and processed foods are all high in not-so-good-for-you ingredients. They may fill you up, but they won’t give your body the nutrients it needs. And your body responds to sugar and artificial sweeteners like a drug — it craves more, leaving you feeling hungry, cranky, and reaching for more empty calories. And don’t forget what you drink. Sometimes that can play just as big a role as food. Reach for water whenever possible, forgoing sugary soft drinks.

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