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Healthy Eating Habits for Weight Loss and a Balanced Diet

Updated on January 16, 2015

There is no clear formula that can be charted out to tell you what to eat, when to eat and remain fit and disease free. But weight loss and a healthy diet do have a lot to do with what you eat, though when you exercise and when you eat are equally, if not more, important.

The best time of day to exercise is early in the morning, at the start of the body's natural day/night cycle. Using your exercise regimen as a guide, your meals should be taken such that your body is ready to utilize the food and keep you going until the next meal. This will ensure the maximum utilization of calories from food and fewer deposits as fat.

Nutritionists these days suggest five to six small meals a day as opposed to three meals. However, you can still have your traditional breakfast, lunch and dinner in smaller proportions and some healthy snacks for when you feel hungry. Also drink at least 8 glasses of water.

Here we take a look at the different food groups in detail, based on when and why they should be

included in your daily diet.

Carbohydrates and Proteins

A. Carbohydrates

I. If you are on a regimen of diet and exercise in order to lose weight, carbs are not your enemies. But eat them at the right times of the day, when your body is primed to utilize the energy they release. Also keep in mind the differences between dense carbohydrates (such as whole grains) and those that release energy quicker (such as cinnamon rolls). The latter are the worst kinds of carbs you can eat.

II. The best time to eat carbohydrates is in limited quantities for breakfast, before a workout in the form of a banana shake to give you a burst of energy, for instance, and in small quantities for lunch. Avoid carbs for dinner, as they can release energy that will interfere with sleep inducing melatonin production. Also, eat dense carbohydrates for breakfast, such as oatmeal or whole wheat bread that will raise blood sugar slowly and cause it to go down slowly, preventing frequent hunger and snacking.

B. Proteins

I. Proteins should make up 35 percent of your daily diet. They are the building blocks of your body, though the needs vary based on activity, lifestyle, and age and body weight. Nutritionists typically calculate the ideal amount by multiplying the body weight (in kg) by 0.8 to get the amount of proteins (in Gms) that you should eat in a day. Athletes and pregnant women need more protein.

II. Foods like eggs, meat, dairy, fish, nuts and legumes have significant amounts of protein. The best time to eat proteins is after your exercise routine, as your muscles need to recover and grow.

Vegetables & Fruits

Interesting new research shows that timing may be more important than we realize when eating vegetables and fruits. Apparently, vegetables and fruits are still alive after harvest, and they respond to light and dark cycles. Storing them according to the natural cycles – especially carrots, cabbage, sweet potatoes, lettuce, spinach and blueberries – and you can expect their antioxidant properties to be strongest when you eat them.

A. What are vegetables and fruits good for?

I. Fruits and vegetables contain essential vitamins and minerals, fibers as well as plant-based chemicals called photochemical. These are chemicals that protect plants from fungi, germs, bugs and diseases. Photochemical aren't essential like minerals and vitamins, but they may help to keep the body protected from diseases. They also contain some carbs and proteins, which are also essential for well-rounded body function.

II. Fibers help with regular bowel movements and they keep the gut healthy. Vitamins and minerals like potassium protect the kidneys; prevent obesity, control blood pressure and cholesterol, heart diseases and type 2 diabetes. They have antioxidant properties that may help to prevent cancers.

B. When To Eat?

There is no best time of the day to eat greens, but typically having a large salad mid day and a small meal at dinner can complete your requirement for greens for the day. Fruits can be eaten for breakfast, and as snacks throughout the day. Fruits and vegetables take about 30 to 45 minutes to digest, so meals should be spaced accordingly.

Note that mixing fruit and vegetables should be done cautiously. Our bodies metabolize fruit and vegetables differently, so, while it may be safe to mix a little lettuce into a fruit salad, it is best not to go overboard with too many ingredients and too much volume of both together.

C. How Much to Eat?

Americans are recommended about 2 to 6 cups of fruits and vegetables a day – that is five to thirteen servings. Note that potatoes come under starch, rather than greens or fruits, so they do not count. Remember that 2 cups of leafy greens correspond to 1 cup of vegetables, while 1 cup of most other cooked or fresh fruits and vegetables corresponds to the standard household measuring cup. On the other hand, 1/2 cup of dry fruits corresponds to 1 cup of fruits.

D. Best Way to Eat

I. Fruits are best eaten fresh, as long as they are organic and pesticide free. Wash thoroughly to get rid of any residual chemicals. With vegetables, it depends on the type. Some vegetables like beets, broccoli, onions, red peppers etc are best eaten raw, in salads. Steaming is also a good way to eat healthy. Steamed asparagus has good cancer-fighting properties. Finally, cooked mushrooms, spinach, tomatoes etc. are more nutritious than raw.

II. Never microwave or boil. Boiling or baking can significantly destroy the nutrients in food, and also kill enzymes necessary for digesting them. The same applies to microwaving.

E. Beware of salad dressings

Even with raw foods such as salads, however, care must be taken that the dressings do not overwhelm benefits. Most salad dressings contain sugar, calorie rich creams and oils that detract from the benefits of the salad. It is best to take dressing on the side, or opt for simple dressings of healthy oils like olive oils that also add essential fats to your diet.

© 2014 Juana


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    • Kelsey Farrell profile image

      Kelsey Elise Farrell 2 years ago from Orange County, CA

      Great tips! I'm interested in eating wholesome and well. I also really like that you mention that carbs are not your enemy, and when eaten at the right kind of day are actually good for you. Great hub!