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Proper nutrition assists in maintaining a healthy weight, improving overall health and avoiding chronic illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease, to name a few. Creating healthy habits by eating a healthier, more balanced diet needn’t be a daunting experience. Canada’s Food Guide recommends adding a variety of healthy foods to your plate every day.

This includes eating more plant-based foods more often and less highly processed foods.

Below are 10 ways to start eating a healthier, more balanced diet, that will keep you satisfied.

What are 10 healthy eating habits?

1. Add more vegetables and fruits

In order to build a healthy plate and encourage healthy eating habits, it is imperative to fill half of it with veggies. Most people only consume about half of the amount required daily. To get more nutrients and vitamins, it can be as simple as swapping out pasta for zucchini strips or rice for cauliflower rice. Snacking on fruits instead of sweets or baked goods will also serve you well. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s ChooseMyPlate recommends eating at least 3 servings of fruit and 5 servings of vegetables every day. To make it easier to incorporate into your daily diet, simple ideas such as chopping up your vegetables and having them on hand in the fridge, will give you something to snack on.

2. Drink more water

Water is essential for your body to function at its best. When you are properly hydrated, the water assists in maintaining your energy levels and helping you to lose weight. When more water is consumed, your body stays hydrated, and it becomes easier to distinguish between hunger and thirst. The amount of water required depends on many factors including height, weight, activity level, temperature or season and where a person lives. The U.S. National Academics of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine’s general recommendation is 2.7 litres a day for women and 3.7 litres a day for men.

3. Don’t drink sugary drinks. As tasty as they are, sugary sodas, juice and sweet teas add unnecessary calories and sugar to your diet. Be selective about what you choose and rather opt for water.

4. Enjoy whole grains

Whole grains such as brown rice, barley, oats, quinoa and rye are healthy foods that provide the body with the dietary fibre, vitamins and minerals required for it to work optimally. The fibre also assists in helping you stay fuller for longer, without you having to consume more calories.

5. Eat protein-rich foods

Legumes such as nuts, seeds, tofu, eggs, lower fat kefir and low fat, low sodium cheeses are high protein foods that help build and maintain bones, skin and muscles. To ensure that you are providing your body with adequate amounts of protein, choose these new plant-based eating habits. Unlike animal products, plant-based protein is cholesterol-free and makes for a balanced and healthy meal.

6. Choose good fats

Choosing the right kinds of fats is essential, as the body needs fat to function. Selecting unsaturated fats like olive oil, avocado and nuts will help maintain the function of certain organs like the heart, skin and even eyes. By avoiding trans fats found in processed food, you can minimize the chances of clogging arteries and succumbing to certain cancers.

7. Limit your salt intake

Even though sodium (salt) is required, too much can increase blood pressure, putting you at risk for heart problems. Once again, most processed foods contain high quantities of sodium. By limiting the amount of this type of food in your diet, you can reduce your sodium intake.

8. Watch your portions 

To avoid an overeating pattern, it is vital to be aware of how much food is being consumed throughout the day. There are several ways to help avoid eating too much: 

  • Measure the food you’re eating  
  • Be careful of the size of the plate you’re using
  • Stop eating when you’re satisfied

9. Plan a weekly menu

Much of the success of eating a healthier diet is based on planning. By ensuring that the fridge is stocked with chopped up, ready-to-eat fruit and vegetables or pre-prepped meals, you won’t be tempted to get take-out. When you cook, double it and save the rest for the week ahead.

10. Keep a food journal

One of the simplest ways of keeping track of what you eat is to jot it down. Take a few minutes at the end of every day to write down what you have eaten. Not only does this make you more aware of your food choices, but it can also assist in helping you stick to a healthy diet. There are also online tools and apps that can help.

How do I start a healthy eating plan?

Begin by adding a plant-based alternative to one meal a week. Then, gradually build onto your eating plan from there. With this small change, you can really make a difference to your health and the world around you.