According to a doctor and a dietitian, is how to eat healthy.

I believe that less is more, especially when it comes to healthy food, unless we’re talking about puppies, avocados, or Taylor Swift songs. No, I’m not referring to a reduction in food—I’m referring to a reduction in complication. It’s easy to get caught up in all of the different eating plans, and I say this as someone who has tried paleo, keto, vegan, plant-based, raw food, macrobiotic, and probably a dozen other diets in her life. It’s perplexing.

It might be difficult to go through all of the noise to figure out what to eat, as discussed at a recent Well+Good TALK event. “It doesn’t have to be that difficult,” Simple Mills CEO Katlin Smith remarked. “While there is a lot of noise out there, we do know a lot of things that work well. It’s not nearly as enigmatic as it appears.” It shouldn’t be, at least.

Here are the top five things Smith, Brigitte Zeitlin, RD, and Ruvini Wijetilaka, MD, taught us about basic healthy eating.

1. Using simple ingredients (preferably from whole foods) is preferable.

“Consider eating simple items that you can pronounce and that you and your body are familiar with,” Smith suggests. Dr. Wijetilaka was in agreement. “Try to eat whole meals with the fewest ingredients possible,” she advised. “Something that isn’t bundled is ideal. And I understand; we’re all quite busy! However, in an ideal world, it would be food without any packaging.”

Why? Packaged foods are more likely to be severely processed—cooked, refined, and altered with chemicals and other ingredients to extend their shelf life—and a diet high in processed foods has regularly been associated to poor health outcomes.

Basically, choose items in their natural state; if it’s not a natural state, look at the ingredient list. It’s advisable to use simple, few, and pronounceable ingredients (as are these minimally-processed snacks and frozen options).

2. Plants are beneficial.

“Consider eating more plants,” Smith advised. Yes, it’s that straightforward. To get enough fibre, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, the USDA recommends eating at least two-and-a-half cups of veggies and one-and-a-half to two cups of fruit every day. Plant-based diets have been linked to a variety of health benefits, including enhanced heart health and a lower risk of mortality.

Zeitlin went on to say that we could all use a little extra on our plates. “If you’re someone who eats a lot of [plants], great,” she said. “Perhaps you might increase your portion.” If you’re a veggie snob, this is the recipe for you “Consider triple it. “She explained that this may be done in a variety of ways, including raw in salads, as crudités, roasted, grilled, and sautéed. In general, whatever way you enjoy eating vegetables is a wonderful thing.

Here’s a breakdown of the Mediterranean diet from a registered dietitian:

3. Food should make you happy (and not stressful).

“Food should be pleasurable,” stated Zeitlin. “You should eat what you enjoy and wish to consume,” says the author. This guidance is crucial when it comes to determining which healthy foods to emphasise (don’t force yourself to eat kale if you despise it!) and what dessert to eat. “You should also eat a chocolate chip cookie when you desire one. Food, nutrition, and self-nourishment are mutually beneficial.”

And, according to Zeitlin, if a product or a manner of eating isn’t filling those buckets, it’s time to reconsider. “It isn’t the proper strategy for you if it isn’t fueling you and is stressing you out and producing anxiety.” Read: deprivation isn’t a thing.

4. Find an eating plan that you can stick to.

“If it seems like cruel and unusual punishment, you shouldn’t do it,” Zeitlin said when it came to choosing an eating plan. She asked people to examine whether a particular eating plan is one they can stick to in the long run, regardless of where they live or travel. Will you be able to consume a variety of foods when you go out with friends or travel to a different location? Is it going to be difficult to come up with alternatives on a regular basis?” If it isn’t appropriate for the circumstances of your daily existence, it won’t work for you.” Truer words have never been spoken, have they?

5. Increase your water intake.

The dietary equivalent of “always wear sunscreen” is “drink more water.” It’s that critical.

“Hydration is essential for stress relief,” Zeitlin stated. “It also allows you to connect with your hunger… Our bodies perceive thirst as hunger when we are dehydrated. So, whether it’s a sugary dish or not, we’ll grab for additional food when we’re actually thirsty.” Consider this a gentle reminder to refill that water bottle as soon as possible.

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