Eating Right for a Healthy Weight

Live the Total Wellness life

If you want to improve your total health and wellness, it’s vital to embrace permanent changes for a healthy way of life. The Total Wellness diet focuses on eating healthy foods, building healthy behaviors and creating a sense of responsibility for improving the quality of your own life. This isn’t just another fad diet full of empty promises—it’s a Total Wellness lifestyle that’ll increase your energy and allow you the freedom to make good choices while helping you build a healthier relationship with food.

As you embark on your own Total Wellness journey, remember these three key principles to a life of balance, increased energy and a healthy weight:

  • Aim for a balanced diet that includes all food groups (fruits and veggies, lean protein from both plant and animal sources, and reduced-fat or fat-free dairy) to support your overall health and well-being.
  • Enjoy being active and look for fun ways to incorporate more movement into every day. You could try yoga, tai chi, hiking, swimming, walking, running, jogging, biking, Pilates or climbing stairs.
  • Prioritize your own mental health by adopting a positive attitude. The mind is powerful, and it plays a key role in your physical health, as well as your relationship with food.

"If you make your own health a priority, you’ll be more likely to make healthy choices regarding diet and exercise. But, before you make sweeping changes in your life, you need to have a good idea of where you currently are in your health and wellness journey."


Get into a Total Wellness state of mind

How do you think about health and wellness? Your attitudes make a big difference in your efforts to live a healthy lifestyle. If you make your own health a priority, you’ll be more likely to make healthy choices regarding diet and exercise. But, before you make sweeping changes in your life, you need to have a good idea of where you currently are in your health and wellness journey. To find out, ask yourself the following:

  • What goals do you want to reach?
  • Why is now the time to start making these changes?
  • Are you ready to commit to healthy changes? Rate yourself from 1 (totally not ready) to 5 (so totally ready).
  • Are you willing to increase your level of physical activity?
  • Are you ready to try new, healthy foods?

If you can answer these questions honestly, then you’ll have a good idea of how ready you really are to make lasting changes to your lifestyle. If you decide that you’re ready to move forward, then keep fostering this Total Wellness mindset to keep yourself focused and make healthy choices.

12 steps to Total Wellness 

  1. Set one goal today for your health and wellness (but make it realistic!).
  2. Dedicate one day each week to going meat-free (try to incorporate lots of colorful veggies).
  3. Give your brain the fuel it needs, like healthy fats from fish, nuts, seeds and avocado, and healthy carbs like fruits, veggies and whole grains.
  4. Banish junk food containing added sugars, salt and unhealthy fats from your fridge, freezer and pantry.
  5. Make a mindful choice to add more healthy foods to your daily diet, including fruits and vegetables, lean protein, whole grains and reduced-fat or nonfat dairy.
  6. Keep your cells hydrated by drinking plenty of water, rather than sodas or other high-calorie drinks. Carry a reusable water bottle wherever you go.
  7. To make exercise part of your everyday routine, choose physical activities that you enjoy doing and that are easy to incorporate.
  8. Fill up on fiber with foods like whole grains, fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, beans and peas.
  9. Make an effort to sit less—take a “standing break” from your office chair or walk around during phone calls.
  10. Take time to enjoy your meals. It takes 20 minutes before your stomach tells your brain that you’re full, so slowing down during mealtime can help you avoid overeating.
  11. Keep your eye on your goals. Don’t let a challenging day or a minor slip-up derail your quest for a healthy lifestyle.
  12. Give your body a chance to rest—set your sights on seven to nine hours of sleep each night.

Eating for energy

Every type of food provides calories, or energy—but not all foods are created equal when you look at how sustained that energy is. Some foods, like those that contain lots of added sugar, may offer a quick energy boost, but the “crash” that follows often isn’t worth it. 

For healthy, lasting energy, look for snacks that offer a combination of nutrients like lean protein, healthy fats and dietary fiber. And, to keep your blood sugar and energy level stable all day long, try to make time for a healthy snack or meal every three or four hours. Take a look at these snack ideas for long-lasting energy:

  • One ounce reduced-fat cheese, six whole-wheat crackers and eight grapes
  • One whole-grain English muffin spread with a tablespoon of peanut butter and topped with a handful of fresh berries
  • Half-cup cooked oatmeal with a cup of reduced-fat milk, ¼ cup raisins and an ounce of pistachios
  • One cup plain yogurt mixed with one ounce hemp seeds and a handful of berries

Eating right for a healthy weight

Getting to (and staying at) a healthy weight is a big factor in your overall health and wellness. In fact, losing just a few pounds—or avoiding future weight gain—can provide significant benefits. Are you ready to make the changes you need to make in your diet and lifestyle to help you reach a healthy weight? Great! We’d like to offer a few tips to help you on your way.

Set yourself up for a lifetime of good health 
This means focusing on the bigger picture of a healthier lifestyle overall, rather than just fad diets and quick weight loss.

Set small, achievable health goals 
While you might hope to one day find yourself at your high school weight, with perfect blood pressure and cholesterol levels, you’re much more likely to achieve your goals if you start with smaller, easier-to-manage goals that only require one or two little changes to your lifestyle. Consider tracking your daily progress with a log of your eating and activity levels.

Customize your eating plan
You can visit ChooseMyPlate.gov to find a plan illustrating the amounts of food you should eat daily from each food group. If you have food allergies or other dietary restrictions, you’ll need to contact a registered dietitian to help you develop a personalized plan.

Plan your meals—and eat them
You need to eat three meals each day (and probably a snack or two), and planning them ahead of time can help you avoid drive-throughs and vending machines while staying on track with your health goals.

Embrace variety in your meals
Try to include all food groups in every meal by filling half your plate with fruits and veggies, with the other half split between lean protein and whole grains. Add a serving of nonfat or reduced-fat milk, cheese or yogurt to complete your meal.

Nosh on lower calorie foods first
By starting your meal with low-cal, nutrient-dense foods like fruits and vegetables, you’ll get the nutrition your body needs while eating less overall.

Be mindful at mealtime 
Eating while distracted (read: while watching TV, driving or working) often leads to overeating. Pick a place and time for your meals and stick to it, and focus on your food as you eat it. Want another trick to help you eat less? Use a smaller plate to help your portions look (and feel) larger and more satisfying.

Know when to say when   
It takes about 20 minutes for your brain to sense that you’ve had enough to eat. So, if you eat quickly until you feel stuffed, you’re going to eat way too much (and feel much worse) than if you ate slowly and carefully and listened to your body’s signals.

Fill up on fiber
Getting plenty of fiber from foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans will help you feel fuller, longer. As a bonus, you’ll also reduce your risk for type 2 diabetes and heart disease!

Pay attention to portion sizes
This is one of the best ways to control how many calories you eat and, as a consequence, manage your weight. Check out the MyPlate Food Groups Food Galleries for a handy guide on perfect portion sizes in standard household measurements.

Super-charge your snacks
Plan for between-meal snacking in your overall daily calorie intake—snacks are important to controlling hunger throughout the day. Keep nutritious single-serving snacks wherever you might need them, like in your car, your desk or your bag.

Get active
Including regular physical activity as part of your overall wellness plan is vital to your health and well-being. Besides helping you feel better overall, exercise makes it easier to manage your weight and reduce the risk of many chronic diseases. Find some types of exercise that you enjoy and try to get in at least two-and-a-half hours of moderate activity each week. Check with your doctor first if you currently have health problems or are very inactive.

 

Make sure your plan suits you
If you want to succeed in your efforts, you’ll want to be sure that your wellness plan is right for you. Ask yourself if your plan includes:

  • Regular exercise that you enjoy
  • Foods from each food group
  • The appropriate number of servings from each food group
  • Food that you like and will enjoy eating over the long term
  • Foods that are easy to find at your local stores
  • A few of your favorite foods
  • Foods that fit with your grocery budget and your overall lifestyle

If you can answer yes to all of the above, then congratulations—you’ve created the right wellness plan for you! If you need a bit more help, consult a registered dietitian or nutritionist to help you put together a more customized weight management plan for your needs.

Eating right for older adults

There’s no reason that eating right has to be difficult. Before you fix your plate, simply think about what you’re putting on it. Opt for foods that offer lots of nutrients without bogging you down with extra calories. Build a healthy meal with a good foundation of fruits, veggies, lean protein, whole grains and nonfat or reduced-fat dairy. To help you on your quest to eat better, we’ve put together this list of healthy eating tips.

"Fill one half of your plate with a good variety of colorful produce—especially dark green, orange and red veggies, along with peas and beans. And, while fresh, in-season choices are delicious, frozen and canned varieties are just as nutritious—simply go with lower-sodium canned veggies."


Start your plate half full

The first things you should put on your plate are fruits and vegetables. Fill one half of your plate with a good variety of colorful produce—especially dark green, orange and red veggies, along with peas and beans. And, while fresh, in-season choices are delicious, frozen and canned varieties are just as nutritious—simply go with lower-sodium canned veggies. Fruit makes a great addition to snacks and meals. Choose fresh, dried or frozen fruit, or canned varieties in 100 percent juice or water to keep away from added sugar.

Make half your grains whole

Try to choose 100 percent whole-grain foods like breads, crackers, cereals, brown rice and pasta. Cereals rich in fiber will also help keep you regular.

Choose lower fat dairy

Don’t leave out the dairy because of fears of saturated fat. As we age, we need more calcium and vitamin D to keep our bones strong and healthy. Aim for three servings of nonfat or reduced-fat dairy each day, such as yogurt, milk or cheese. And if lactose bothers you, choose lactose-free milk or plant-based milks fortified with calcium.

Enjoy a variety of proteins

Try to choose a variety of protein sources every week, such as lean meats, poultry, seafood, eggs, nuts, beans and seeds.

Cut out the junk

Read labels on packaged foods to compare the amount of added salt, and choose those with less sodium when possible. When cooking from scratch, season food with herbs and spices instead of extra salt. Processed foods and other sources of saturated fat should be “sometime foods,” rather than everyday choices. Keep pizza, sausage, hotdogs and desserts for special occasions, rather than part of the daily menu. When cooking meals, use healthy, plant-based oils instead of solid fats. Cut back on added sugars by drinking water instead of sodas and other sugary drinks. Choose fruit for dessert more often, rather than sugar-laden cakes, cookies or pastries.

Enjoy your food more (but eat less)

As we get older, we don’t need as many calories as we did in our younger years. Use a smaller plate, bowl or glass to help you feel satiated without overindulging. Dine out less often, and make home-cooked meals a priority so you can control what goes into your food. When you do go out, look for menu choices that are lower in calories and higher in fruits, vegetables and whole grains. And, as restaurant portions are often huge, consider sharing a meal or boxing up half to eat the next day. Keep a daily food log to better monitor what you eat.

Make exercise enjoyable

Choose the types of physical activity you enjoy, and engage in exercise as you’re able. Every little bit of activity adds up, and the benefits to your health will build as you increase your activity over time. If you haven’t been active in some time, you can start slow and easy with a few minutes of walking. As you get stronger, you can increase your activity gradually.

Take dietary needs into account

If you have a food allergy or other special dietary needs, consult a registered dietitian or nutritionist to help you put together a personalized eating plan.