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littlekori's avatar

How can I eat healthy?

Asked by littlekori (676 points ) January 3rd, 2011

Being a teenage girl, I don’t have to much control over what I eat, since I live with my parents. I wouldn’t say we eat unhealthy, but I want to eat healthier, what is the best way to do that? What should I be eating? And how much and many times a day? Also how much should I be drinking? Any advice would be helpful(:

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29 Answers

SJA813's avatar

I suppose you could start by not drinking any soda or the like. Stick with water and the other good liquids.

I’m sure your parents would not have a problem with that…I’d think.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

The first step is knowing what’s in the things you’re eating. Do you know how to read the labels on food?

littlekori's avatar

@SJA813 I never drink soday(: so i guess I’m good there!
@Adirondackwannabe, yes I do know how to.

nikipedia's avatar

Can you suggest to your parents that you start visiting your local farmer’s market together? It could be a fun outing, and a good way to make sure that you’re incorporating lots of fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables into your diets.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@littlekori Definately hit the farmers markets. Also, maybe do some of the food shopping with whoever does it now and pick out the healthier brands. Avoid processed foods and limit ground meats as much as possible. And learn to cook so you can make healthier meals. I use herbs and spices on lieu of salt. Pepper is ok, it’s loaded with antioxidants.

iamthemob's avatar

I think that @SJA813 has given perhaps the best basic solution – but know, @littlekori, it’s not just about not drinking soda. My new years resolution is giving up anything bottled and stick to tap water.

Juices may seem like a good idea – but often the calories and sugar you get from them are pretty mind-boggling. It’s best to focus on getting nutrition from food, and hydration from water (tap) only.

gailcalled's avatar

Eat real foods, eat mostly plants, eat what is grown locally.

Fresh vegetables, fruits, complex grains (steel cut oats, whole wheat, brown rice, whole wheat pasta), low-fat dairy, some eggs and cheese if you are slim.

Use meat as a condiment. Eat some fish and chicken.

Use dessert as a rare treat.

ChocolateReigns's avatar

@iamthemob Bottled juices that you get from the store are one of two things: (a) sweetened (either artificially or with sugar) or (b) extremely expensive! So, @littlekori, I would stick with eating the actual orange in stead of buying orange juice.

marinelife's avatar

Eat five servings of fruits and vegetables a day.

Watch your portions. Get luncheon size plates and use those instead of dinner plates.

Eat whole grains. Get whole wheat bread that does not have sugar in it.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@marinelife GA. Portion size is critical. People tend to eat more with larger plates. Also, try to take smaller portions of the high calory foods and larger portions of the healthier foods.

Coloma's avatar

Yep, portion control is EVERYTHING, along with minimal processed foods, sugar and fat.

iamthemob's avatar

I disagree with portion control arguments. Portion control is a dieting tool, and not a health tool. Simply being overweight is not a health problem if you’re eating properly, and I think that the idea of controlling how much we eat is a dangerous one, and should be a last resort.

However, drawing from that, portion control becomes moot if you actually eat 5 or 6 “meals” a day. When you start to feel hungry, it means that your body is telling you something is wrong. Your body has started to enter a starvation mode where it is concerned with storing rather than burning calories, and your metabolism slows.

If you eat more consistently, you’re body is always burning fuel – it’s more efficient. Good dense foods like almonds are something you can carry with you to ensure this is happening.

nikipedia's avatar

@iamthemob: Why do you think portion control isn’t a health tool? Surely you are familiar with evidence that American portions are outrageously large?

Coloma's avatar

@iamthemob

I agree with frequent small meals for optimum energy, but…portion control IS important as well.

This is an issue for many and one of the causes of overweight.

iamthemob's avatar

@nikipedia – Absolutely – the clear example is fast food. In terms of calories, if you get an adult meal at McDonalds or Burger King, what you’re getting is actually meant as a family portion. An adult portion is actually a kids meal.

Restaurants aren’t much better. But the problem isn’t really how much you eat at one sitting – it’s the fact that we delay eating until certain parts of the day. When you aren’t hungry, you order smaller – a salad, an appetizer.

So it’s not about portions at all if you’re eating frequently. And also, eating large portions of things that are good for you doesn’t make you unhealthy – it makes you gain weight, perhaps.

This is the problem I have (to @Coloma‘s comment as well). The OP asks about eating in a healthy manner. Weight is an indicator of health only so much as it involves other cofactors. Portion control is about weight control and not health in a vacuum. Therefore, talking about portion control is important only when someone is eating well, and health problems are due only to excess weight. Maintaining a healthy weight through portion control as an initial manner does little to control health issues – it’s more about the external aspects of “looking healthy.”

My problem with portion control is that it’s about the vanity of health more than internal health. It’s not something to be ignored – but if you’re eating right it’s (1) unnecessary and (2) if necessary, down on the list of priorities.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

You absolutely can do a lot – for example, you can express to your parents that you want to eat healthier – you can print out an article and tell them your school gave them out and that all parents should read up – parents love to be guilt tripped like that, it works.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

I’m also a big fan of Michael Pollan’s last rule: Break the Rules Once in a While. Don’t try to completely eliminate the not so healthy foods from your diet. I love pizza, burgers, dessert, sweets,etc. I just have them once in awhile.

Coloma's avatar

@iamthemob

I agree with the ‘health’ part of the question, but I do not agree with the ‘vanity’ part.

One serving of mashed potatoes is healthier than 5, and vanity has nothing to do with it.

Over eating makes one feel unhealthy, bloated, lethargic, blase. That is health related.

iamthemob's avatar

@Coloma

You’re misinterpreting what I’m saying.

(1) Portion control is an important part of healthy eating.

(2) It is not healthy to wait until you’re hungry to eat.

(3) If you eat more often, you will not get hungry as often.

(4) We eat more than we should when we are hungry.

(5) We eat the appropriate amount when we are not.

(6) If we eat more often, then we will eat appropriate portions.

(7) Portion control is moot if we are eating properly.

That’s it – in many ways, portion control is mutually exclusive from proper eating as portions are regulated by your system (i.e., your body tells you to stop when you should, your eyes are actually the size of your stomach, etc.) when you are eating as often as you should.

I think it’s potentially harmful to argue for portion control as an initial concern of healthy eating, in the same way that I think arguing calorie intake is potentially harmful. For instance, if we argue that lowering your calorie intake is important for health, it’s a bogus statement if the person is eating around the appropriate number of calories. It also shifts focus to the amount rather than the content or process of eating.

Therefore, when we discuss how people should change the way that they eat, it is important to get them eating more often – the 5 or 6 meals a day. Combining that with portion control is unnecessary, as the will you would need to control your portions become unnecessary.

But, I think you’re right in the sense that it’s important to note that what most people think of as a portion is not a portion. So, if we say that one should start by, let’s say, ensuring that their first meal of the day is on a salad plate as opposed to a dinner plate…portion control can be the impetus to ensuring that people start eating more often, knowing that they only had a smaller portion to begin with.

Dutchess_III's avatar

If you’re hungry, go for food, not cookies and potato chips.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Oh, and, also, eat about ½ of what you think you want to eat, wait 15 minutes and if you’re still hungry, go get the other half. Like, I was really hungry, so I cooked an English Muffin. I felt like I could eat two of them, but I only cooked one. However, just the one was enough as it turns out BUT if I’d cooked them both I would have eaten them both, which is calories X2, for no reason.

Kardamom's avatar

You will definitely want to start reading labels on all processed food. Most processed food is loaded with sodium (and depending upon what the food is, fat and sugar too.)

A healthy diet should have somewhere between 1200 and 1800 mgs of sodium per day. The average American diet has 10 to 20 times that much! So one of the first things to do is start looking at the nutrition information on the packages (cans, bottles, boxes, pouches etc.) The sodium is listed per serving (not for the entire contents of the package). So you have to figure out how much a serving is (which will be listed also).

A lot of people just start eating without any regard to the per serving size. So if you start out with a per serving size of 1 teaspoon of mustard, for example, which may have 90 mgs of sodium, if you double or triple or quadruple that 1 teaspoon serving size, you will be multiplying the amount of sodium! Also, you need to use real measuring spoons and cups to be sure you are only getting the true amount of the serving size. Your regular spoons that you eat cereal with are probably not true “teaspoons” or “tablespoons.”

So whenever you eat a processed food, you need to be aware of the serving size and then start getting used to adding up the amount of sodium (and other contents like sugar and fat) and trying to keep the amount within the healthy range. So if you eat a sandwich, you have to account for the entire amount of sodium that is in the bread, the mustard, the mayonaise, the cheese, the pickles etc. and add up those amounts. If you use more than the serving size, you have to keep adding more miligrams to your daily total.

I’ve found it helpful to try to find foods that have a low sodium content (per serving) in the first place. So that would be around 140 mgs. And look for products that say low sodium on the label (or no salt added). But you still have to check the actual per serving size.

It is much more difficult to control your intake of sodium, fat and sugar when you eat at a restaurant, but most restaurants now offer a nutrition list if you ask for it. You will be shocked at how much of these items are in all processed and restaurant foods, but when you start reading labels on a regular basis, you will get to know which foods are better than others.

You should aim to eat a more plant based diet. Eat fruits and vegetables with every meal. Add un-salted nuts (if you are not allergic to them) daily. Like some of the others have said, limit your meat consumption. Meat should only be a small side portion and not the main dish. If you can, try eating meat-less meals once a week and then add more meat-less days to your week once you get used to not eating meat.

As a teenager, you need to make sure that you get enough calcium, but get it through low and non-fat dairy products instead of full fat dairy products. Good sources are low or non-fat milk, cheese, yogurt. Many other non-dairy foods contain calcium such as dark green leafy vegetables and tofu. Here is an article all about calcium (where to find it and how much you need) here

You want to drink water and plain (unsweetened) brewed black and green teas (preferably without caffeine) which are loaded with healthy anti-oxidants (which are good to keep your cells intact and functioning properly) and occasionally you can drink some juices like orange and cranberry, but you don’t want to drink them everyday because they do have a lot of sugar. Only drink 100% juice (which it will clearly say on the label). Some drinks appear to be “juice” but they are really nothing more than sugar water with a juice flavor added. Low or non-fat milk and yogurt drinks are good too. Stay away from soda and Kool-aid and other sugary drinks.

It might be a good idea to learn to cook too. Learning to cook really changed my ideas about what things to eat and where food comes from and how different cooking methods can be much more healthy than other methods.

If your family currently eats butter or regular margarine, you might want to switch to one of the new “healthier” style margarines, that contain no cholesterol or trans fats (2 other ingredients to watch out for in foods) The one that I use is called Smart Balance and I think it tastes great.

Sometimes, when you start adding new foods into your diet, you may have to taste them 2 to 10 times before you acquire a taste for them. So if you don’t like something right away, keep tasting it (maybe with a different method of preparation) and then hopefully you will end up adding a whole bunch of new foods to your diet. I used to hate mushrooms and Brussels sprouts, but I kept trying them out and now I love them.

You will also want to make sure you are getting enough fiber in your diet. Most Americans don’t get anywhere near the recommended 20 to 35 grams per day. Adding fruits and vegetables and whole grains into your diet will help with this. When you get a little older (like into your 30’s and 40’s) or if you already have some problems with constipation, you also might want to add a fiber supplement like Bob’s Red Mill Ground Flax Meal (2 tablespoons daily, keep refrigerated) or Trader Joe’s Psyllium Husk (1 heaping teaspoon daily, keep in a cool dry place) or Metamucil Just make sure you drink lots of water when you take these supplements.

Try different methods of cooking (or preparations at restaurant) so instead of having deep fried chicken, make your chicken grilled. Instead of having a breading on the outside of your chicken, have it without breading and without the skin. Eat a baked potato with non-fat plain yogurt and some chopped green onions, or salsa instead of eating French fries. Have a turkey sandwich (with lettuce and tomato, hold the mayo and cheese) instead of a cheeseburger. When you order a salad or anything with a dressing or sauce, get it on the side so you can limit the amount. Switch to oil and vinegar dressings instead of cheese and mayo and sour cream based dressings. Learn to use marinades, herbs and spices and pepper and salsas and vinegars and fruit juices to give flavor to foods instead of using salt and butter and mayonaise.

If you’re not already eating these foods, here are some nutritional powerhouses to add: tofu, sweet potatoes, kale and other leafy greans, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, lettuces (except iceberg which has almost no nutrients and not much fiber) carrots, beets, Brussels sprouts, rutabagas, turnips, radishes, mushrooms, un-salted nuts, peppers (from sweet to hot) beans (of all kinds), whole grains (whole wheat bread, quinoa, bulgur, brown rice, oatmeal, un-salted popcorn, barley, wheat berries, cornmeal) tomatoes, apples, pears, berries (of all kinds including cranberries) oranges, pineapple, mangoes, cherries (especially dried) and avocados. And take a multi-vitamin for your age and sex. PM me if you want any recipes. :- )

YARNLADY's avatar

Make up some menus for your family that include a lot of fruits and vegetables. Offer to help with the grocery shopping, and follow your shopping list.

Kardamom's avatar

Yes! Like @YARNLADY said, making up weekly or monthly menus and then shopping for those healthy items (only) makes eating healthier a lot easier. You can save time and money by creating healthy menus that use a lot of the same items over and over, so you aren’t buying a bunch of one thing that you will only use a little bit of.

For example if you are interested in trying kale, then make a soup with kale, use kale in some enchiladas, make a raw kale salad and make kale chips.

gameeboya's avatar

dont eat out, dont drink soda and try not to drink diet it can mess with your stomach, try to take a jog every day nothing big just to break a sweat, and when you make your own food realize what ever you put in will be in the final creations cal. count so go easy on oils and fats, and finally if it sound to good like ex. a triple chocolate heart explosion ice cream cake it’s going to fill you with almost a days worth of caliories and then what your going to starve? no you will eat more and then you have eaten way to much for that day.

emeraldisles's avatar

Look up healthy recipes online and in magazines and make them yourself. It’s better to cook your own food/prepare your own food because you can control what’s going into them not some fast food place that likes to fatten things up. Good luck.

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