There are certain fundamentals that all healthy diets follow. Whether you want to try a Paleo, vegetarian, vegan, gluten free, or low carb diet, they all follow the same four basic principles. Now, since we all have different preferences and our bodies all respond differently to different foods, what really matters is at the end of the day, you follow these fundamentals of healthy eating. This is far more important than if your diet is vegetable, fat or protein based.
The reason these fundamentals are so crucial to follow is because food marketers today have become incredibly clever with hiding the fact that their products contain unhealthy ingredients (especially added sugar). Trying to figure out if a packaged food product is healthy or not is like trying to figure out the Enigma machine from the movie “The Imitation Game.”
For every new fad diet out there, there seems to be a junk food factory producing food products for that diet. Concentrated fruit juice is no healthier than sugar (because it’s the exact same thing), gluten free cookies are no healthier than regular cookies, vegan cupcakes are no healthier than regular cupcakes, and that Paleo Desserts recipe book you bought is not much healthier than regular desserts. I hate to burst your bubble but when it comes down to facts, these foods all fall into the same category as junk food. When you eat simple or refined carbohydrates (yes, this includes honey) it all breaks down to the same thing inside your body: sugar.
The reality is, if you can’t follow even the most basic of healthy eating habits, then you won’t fair well on any new diet you try. You will simply fall prey to clever marketing, you’ll get frustrated because you’ll stop seeing results (because you think you’re eating healthy when you’re actually not) and then you fall back into your old habits. Albeit these fundamentals are simple, I assure you that if you follow them, you will get 80% of the results you’re looking for. Here are my 4 Golden Rules of Healthy Eating.
1. Drink Only Water
You’ve probably heard this a million times but do you actually do it? Water is essential for almost every function in the body and if it isn’t your go-to drink for when you’re thirsty, then you’ve got serious problems. Soft drinks, fruit juice, energy drinks, and sugar filled coffee beverages are one of the leading causes type 2 diabetes and obesity and there are direct links to prove it. I would even go as far as to say that developing type 2 diabetes and becoming obese would actually be rather difficult to do without these drinks, which is saying a lot. The fact is, if you consume drinks that contain sugar on a regular basis, you’re investing money into something that is going to promote weight gain and make you feel really shitty. If you feel like you need extra help with trying to stick to drinking only water, then be sure read my post on “5 Hacks to Help you Drink More Water.” The only exceptions I would recommend other than water would be black coffee, tea or kombucha.
2. Only Eat Whole Foods
In case there is any confusion about what a “whole food” is, let me give you the official definition. Whole foods: “food that has been processed or refined as little as possible and is free from additives or other artificial substances.” Essentially, a whole food is any food that has only one ingredient such as an apple or an egg. This should be the golden rule that every healthy diet should be following and if it isn’t, it’s the wrong diet. A processed food on the other hand, is basically anything in a box, can or bag and contains a long list of ingredients. When your diet consist of only whole foods such as meat, dairy, eggs, seafood, fruits, vegetables, nuts and nut butters, seeds and seed butters, cold pressed oils (such as olive, avocado, nut and coconut oil), and real herbs and spices, you will never have to worry about eating too much, counting calories or watching what you eat. It is nearly impossible to overeat when on a whole foods diet.
Some of you are probably wondering if breads are considered a whole food. Breads are tricky because they lie in somewhat of a grey area when it come to whole foods. I would definitely not consider white breads a whole food because it’s been over processed and stripped of all it’s nutrients. However, some people would consider whole grain bread as a whole food. Although, if you follow the definition of a “whole food” which clearly states, “foods that have been processed or refined as little as possible..” then no, whole grain bread is not a whole food. Even though whole grain breads can be nutritious and in general quite healthy, if you consume meat, eggs, or seafood, then I wouldn’t worry too much about whole grains because you’ll be getting the same vitamins and minerals that are in whole grain bread, except in higher quantities and quality. All in all, the main reasons I would recommend staying away from breads is because a lot of bread products out there are marketed as “healthy and wholesome” when they are actually not.
3. Reduce your Sugar Intake to 25 Grams a Day or Less
If there was one aspect of your diet that is worthy of becoming obsessed over it’s not calories, it’s your added sugar intake. The World Health Organization recently came out with new dietary sugar guideline recommending that adults should restrict their added sugar intake to roughly 25 grams per day. This means that your seemingly healthy glass of morning orange juice, which contains 33 grams of sugar per 12 ounce serving, far exceeds your daily sugar intake level.
Added sugar also extends into products you typically wouldn’t expect like salad dressing, BBQ sauce, soups and tomato sauce. This could mean that that organic salad dressing you bought not only could contain added sugar, but it could even exceed your daily intake of 25 grams. This proves that when you start venturing into those middle aisles at the grocery store, you have to be diligent and make sure you’re looking at the grams of sugar on the label. Also, be sure to look at the serving sizes as well. The serving size is just as important because the grams of sugar may only say 8 grams but if the serving sizes is ¼ of the product in question, then if you consumed the whole product you would be consuming 32 grams of sugar.
4. Make Home Cooked Meals
I know that finding the time, energy and inspiration to cook three meals a day can seem daunting. For me, this was something that I struggled with for a long time. However, over the years I have found some very effective strategies for getting back in the kitchen. If you struggle to cook, then check out my post on the “5 Reasons Why you Struggle to Cook and How to Fix it.” Also, I know that making a lunch when you have to get up really early for work can be especially difficult. That is why I came up with my 4 part series called “The Lazy Man Lunches.” These are 4 healthy meal ideas that require no cooking and can be made in under 5 minutes. This means that you can quickly and easily make a healthy lunch on the go and avoid the trap of eating out.
Being in control of the ingredients that go into your food, and subsequently your body, is essential for maintaining a healthy diet. You cannot rely on food manufacturers to have your optimal health in mind. They are in the money making business, not the health business.
We are in an age where health advice has never been so confusing and ambiguous. One moment something is being touted as the healthiest food you can eat. Then the following week it’s being demonized and visa versa. If you are getting tired of trying to keep up with the newest health trends and you’re looking to simplify your life and diet, then look no further than the 4 Golden Rules of Healthy Eating. These 4 Golden Rules are at the foundation of every health diet. If you were to practice and ingrain these rules into your life, you would never have to worry about following a certain diet ever again. These rules are timeless.
Just knowing the 4 Golden Rules of Healthy Eating isn’t enough to cause long lasting positive change in your life. If you want real change, you have to ingrain these 4 Golden Rules into your life. If you do this, I assure you that you will get 80% of the results you’re looking for. To help you get started, I want you to download my free Eat Differently Food Journal by clicking on this link . With this daily food journal, you will be able to:
- get a clear picture of your current diet
- track your daily added sugar intake
- pinpoint bad habits which you can then improve upon
- keep yourself accountable