What comes to your mind when you think of the word âdietâ? A quick Google search on food reveals several definitions. Two of them involve the terms “restrict yourself” and “lose weight”.
However, this misinterpreted version of the word is not what diet actually means.
âA lot of people have a negative gut reaction to the word diet and instantly think about weight loss, restriction and deprivation,â said Amanda Downs, dietitian at the Iredell Wellness & Diabetes Center.
âAs a dietician, I think of diet simply as the way we eat or the foods we choose to include on a regular basis,â she added.
So, rather than thinking negatively about the word diet, you can think of it as the food you eat every day. Still, that doesn’t mean that the food you eat doesn’t matter – the food you eat, your diet, is important for you to be able to live a healthy life.
âUnfortunately, we live in a culture where the ‘diet’ industry sometimes detrimentally misleads people. I find it leaves consumers confused and overwhelmed by what healthy eating looks like to them and realistic, sustainable ways to put it into practice, âDowns said.
Healthy eating can help you meet your unique needs and health goals, but it varies from person to person.
As part of World Food Day, celebrated on October 16, take the time to make a healthy, positive change in your diet.
Benefits of healthy eating
According to Downs, good nutrition is the foundation for good health, healthy aging, and the management of illnesses, both acute and chronic.
Eating a healthy diet can help manage high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and excess body weight, all of which are risks for heart disease.
Additionally, nutrition plays a valuable role in immune health. Downs said that a balanced diet including protein, iron, and antioxidants, along with regular exercise and sleep patterns, can help support your immune system.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, healthy eating for adults has several benefits, including:
- Supports muscles
- Can help you live longer
- Strengthens immunity
- Maintains healthy skin, teeth and eyes
- Strengthens bones
- Reduces the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and certain cancers
- Promotes healthy pregnancy and breastfeeding
- Helps the digestive system
- Helps achieve and maintain a healthy weight
âWhen we enter our forties, we usually start to lose muscle mass as part of a natural aging process. Combating this with healthy eating and regular activity can add many quality active years to our lives, âDowns said.
Start a healthy diet
While healthy eating depends on your individual lifestyle, including your income and food availability, there are general steps you can take to start eating healthier.
How to start eating healthy? Downs recommends starting small.
âEven small steps in the right direction will help build momentum. Set yourself small, realistic and achievable goals, âshe said. “For example, drink at least 48 ounces of water a day, walk for 10 minutes at least three days a week, and include a vegetable at dinner every night.”
One step at a time, you can gradually change your diet.
Cutting out unhealthy fats, reducing your sodium intake, packing nutrient-dense products, and using sugar sparingly can help get you started on the path to healthy eating.
âFor most people, a well-balanced meal consists of lean protein, non-starchy vegetables, unsaturated fat, and healthy carbohydrates. However, it also has to be balanced with the fun, âDowns said.
“Food should never be a source of stress,” she added.
To start a healthy diet that fits your specific lifestyle, be sure to contact your primary care provider or dietitian. They can help you determine which foods are best for you at this particular time in your life.
Amanda Downs practices at the Iredell Wellness & Diabetes Center located at 235 N Main Street, Suite D, in Troutman. If you want to make an appointment with Downs, talk to your primary care provider about a referral. For more information, please call the wellness center at 704-878-4556.