This is a question I get frequently. And, it’s a good one that typically comes from people who want to eat better and maximize their health. If you ask 5 nutrition experts you will likely get five different answers.
My initial answer is:
a healthy diet is any diet that you can sustain (stick to long term) that fulfills your nutritional needs while keeping you at your goal weight.
But, there is problem here
We have no way of knowing with certainty that our diet is fulfilling our nutritional needs even if we do a lot of (potentially expensive) vitamin, amino acid, DNA, etc. testing. We could judge this by how we physically feel but so many of us don’t even realize how fatigued we are or how much joint pain we’ve been having until we improve our diets and feel so much better.
Here are some general guidelines
- Eat veggies (try to get them in at every meal) especially cruciferous(ex. broccoli, cauliflower, kale, collards, cabbage, mustard greens and brussels sprouts) and rotate in other non-cruciferous veggies like asparagus, mushrooms, salds and peppers
- Eat protein (but not a Fred Flintstone sized piece). 3-4 ounces (about the size of a deck of cards should suffice).
- As much as possible, stick to good quality fish and organic meats and eggs.
- Use spices that have been shown to have health benefits (like oregano and turmeric).
- Eat fats like avocado and olive oil. Make sure you get fat at each meal (many foods like salmon and beef have fat built in). If you are fat-phobic, read my post here about fat.
- If you are eating complex carbohydrates, stick to whole grains (like brown rice, quinoa, farro, wheat berries, millet) or starchy vegetables such as squash, potatoes, sweet potatoes and beets and fruits such as berries and apples (avoid juice).
- Reduce or avoid foods that might cause inflammation, chronic disease, addiction and block our ability to judge hunger and satiety like dairy, sugar (and artificial sweeteners), flour (and for some grains in general) and alcohol.
- Eat foods in an close to their natural forms as possible. Stick to one ingredient foods (foods that have only 1 ingredient on the label).
- Reduce/avoid foods that are packaged or processed (even so-called “healthy” snacks/meals like bars, protein powders, gluten free baked goods, etc.)
- Schedule treats for yourself on a regular basis and stay committed to only having what was planned.
- Avoid eating between meals. This is useful for weight loss/maintenance but also to avoid the inflammation that occurs with overeating.