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Healthy Eating: Balance and Moderation

Healthy eating gets a bad rap. It’s difficult to know exactly where things went awry, but it’s hard to deny that a lot of people these days associate healthy eating with a too-restrictive, tasteless collection of food rules. Veer too far from bran fiber and distilled water, and people almost expect a stern dietitian to smack the hand that’s holding the wayward fork.

In reality, though, that’s pretty far from the truth. Yes, there are guidelines for healthy eating that focus on good food choices, but as our prevention team has long held in its online tools, books and other publications, healthy eating has never been about stark black-and-white rules. It’s always been about developing an overall healthy approach to eating that includes healthy, good-tasting foods. The more enjoyable healthy eating is, the more likely it is to be kept up over the long term, and that is the real key to good health.

So when it comes to diet, this often means practicing balance and moderation. A diet that’s too restrictive – whether too restrictive on calories or food choices – is one that can be set up to fail. It can take some experimenting, but healthy diets can be enjoyable and affordable, and they don’t have to include giving up all of those foods you love but that may be less-than-healthy. It’s not about having every single meal meet strict healthy eating guidelines. It’s that the overall approach to eating meets healthy guidelines. One meal or one food isn’t going to make or break a healthy diet. What’s important is making overall healthy choices over the long haul.

For an overall healthy diet, try to:

  • Eat a lot of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. The more plant-based foods you get, the better.
  • Keep red meat to a minimum, especially processed meat like ham, bacon and salami.
  • Cut down on “bad” fats (trans and saturated fat) and consume more “good” fats (polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fat, like olive and canola oil).
  • Drink only moderate amounts of alcohol (less than 1 drink a day for women; and two per day for men), if at all.
  • Experiment to find which healthy foods you really like, then build from there.

Looking for inspiration for healthy meals? Try these sites for tips and recipes:

Nutrition Source – Recipes
New York Times – Recipes for Health