What does it mean to adopt good nutrition? Not eating junk food? Eating only organic food? Or maybe becoming a vegan? Here are 12 simple tips that are basic to good nutrition habits, whatever your personal taste.


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What makes for good nutrition?

When you have a specific nutrition goal in mind – such as weight management – or just want to eat healthy, it’s not always clear where to start. One of the main reasons is that the questions of good nutrition or healthy food can have conflicting answers: one person would think that it means to stop eating junk food while the other would say that it means to become a vegan, or eat only organic food; some may support cutting back on fats, while others swear by cutting carbs.

Those who read health journals may be surprised to find on more than one occasion that food considered unhealthy for years suddenly becomes the Holy Grail of health after a particularly convincing study is published – often with a twist involving modern food production methods or clarification of a complicated pathway in the body.

Moreover, there are several approaches to good nutrition that are not always compatible with one another. For example: ‘low carb’ diets have proven successful for losing weight and improving factors for heart and blood vessel diseases, but diets based on complex carbohydrates have also be associated with weight and health benefits. So are carbohydrates healthy or not?

How to build a menu based on good nutrition

Apparently there isn’t just one truth about good nutrition, and as it becomes clearer in recent years, different people require different diets. Good, healthy nutrition can comprise a variety of different factors, each one having a unique contribution. We can’t change our diet overnight, and changing our nutritional habits needs to be slow but consistent.

Every time you decide on a new change that you want to adopt and pursue, work toward making that habit an inseparable part of your lifestyle by gradually making the changes involved so that the adjustments are largely imperceptible. If some aspects don’t work, and being patient has not helped, go back to the drawing board: a different product, a different recipe or seasoning, a different time of day, etc. Then you can move on to acquiring the next habit, and so on – and you’ll improve your diet and achieve healthy nutrition on your own terms.

Here are a few ideas for easing into lifelong good dietary habits:

1. Use whole grains and whole grain products

Cooking: Whole grain pasta, brown and wild rice, green wheat, oat and buckwheat groats, whole wheat couscous, bulgur, quinoa, spelt, millet – upgrade your usual grain dishes with the myriad nutrient-rich, fiber-rich versions of refined staples. Try different recipes, and adopt those you like. Do be patient – it may take a couple of tries, but it really is worth the effort.

Baking: One option is to choose recipes bread, cake, and cookies that already incorporate whole grain flours. Another is a gradual approach, i.e. replacing 20% of the flour with whole grain flour and once you get used to it, continue with another 20% and so on, until the transition is complete. If you are adjusting recipes yourself, keep in mind that some may require adjustments of other ingredients, such as those that provide moisture and leavening.

Buying: Try sprouted or 100% whole grain – regular or ‘heirloom wheat’, rye, or gluten-free bread and baked goods. It’s important to read the small print on the packaging and make sure the item consists of 100% whole grain flours and does not have undesirable additives such as hydrogenated fats.

2. Increase intake of legumes and pulses

Legumes and pulses include lentils of various colors, beans of multiple varieties, and dried green, yellow, or black-eyed peas, as well as bean products such as hummus from chickpeas, southwest-style spreads from black and/or pinto beans, and more. Contrary to common belief, not all pulses require soaking in water and a long time for preparation. Lentils for instance don’t require soaking, and orange lentils are the fastest kind to make: only 2-3 minutes cooking in boiling water. The pulses that do require soaking or long cooking include chickpeas and kidney beans, and all are best if allowed to sprout before incorporation into a recipe. Another option is to use bought frozen or canned legumes and pulses, and if using canned products, be sure to check for the low-salt versions

3. Go meatless at least once a week

Eating a vegetarian diet, even one day a week, is not only good for your pocketbook and the environment, but may help reduce your risk of heart disease and certain types of cancer. With awareness of these advantages increasing globally, options abound. In addition to side dishes we take for granted as being vegetarian, such as starches and produce, mainstays such as legumes, nuts, seeds, and mushrooms provide protein as well as fiber, vitamins, minerals, and important ‘phytonutrients’ – plant components with antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and cell-protective properties – in levels much higher than could be found in meat and poultry.  For the real deal, try a vegan challenge – no animal products – to get the maximum benefit. Though it may be difficult at first, it will become second nature, and your body will thank you!

4. Five (or more) a day of fruits+vegetables

Health authorities recommend getting 2-3 servings of fruit and 3-5 of vegetables each day – translating to a combined daily minimum of five, though up to eight is a welcome part of a healthy diet.

Almost all varieties of fruits and vegetables count towards your five servings a day, exceptions being starchy vegetables, such as potatoes and corn – though eating these as a starch course in a meal can add some benefits of phytonutrients. To maximize the contribution of phytonutrients, it is best to get a variety of colors, as each set of hues are attributed to different chemicals that  Fruits and vegetables are generally recommended to be eaten fresh, but frozen can be advantageous as well. Canned are the least recommended, but if chosen carefully – low-sodium vegetables and fruits in their own juice rather than heavy syrup – they can definitely be a solution in a pinch.

Fruits and vegetables can be eaten in a variety of ways, either whole, as part of a mixed dish, even as a beverage, though if you like to drink your produce, it is recommended to ensure no edible component gets discarded (dilute rather than strain).

It is recommended to diversify your soups, salads, casseroles, and snacks with new vegetables you’ve never tried. Try locally-grown, organic, and heirloom types for the cleanest and most natural experience.

Fresh or dried fruits also make great snacks and salad or shake additions, as well as light and healthy dessert options instead of sweets.

5. Use herbs, spices, and similar seasonings

What do onion, garlic, coriander, dill, oregano, hyssop, basil, rosemary, thyme, marjoram and bay leaves have in common? They all add wonderful flavors and scents to our food – and they also add health benefits. Not only does using herbs and spices help diminish the use of salt in cooking while enhancing the delicate taste of natural food, but they are some of the richest sources of powerful phytonutrients.

6. Use less salt

When cooking, it is recommended to start by adding a little bit of salt and only adjust the saltiness ‘to taste’ at the end. This way you use less salt overall. It is recommended to avoid ‘auto-salting’ as much as possible when you have your food in front of you. It is better to taste and add salt, and only if it is necessary. In time you’ll get used to a less salty taste, especially if you compensate with herbs and spices. If this proves easier said than done, look into salt substitutes with a salty taste, such as potassium-based products.

Even more important, it is recommended to limit or avoid foods that are already salted. These include processed foods, even those that do not taste salty, such as breakfast cereals. Whole, fresh foods tend to have the lowest levels, but if you do use ready-made products, check the label: ‘low-sodium’ means 140 mg or less sodium per serving – and do be aware of what constitutes a serving. Also be aware if any undesirable changes have been made to the product to make up for reduced sodium, such as added sugar (believe it or note) and/or artificial flavors.

7. Eat more of certain fish, and foods with similar benefits

It is recommended to have fish once or twice a week, particularly fatty fish such as wild tuna, salmon, and trout, as well as halibut and herring, which are an excellent sources of the omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA. It is important to find a reliable source of ‘clean’ fish, with minimal contaminants. If you don’t have access to wild fish, try to find farmed fish grown in optimal conditions, including with high-quality feed to ensure good omega-3 content.

Seaweeds also offer omega-3 fatty acids. The main type they contain is ALA, converted in the body to DHA and EPA. You can also find ALA in flax seeds, almonds, walnuts, and their oils, as well as in kale and a few other green leafy vegetables such as purslane and moringa.

8. Choose lean, pasture-raised, grass-fed meat and poultry

The leanest cuts of beef, pork, lamb, and others are generally those with ‘loin’ in the name, and with the minimum amount of white in the meat and around the edges – though the latter can be trimmed. In terms of poultry, the ‘white’ meat (breast) is the leanest, but as soon as the skin is removed, even the dark meat is considered lean. Wild game also tends to be leaner than domesticated livestock. Ground meat and poultry is conveniently labeled as to the percent of fat, and the lower the better – particularly if you don’t have access to products with better fats, such as the pasture-raised/grass-fed types.

9. Use the oven more often, steam and sauté, and forget fried

Broiling and roasting are favored over charbroiling and frying, especially if done over a grill pan. When preparing meat products, they enable dripping off of excess internal fat – optimized by removing large amounts of external fat, such as trimming around steaks and removing poultry skin – without adding carcinogenic black streaks or trans fats from deep fat frying.

Steaming is favored over boiling, as this method enables retention of more nutrient content, unless you will use the boiling water in a recipe.

Sautéing is an excellent alternative to deep fat frying, as it limits the amount of added superheated fats, which are generally converted to undesirable trans fats. It is better to choose recipes based on these cooking methods, or make those modifications yourself. Try using ‘green’ non-stick cookware to make this easier, or nonstick cooking spray for baking if you want to cut back on shortenings for coatings, which generally contain undesirable types of saturated fats. If you cook with oil trying measuring with a spoon the amount of oil added and not spill ‘with feeling’ – even though some oils such as olive and almond do indeed contribute to health, they can add up very quickly and add an extra challenge to your weight management efforts.

10. Eat more nuts and seeds

Although nuts and seeds are high in fat, it’s mostly the healthy types, such as omega-3 and the same omega-9 found in olive oil. So use moderation, but do take advantage of them! Favor they types that are unsalted – they are flavorful enough without. In addition to making excellent snacks and ‘butter’ spreads, they can be added to stir-fries and salads for a touch of toasty taste and good-quality protein plus fiber and minerals.

11. Watch what you drink

Drinks go down easily, so they are often forgotten as a source of possible trouble. Many contain high amounts of sugar, artificial ingredients that can increase appetite – even if calorie-free – and/or deplete the body of minerals. Remember that when it comes to cool beverages, water is the very best, and if you can’t get used to taking in 8 or so daily glasses or cups (8 fluid ounces or 240 ml) of plain water, squeezing in lemon or lime can add a palatable twist. Above all, avoid added refined sugars and artificial sweeteners, colors, and flavors. And remember: when it comes to juice, the whole fruit is always the best choice, either solid or blended into a shake. Soda pop can be an occasional treat, but it is not recommended as a staple.

When it comes to hot beverages, antioxidant-rich teas such as green, white, and red (rooibos), as well as herbal infusion types, are highly recommended – up to three cups per day. Organic coffees can also be a good addition, again, no more than 3 cups a day. Do try to limit additives that don’t add much by way of nutrients, and may sabotage your efforts – including sweeteners and creamers that are artificial and/or high in refined sugars or fats. Recommended calorie-free sweeteners include monk fruit, inulin (chicory root), and Stevia, and better calorie-containing choices include xylitol, coconut sugar and nectar, and organic evaporated whole cane juice – just remember that sugars do ultimately add up, so moderation is key.

12. Size isn’t everything, but it is a lot

As mentioned in tip #9, even healthy foods can add up to diet sabotage. Moderation is an important key to good nutrition and health, and ‘energy balance’ – matching your intake to your output, meaning basic needs according to height, weight, and build, as well as physical activity level – is the fundamental principle of weight management.

When first starting on a healthy plan, you may benefit from measuring out recommended portions to get a sense of them, and commit them to memory. You can also ‘cheat’ but using your fist or palm of your hand as a constant reference to which to compare portions. Remember at traps like buffets to be selective, and if you want to eat everything, small spoonfuls can make that happen without too much trouble. When ordering at restaurants, avoid extras and ‘doggy bag’ the excess from larger portions than you need. When preparing food at home, only cook enough for proper portions (including for other family members) so there are no readymade leftovers tempting you at the table.

Learn more about the Trim Down Club.


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    • Hi, Louise. On your finished menu page, if you scroll down, you will see some FAQs, including a piece about beverages. We do indeed encourage water, regular or carbonated, plain or lightly flavored with steeped fruit or squeezes of lemon or lime. We also encourage teas.

  1. Hi, sandebabs. Good for you! We have studied many, many different nutrition principles and diet methods that have been published in medical journals and tried by dietitians and doctors over the decades, and we have found these to be the most helpful for the largest number of people in the modern western world, and some in other areas of the world who have been exposed to the western lifestyle (today not always the best!).
    Regarding fish, it never hurts to ask the mongers from where they get the fish. Even if they are excellent professionals, they are limited by the sources. Since we ourselves don’t know all of them, I can only say that Whole Foods Market takes care to source theirs from aquaculture farms that provide feed that ensures omega-3 fat content with minimal toxic chemicals.

  2. Silverlight, you’re absolutely right! We DO recommend the 100%. We were warning about the products without the “100%,” which use loopholes in labeling laws to stuff in refined flours. “100% whole” is a legal term with no loopholes. Just be sure to check the ingredients list to be sure to avoid hydrogenated fats that sometimes sneak into breads.

  3. Hi, CatheyDawkins. All natural turkey bacon can be OK if it is not cured, and even better if made from turkey that has been pastured. Using the Menu Planner will help you plan your meals in the future, as you see the general arrangements that can meet your nutritional needs. Regarding exercise, there is no need to hurt your knees – there are plenty of exercises you can do on the floor.

  4. I found this really helpful . I do not drink milk but love almond or coconut milk. I do not do well with soy products so usually try not to eat it . It is in my earth balance butter but not enough to bother me. I love pastas and breads, plus i crave sweets. But since i have been on this program I have found I do not crave it as much. I have been on so many diets that I could open a book store of diet books and tapes. I am a losing and than I gain. I found the older I get the harder it is to lose. I am in my early 70’s. I have started water aerobics and find it easier than walking and my knees are improving. I am thankful for this program.

  5. I am working with a client that is totally addicted to sugar and her diet is about 75% sugar and she sits in the morbidly obese range. She has all the typical symptoms as a result. I read this and it endorses everything that l have been telling her but l wondered if there was anything else that l could be doing to support her.

    I worry how much fish that l eat as l do tend to eat it at least 5 days a week/Usually sea bass, salmon, sardines, prawns and squid. I am not sure whether they are organic or not but l do buy from a fish mongers.

  6. I am just starting this week , I do not eat red meats, nor do I drink milk, I don’t eat pork at all, so is turkey bacon ok to eat? I do a lot of seafood and chicken I have cut out most pastas and I don’t eat a lot of potatoes BUT I cannot loose wt! I was told I don’t eat enough but I eat when hungry, I went on a cruise and lost wt, I guess you have to eat more, I just don’t, or I will have a snack for dinner or fruit, I need help in the planning of my meals badly! I am ready to take this off, getting older, my insides are like a much younger woman, just my outsides need lots of help. My bad knees make it very hard to walk, I love to walk just can’t as much, I am so ready to make this work.

  7. Hi everyone, I’ve been vegetarian since 1976 but I’m a fat one. I live with a diabetic, and because I am often not at home at cooking time, he does the cooking, and he has given me the same food he eats, with 50% carbs on the plate, often followed by a carbo-based dessert.
    I started on diet pills four years ago and since then I have slowly lost more than two stone. I changed my breakfast and lunch and now normally have a homemade smoothie for breakfast and raw food for lunch. Sometimes I’ll have a boiled egg and homemade bread. Sometimes I rebel and insist on rice instead of potatoes, and when I get the chance to cook, I usually manage very tasty, nutritious dishes. I’m drinking 2 ltrs of water a day and this definitely helps to stave off the hunger but I pee at least every hour. I don’t normally snack but I do treat myself to one capuccino each day which perks me up. I think I’m on the right path but diet pills are expensive. The sooner I can get off them, the more money I will manage to keep.

  8. Just started in the club and the information is stating to get heavy
    Lots of good hints and programmes. My main priority is weight loss as I’ve just been diagnosed as type 2 diabetic. It would seem more and more are being diagnosed this and I believe this is a result of lifestyle, bad foods and eating habits that start to catch up with you in the over fifties.Diabetes is the new label that smokers used to have but lets not open that can of tricks.
    Regardless, I need to clean up my act. I haven’t read anything on alcohol consumption yet so I assume those whole grain vodkas must be okay in moderation. Which reminds me to find out about tomato juice, I guess celery should also be okay.
    I’m only messing around with comments so please don’t be offended. More seriously, my first task is to begin to analyse the contents and ingredients of what I’ve be grazing on.Around 30 years ago most things were steady but clever marketing and packaging along with added ingredients has just seemingly made a minefield of good health. Thanks for allowing my comments as I close does anybody remember buying a carrot that hasn’t been washed ( in something ) .

  9. Hi all: I’m 67yrs. old and have lost and gained all my life from 5 to 10 and up to 30 pounds. Have always been successful losing as well as successfully gaining it ALL back. I have never been on Maintenance, just from lose to gain. If you are like me, I have said this is the last time on a (as I call Diet…a Regime) Good Luck to all of us! B

  10. Is there any merit to eating particular food groups together for example, if eating protein need to include a fruit or vegetable, if eating a cereal such as oatmeal adding fruit to help with dieting?

  11. Hi, RosieO. 1% milk is fine. We do recommend a high-quality milk such as organic pastured, if available. Instant coffee is generally fine, including Millicano. They use a solvent-free process to make the decaff, which is excellent.

  12. Can I have 1% milk in coffee and what about instant coffee’s for example Millicano. I usually drink full coffee during the day and decaff in the evenings as I cannot drink tea. It makes me sick.

  13. Hi, BarbaraNichols and NatNoFat. If you don’t want to cook a lot and make a mess than needs cleaning then don’t – there are many, many foods out there that can be eaten as is, especially for snacks. Think about all the nuts, seeds, crackers & cheese, etc. If you like cooked fruits and vegetables, then prepare a few days’ worth and dish out individual portions each time. There is always a way to make things easy and healthy!
    Nat – I suggest you also try joining one of our support groups (link below in one of my earlier answers), as you will find through them the motivation you need.

  14. Hi, Ghillie. It’s the opposite! The less you have to lose, it can be even harder. Don’t try to be perfect, and don’t jump in head-first. Just take your time, easing into good habits and trying them on for size until the ones that work for you become second nature. Even if it takes a while, remember that it will take less time than it did for you to reach the size that made you unhappy. For some companionship, try joining one of the support groups here – https://www.trimdownclub.com/groups/.

  15. I just joined. I read the comments. I was impressed about the video and foods to avoid. The scary part is the genetically modified foods . I want to know more about them and how to shop wiser, recognize the ones to avoid. The second thing I learned is what makes me crave sweets and the hungry feeling right after eating. Eating right and having green tea is the answer. I hope your recipes help .

  16. I just read a reply from Eanselmo to Ghillie and I love the idea of keeping a notebook of the positive and good things they did for themselves each day, I have decided to add this to my routine I think it will be a big help for me in many ways. Thanks Eanselmo for this awesome idea!!!

  17. I have read a few of the comments below and can so relate to most of them. I had no problem cooking when my husband was still living but cooking for one is not fun and truely feels like a big waist of time for just me. I don’t enjoy being in the kitchen and I hate the clean up part. But if I want to be healthier and realize that I have to make these changes. Just not sure where or how to begin when it comes to getting groceries because half the items in here I have never heard of. I pray that this works for us all.

  18. Like Teresa, I just joined tonight. I want to learn to eat more nutritionally balanced meals. I am looking forward to learning how to eat more healthily and in the process shedding some weight, especially in the abdominal area. I have tried to loose weight before (many times) with out success. Hard to stick to something when you get negative result. I hope this is the answer. Sure sounds like it might be.

  19. I have been yoyo dieting nearly all my life. So I basically know right from wrong. Putting it into practices is easy enough but it is staying with it. I have tried every diet in the book. They all work if you can stay with them. This is about my last chance. I am hoping this is the one……..Audrey
    P.S. Wishing you all great success.

  20. Just joined an hour ago. Have no idea about good/healthy options. My main problem are chocolates and cakes. Over the last number of years I gradually gained the weight around the tummy and buttocks. I’m always hungry and never seem to satisfy my hunger. I’m looking forward to the challenge and hopefully get the results I want and hope everyone else too. Regards Teresa

  21. I am a complete novice at weight watching, so I need more guidance than I have found. That could also be because I am tech challenged and don’t know how to find information on your site. But I would like to know a little more about how much I should be eating. Friends tell me I may be eating too little, but I have no idea of how much I should eat as a snack. I long ago stopped eating those foods you said I should not eat, though I may eat more of the corn and soy than I think, being they are listed as ingredients in a lot of foods. Could you help me out on the snack and meal plan. I want to know which of my own recipes I can use also. I would appreciate any suggestions.

  22. Hello all. I just joined to day and am looking forward to this challenge. My problem has always been to dive in with both feet and take on the whole shebang all at once. The advice up above regarding easing into the program is the approach I am going to take this time. It seems to me that easing into this slowly will help make it a way of life rather than a short lived fad (baby steps). I realize that it can get discouraging, but blogs like this act as support. Good luck to all.

  23. Pretty stable reading matter – most I’ve heard before. Did learn a little. My problem is I really don’t like fruits and vegetables. They aren’t filling. Don’t like bitter or acidic fruits!!!! I like well cooked vegetables because I was raised on them Southerners of my age ate well cooked vegetables and not many fruits unless they were cooked in pies. Eating all day is problematic because it means cleaning up all day and I hate cooking and cleaning. Was raised in a household that had a maid to do that. Can’t get used to doing it myself…………………….

  24. I like to read health books but knowledge is useless if I do not have the energy and perseverance to exercise and be active. I am not creative in cooking that I am trying to learn to cook to eat various and nutritious food.

  25. Ghillie – I understand your feeling of being overwhelmed. To get started, make just one change a day. Eat an extra piece of fruit or swap a soda for a glass of water, and congratulate yourself for doing it. (Also, try not to beat yourself up if you don’t!)
    I actually keep a list of good things I do for myself every day – park far away from the store and get in a brief walk, resist the urge to buy M&Ms at the checkout counter, etc. That’s how I stay motivated. Good luck!!

  26. Even though I am aware of all of this I still have a difficult time getting started. There is much conflicting stuff out there also I am not very consistent. I lose motivation quickly. Am I a hopeless case. Some people can lose hundreds I am having a hard time trying to lose twenty.

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