What are some healthy diet options

What does a healthy diet look like?

Those who eat healthy not only ensure a better attitude towards life. A balanced diet can also help prevent certain diseases. Some basic rules help to eat well and wholesome.

At a glance

  • Eating varied foods is an essential pillar of a healthy diet.
  • Fruit, vegetables, whole grain and dairy products are among the most important components of a wholesome mixed diet.
  • If you don't have meat, fish and dairy products on your menu, you have to meet your needs for nutrients such as iron or calcium with certain plant-based foods.
  • Food should be prepared as freshly and gently as possible and consumed without hectic.
  • A healthy diet also includes drinking enough, preferably pure water.
  • Salt and sugar are not prohibited in a healthy diet, but should be consumed in moderation.

Note: The information in this article cannot and should not be used as a substitute for a doctor's visit and should not be used for self-diagnosis or self-treatment.

Why is a wholesome diet so important?

Eating and drinking are an important cultural part of our lives and contribute significantly to our well-being. If the diet is also balanced, it can help ensure that we are more productive, less sick and lead a happier life.

The basis for this is a sensible and above all varied selection of the foods that we eat every day. In addition, we should prepare food gently and with low fat content and enjoy meals consciously - freed from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Because mindful, enjoyable eating is healthy eating: It ensures better digestion and better absorption of the vitamins and minerals that the body needs for a functioning immune system and a healthy metabolism.

Eat well? The food pyramid as a guide

It is not always easy to eat a balanced diet, because the selection of quickly available snacks, ready meals, fast food and take-away is huge. We often fall back on such offers and forget that a fresh, healthy meal is not that much work. A light salad or a pasta dish with vegetables, for example, can be prepared in a short time.

But what exactly is a healthy diet? Confusion quickly spreads with the many trends touted in the media.

A good guide is the food pyramid. It lists 8 food groups on 6 levels, from base to top:

  • Beverages such as water, unsweetened teas, highly diluted juices
  • Vegetables, salads and legumes
  • fruit
  • Bread and cereal products such as pasta and dumplings
  • Milk and dairy products such as cheese, butter, yogurt
  • animal foods such as meat, fish, sausage and eggs
  • fats and oils
  • Extras such as sweets, snacks, alcoholic beverages

The levels show at a glance which foods we prefer and which ones we should better restrict: the healthier and more important the respective food group, the lower it is in the pyramid. Pure water, juices diluted with water and unsweetened tea form the foundation - which shows that fluid intake makes up the largest part of a healthy diet in terms of quantity.

One pyramid level further up comes fruit and vegetables, followed by cereal products with the highest possible whole grain content. This is followed by dairy products, meat and fish. And at the top are the foods that should make up the smallest part of the diet: fats, sweets, salty snacks and finally alcoholic beverages.

Important to know: In addition, you should always listen to your own body when it comes to nutrition. Questions like: What is good for me, what can I tolerate better or worse, after which meal do I feel sluggish or energetic?

As fresh and varied as possible

Fresh fruits and vegetables should have a special place in our diet. But how much fruit and vegetables do we need? A rule of thumb helps here: 5 servings of fruit and vegetables a day provide the body with important vital substances: with vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants that strengthen the cardiovascular system and help prevent diseases. For example, the measured value for a portion is: an apple / banana, a handful of steamed vegetables or fresh berries.

It is best to put colorful vegetables on your plate every day. Kale, for example, provides a lot of vitamin C, which strengthens the immune system. Spinach has valuable vitamins, minerals and iron. Legumes such as lentils and beans are also good choices because they provide important minerals - but also because they fill you up with their fiber for a long time.

The method of preparation also determines how healthy a snack or dish is. Large amounts of salt, sugar and unhealthy fats are often hidden in ready meals and fast food. If you cook yourself instead, you have more control over how healthy you eat. Gently prepared dishes made from fresh ingredients contain significantly more vitamins and minerals than heavily processed dishes.

In addition, you can deliberately leave out unwanted additives when cooking yourself, because flavor enhancers, colorings and chemical preservatives can put additional strain on the body. In some people, they even lead to allergies and intolerance. Eating organic products can help prevent pesticide or antibiotic residue in food. In addition, it is advisable to give preference to seasonal and regional foods that are harvested when they are ripe, as vitamins and minerals are lost and the taste often suffers due to long transport routes.

Whole grain instead of white flour

As part of a full diet, it's important to avoid too much white flour, sugar, and salt, and to focus on nutrient-rich ingredients. Sugar does not provide any important nutrients, but provides quick energy. However, it causes the blood sugar level to rise and fall again at a similarly rapid pace, which usually means: the high performance is only short-lived, then the low follows quickly again. The result: the body craves more sugar, there is no long-lasting satiety.

The situation is similar with white flour: it provides hardly any nutrients, but a lot of simple carbohydrates. Whole grain flours contain significantly more health-promoting nutrients and also make you feel full more sustainably. The valuable fiber in whole grains also helps prevent diseases such as diabetes, intestinal and cardiovascular diseases.

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Too much salt can raise blood pressure and thereby promote cardiovascular disease. In addition, a diet that is too salty can change the intestinal flora.

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Animal products? Better in moderation

Dairy products provide calcium for bone structure, proteins and B vitamins. They can be consumed daily - but in moderation. Because dairy products can also have a high content of animal fats, which should only make up a small proportion of our food due to the saturated fatty acids.

The main difference between saturated and unsaturated fatty acids: The unsaturated fatty acids found in vegetable oils provide a lot of calories (so only eat them in moderation), but they have a very positive effect on important metabolic processes (especially the omega-3) - and omega-6 fatty acids). Too much saturated fatty acids (mostly from animal fat), on the other hand, promotes the formation of LDL cholesterol, which is also known as "bad cholesterol". This increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases in particular. You should therefore use vegetable oils such as olive oil or rapeseed oil in the kitchen as often as possible instead of butter and lard.

And what about meat? Meat is a good source of iron, but it also contains saturated fatty acids and other unfavorable ingredients such as purines, which can negatively affect the body's acid balance. Therefore, meat dishes should only be served about twice a week. More and more people are therefore choosing a vegetarian or vegan diet - but also for reasons of environmental protection and animal welfare.

Anyway, a varied plant-based diet has many advantages. Because whoever eats a lot of fruit, vegetables and legumes, eats a diet rich in vitamins and fiber. Refraining from meat or consuming less meat reduce the proportion of animal fats in the diet. Dairy products then provide the necessary calcium supply. If you want to do without animal products completely, you can cover your calcium requirements with a purely plant-based diet. Calcium and iron are found in spinach, almonds, sesame and flaxseed, among other things.

Those who follow an exclusively vegan diet, however, have an increased risk of a vitamin B12 deficiency, because good vitamin B12 suppliers are mainly meat, fish, seafood, eggs and dairy products. Vegans are therefore often recommended to take vitamin B12 supplements.

Well regulated - but not too strict

In addition to the nutrition pyramid already mentioned, the 10 rules of the German Nutrition Society provide good guidance:

1. Enjoy the variety of foods
The more varied, the better and healthier. Prefer plant-based foods.

2. Vegetables and fruits: take 5 a day!
5 servings of fruit and vegetables provide the body with important vitamins and other valuable vital substances.

3. Choose whole grains
Whole grain contains many more nutrients than white flour - and makes you feel full longer.

4. Supplement the selection with foods of animal origin
Dairy products can be consumed daily, fish about once or twice a week. Those who eat meat should limit themselves to 300 to 600 grams per week.

5. Use health promoting fats
Vegetable oils contain important nutrients and should be preferred to animal fats.

6. Save sugar and salt
Sugar contains unnecessarily many calories and, among other things, increases the risk of tooth decay. Too much salt can increase blood pressure, but it shouldn't be more than 6 grams a day.

7. Drink enough, preferably pure water
If you drink at least 1.5 to 2 liters of water a day, your body is well supplied with fluids. Sugar-sweetened beverages and alcoholic beverages are high in calories, promote weight gain and, in the long run, can harm the body in other ways.

8. Prepare meals gently
With little fat and short-cooked foods contain more nutrients and the natural taste is retained.

9. Eat and enjoy mindfully
Slow, conscious eating promotes enjoyment and a feeling of satiety.

10. Watch your weight and keep moving
Wholesome nutrition and physical activity go well together for health. It should be 30 to 60 minutes of exercise a day, for example cycling or walking.

The menu for a healthy day could therefore look like this: Drink 1.5 to 2 liters of water throughout the day (more if you are physically active). Enjoy wholegrain muesli and fruit in the morning and use fruit, yoghurt or a cheese-rye bread for snacks. Colorful, freshly prepared vegetables for lunch and dinner - sometimes with a healthy dip, sometimes with potatoes or rice.