Table of contents:
Sound Nutrition Principles
Foods to Avoid
Don’t Worry, Be Happy
Are you struggling with a consistent diet? Would you love to cook healthy meals for your family but you’re confused about nutrition or you’re just too busy to eat healthy?
Do you feel like you could have more energy? Are you not really satisfied with your waistline and would you happily drop a couple of sizes?
These 101 healthy eating tips are here to help. They are not meant to overwhelm you, and here is what you can do: simply pick 3 of them that resonate with you the most and that you think will have the highest impact on your health or your weight.
Apply them. Then, come back and pick another set of 3, and so on. Within just a few weeks or months, you’ll have great healthy eating habits that you can stick to.
1. Eat like an omnivore
We need a variety of nutrients in order to be really healthy. That’s why most of us need to eat a variety of foods from plants, animals and fungi. Variety is one of the 3 principles of a healthy diet.
2. Eat whole foods
We have evolved to eat whole foods from both plants and animals. But we’ve not evolved to eat tons of sugar, processed fats and refined grains. Our body is designed to assimilate whole foods, not highly processed foods.
3. Eat according to your own metabolism
Understanding how your body works and processes food is key. We don’t all have the same metabolism, and we don’t all process and store carbohydrates and fats exactly the same way. We need to eat the foods we’ve been designed to eat according to our own genes and our own metabolism. This is one of the 3 principles of a healthy diet.
4. Think nutrients, not calories
Foods are providing both energy and nutrition. Focusing on the nutrients will help you make the right choices of foods that provide your body with everything it needs to function in an optimal way.
5. Listen to your body
If you feel bad, bloated, nauseous or asleep after eating, listen to your body, and adapt your diet accordingly. If you feel good and energized after eating certain foods, keep them on the menu!
6. Become a food detective
In order for you to make the right food choices, you need to read labels and look at where your food comes from. In our modern world, it’s a must and not a luxury. A great website that will help you become a food detective is FoodBabe.
Sound Nutrition Principles
7. Eat real food
Real food is food that’s as close as possible from its natural state. Carrots, eggs, chicken, spinach, rice, apples are real food. High fructose corn syrup, fake butter, hydrogenated soybean oil or powdered milk are not.
8. Eat foods that are true to their name
A blueberry muffin that doesn’t contain any blueberry, but sugars, cellulose gum, hydrogenated oils and Blue #2 is not the type of foods you’d enjoy. Look at the labels!
9. Eat plants, especially leaves
Green leaves provide plenty of vitamins and minerals, and they should be consumed very day. When I lived in China, I was bewildered by the enormous variety of leafy green vegetables, which are consumed for lunch and dinner. Eat your greens!
10. Eat foods made with ingredients that you can imagine or picture
“Grade A full fat milk”, I’m sure you can picture this: it’s milk. “Modified cornstarch” is a lot harder to imagine, and “acesulfame potassium”, I’m sure you definitely can’t picture it (by the way, it’s aspartame).
11. Eat whole animal foods: lean meat, fat, gelatinous cuts, organ meats
If you eat animal foods, eat them whole. Don’t throw egg yolks away (cholesterol in eggs will not kill you), and don’t despise cheap cuts or organ meats; they are often the ones that contain the most nutrients.
12. Eat the rainbow: colorful foods from plants
Eating vegetables and fruits of different colors is a great way to make sure you’ll get plenty of different nutrients that your body needs. This is especially true of anti-oxidants.
13. Eat some raw foods every day
Raw foods are rich in enzymes because they have not been cooked (the heat destroys enzymes). And enzymes help digestion and make the pancreas’s job easier.
14. Eat raw foods from both plants and animals
While eating raw foods from plants is a great idea, consuming raw egg yolk (in your oatmeal, rice or smoothies), rare steaks, and marinated or raw salmon will provide your body with a lot of healthy fats and a much larger quantity of enzymes. In this case, do make sure to apply #15 below, too.
15. Eat animal foods from naturally raised animals
As much as possible, eat eggs, meat, poultry and dairy products that come from animals that have been fed grass, non GMO corn (for poultry), have not been poisoned with the pesticides from their food, hormones or antibiotics, and have not been raised in confinement. The label organic can be a guarantee of the former but not always the latter.
16. Eat plenty of vegetables
Buy a few pounds of veggies per person each week and you’ll never have to ask yourself what to make for dinner. Any fish, meat or grain can be paired with a large portion of boiled or steamed veggies seasoned with butter, olive oil, spices and herbs.
17. Eat fish or seafood at least twice a week
Fish, seafood, shellfish contain great fats and nutrients; they should be on the menu at least twice a week. If you’re on a tight budget, a small piece is better than nothing.
18. Eat and drink full fat dairy products
Full fat dairy is a whole food and should be consumed whole. Full fat milk contains only 3.5% fat. For a 7 oz. serving (200 ml) that’s 63 calories. Much less than a tablespoon of olive oil (135 calories). And if you are concerned about saturated fat, read this.
19. Eat minimally processed, natural fats: butter, avocados, olive oil, coconut oil, etc.
The healthiest fats are the ones that are closest to their natural state. For oils, it means they will be cold-pressed, stored in dark bottles and in a cool place. You’ll find a great guide on healthy fats here.
20. Eat little oily fishes
Sardines, anchovies, herrings, mackerel are the ones that are at the beginning of the food chain and are the least contaminated. They are also the ones that contain the highest amount of beneficial omega3 fatty acids that our bodies need. Here is how you can prepare sardines, mackerel and anchovies.
21. Get proteins from animals but also from vegetables, legumes, grains and nuts
Protein are the building blocks of our body; they are very important. The highest quality protein come from animal foods because they contain all the amino-acids our body needs. But a truly healthy diet will also provide protein from plants. Try to get about half your protein from vegetables, legumes, grains and nuts. This will allow your diet to be varied and diversified, which will nourish your body with more nutrients.
22. Eat some fresh fruit
Fruit contain plenty of vitamins, fiber, and other nutrients. But they also contain lots of sugar. They contain fructose, which is a sugar that gets transformed into fat in our body. That’s why eating some, and not too much, fruit is a great idea.
23. Drink freshly squeezed fruit juices in moderation
Fruit juices are very common but you should know that they are very high in sugar, because it takes several pieces of fruit to get one glass of juice. They can cause spikes in blood sugar very easily. That’s why they should be considered as treats and consumed in moderation.
24. Eat new kinds of grains and seeds: brown rice, barley, oats, millet, quinoa, buckwheat
Modern wheat contains a lot more gluten than ancient wheat, and the protein balance has been modified through hybridization, which has several health consequences. Diversifying your grain consumption is a great way to enjoy the health benefits of whole grains while introducing diversity in your diet.
25. Eat a nutritious breakfast that’s low in sugar
Breakfast should not be skipped (except if you’re really not hungry) and should contain protein and healthy fats as a bare minimum. This will nourish your body and prevent mid-morning slumps in blood sugar.
26. Soak and ferment legumes and whole grains before cooking
Legumes and whole grains contain substances called anti-nutrients because they prevent the absorption of other nutrients such as calcium. Soaking them prior to cooking will remove the largest part of these substances.
27. Eat sweet foods that you find in nature
If you have a sweet tooth, instead of eating processed sweet foods, do your best to eat natural ones such as fruits, dried fruits and raw honey.
28. Salt your food yourself
Processed foods contain large amounts of salt, which throws our sodium/potassium equilibrium off balance. Cook your own food and salt it yourself with unrefined sea salt.
29. Drink water between meals, but not with your meals
Drinking water between meals allows the body to eliminate toxic substances and to function in an optimal way. Drink a large glass of water 30 minutes before each meal.
30. Treat the officially recommended daily intake of nutrients as a very rough guideline
As a nutritionist with a dietician training, I know firsthand that officially recommended daily intake of nutrients are usually the bare minimum of what we need. This is especially true of vitamins. You should usually aim at getting more of what’s recommended, through real food, and not supplements.
Foods to Avoid
I’m not a big fan of dichotomous thinking, “good and bad” foods, etc., but let’s be realistic: there are foods that have nothing good for our health (let alone our waistline) and you’ll do yourself a huge favor by avoiding them altogether.
31. Don’t eat “edible food-like substances”
I love this phrase by Michael Pollan because it tells everything about how the food industry is manufacturing products that are sold as edible, look like food, but are not real food at all.
32. Avoid highly processed foods and beverages like the plague
There are foods that contain up to 30 unhealthy, chemical ingredients and zero healthy ingredient. Remember that life is short and avoid them.
33. Avoid foods containing ingredients that no ordinary person would keep in the pantry
All the weird names that you can read on food labels are usually chemicals that you would never cook with. Real food contains ingredients that you know and that you would be able to buy individually if you’d want to.
34. Avoid foods that contain HFCS (High Fructose Corn Syrup)
High Fructose Corn Syrup is transformed into fat in your body, and it also poses a number of other health issues.
35. Avoid foods that contain MSG (Monosodium Glutamate)
While research has shown that we have a 5th flavor, called umami, and that Monosodium Glutamate occurs naturally in some foods like shitake mushrooms, our body is not meant to eat synthetic MSG, and certainly not in high quantities.
36. Avoid highly processed fats
Fats that have been altered by heat or high pressure can have very detrimental effects on our health. That’s why all hydrogenated, highly processed fats or fried foods should be avoided.
37. Avoid foods that contain artificial sweeteners
Artificial sweeteners were designed to be a low-calorie substitute for sugar. But they are actually a lot worse than sugar for many of them. Sucralose and aspartame are the ones you’ll want to avoid at all costs.
38. Avoid foods that have sugar in the top 3 ingredients
When you see chocolate or fruit juice, you think you know what you’re buying, right? But look at the label and you’ll often see that the first ingredient is not chocolate or fruit, but sugar. Stay away from these products, and buy the real thing.
39. Avoid foods that contain ingredients whose name you cannot pronounce
If you can’t pronounce it, you’re usually dealing with some chemical that your body doesn’t know and doesn’t need.
40. Avoid foods that make health claims
If a manufacturer needs to add a health claim to a product, it almost always means that the product is NOT good for your health in the first place. An egg from caged hens fed with low-quality pesticide-laden grains and hormones is not healthy, even if omega3s have been added to the feed.
41. Avoid fake foods
Fake butter, fake cheese, cream substitute, fake meat…if it’s fake, it ain’t real, and you don’t want to be eating these chemical concoctions coming straight from a laboratory.
42. Avoid foods that are advertised on TV
Advertising on TV is very expensive; if food industry can afford to advertise cereals and other foods on TV, it means you the consumer are paying for it, and the cost of manufacturing of the food has to be very low, which is never a sign of quality.
43. Avoid yellowish and brownish foods
These are the foods that don’t have a real, bright color but are somewhere between yellow and brown, because they are full of chemicals and artificial colors: processed cheese, margarine, fries, processed cookies, etc.
44. Avoid all foods that are advertised as low-fat, non-fat, or lite/light
First, these foods don’t contain the fats that your body needs in order to absorb fat-soluble vitamins. And most importantly, they contain substances that can be detrimental for your health, such as sugar, artificial flavors and artificial sweeteners.
45. Avoid low-fat dairy products
Picture yourself without any fat at all. Ugly, right? Manufacturers need to add other substances to milk when they remove the fat. And what they usually add is powdered milk, which contains oxidized cholesterol and may harm the liver.
46. Avoid highly pasteurized and homogenized dairy products
Dairy products that have been submitted to high heat and homogenized will go bad after a while in your fridge; they are not the real thing and are not good for you.
47. Don’t eat cereals that change the color of the milk
If the cereals that you buy changes the color of the milk, it means it contains artificial colors, which have been proven to be hazardous for health, especially for children.
48. Don’t eat Russet Burbank potatoes
Russet Burbank potatoes have been hybridized so they can make long fries for McDonald’s and other fast food chains. They are the potatoes that retain the highest quantities of pesticides. You definitely want to stay away from them.
49. Avoid foods that have more than 5 ingredients
A food that has more than 5 ingredients is highly processed and will invariably contain ingredients that are not good for you.
50. Avoid foods that contain soy except if it’s traditionally fermented soy
Soy contains protein and phytochemicals, but it also contains substances that can prevent mineral absorption, cause thyroid issues and disrupt hormones. If you want to eat soy foods, make sure you only eat fermented products, and in moderation. You’ll learn more in this video.
51. Avoid produce that has been spread with chemical fertilizers and pesticides
Chemical fertilizers and pesticides are still present in the vegetables and fruit you eat, and over a lifetime, in spite of what the industry would like us to believe, it can add up and not be eliminated by the body. They can cause cancer and other health issues.
52. Don’t eat foods with molds on them
Fermented foods are great for our health, as we’ll see below, but molds are fungi that we don’t want to be eating. You’ll want to cut a piece of the food where you find the molds, or throw away the item if in doubt.
53. Don’t stuff yourself with supplements, they may be harmful
Supplements can be great and should always be taken carefully, preferably on prescription. Lots of supplements can cause undesirable side-effects and interactions in your body, and they can’t be a substitute for a healthy diet.
54. Stay out of the middle aisles of the supermarket
The healthiest items in a supermarket are usually found in the peripheral aisles; this is where you want to be doing your food shopping as much as possible.
55. Buy food at the farmer’s market
If you can have access to a farmer’s market, make it your weekly shopping target. You’ll get great quality food and you’ll build relationships and make friends.
56. Don’t buy food that arrives through your car window
Most fast food places spend money to get you to the drive-thru so they can sell you more soda pops and a larger order of fries. This is where they make their profit. Food that arrives through your car window is invariably highly processed and not good for your health and your waistline.
57. Buy meat, eggs and dairy from animals that have been fed and treated well
It’s similar to #15 above, but worth repeating: try to buy eggs, meat, poultry and dairy products from animals that have been fed grass, have not been poisoned with the pesticides from their food, hormones or antibiotics, and have not been raised in confinement. If money is tight, choose quality over quantity. It’s better to eat 3 oz of really good beef than 6 oz of low-quality meat.
58. Buy naturally grown produce and grains from healthy soil
It’s much better for your health if you can buy produce and grains that have been growth without chemicals in a healthy soil: they will contain more minerals and vitamins. They may be more expensive, but they’ll be more nutritious, less harmful, and most of the time they’ll also taste much better.
59. Get rid of your commercial table salt and buy unrefined sea salt
Here is exactly why you want to stop buying table salt: commercial table salt undergoes a high-temperature chemical process that removes magnesium salts and trace minerals from natural sea salt. Salt is kept dry through additives such as aluminum; potassium iodide, which can be toxic, is added to replace the natural iodine salts.
60. Eat at a table
Eating at a table will ensure you control portions, you eat mindfully and you enjoy a meal without the stress of external stimulations.
61. Don’t eat in front of the TV
Eating in front of a screen takes mindfulness out of the equation; the result is you don’t have control over what you eat, and you will probably eat more processed foods that are unhealthy.
62. Don’t eat in your car
In the car we’ll usually eat junk food and foods that came through the window; not a great way to eat healthy.
63. Eat with your friends and your family rather than alone
Eating with others people makes meals more fun, and it also means you’ll share healthier meals that will be more balanced.
64. Make family meals if you have kids
Families who eat together are twice as likely to eat their five servings of fruits and vegetables a day as families who don’t eat together. And pre-school children who eat dinner with their family at least 5 times a week have less risk to become obese later on.
How to Keep Your Waistline in Control
65. Make 3 real meals per day, not 10 small snacks
In almost every country I’ve lived in or visited, except the U.S., people eat 3 times per day and are not snacking. Give your body time to digest and to “go hungry”, it will prevent you from over-eating, gaining weight and putting too much strain on your metabolism.
66. Eat white bread sparingly or not at all
White bread is made from refined flour, and contains energy but very few beneficial nutrients. It turns into glucose in your body and can make you gain weight over time if you consume lots of it.
67. Don’t keep foods at your office desk
Having foods in your drawer is a recipe for binging, over-eating and skipping healthy meals.
68. Don’t do your grocery shopping before meals or when you’re hungry
If you do, you’ll end up buying more than what you need, and you’ll probably add a few unhealthy items, just because you made some impulsive buys.
69. Never eat when you’re bored
Easier said than done, I know. If you’re bored, read a book, go out for a walk, play with your kids, but don’t go to the kitchen to open the fridge.
70. Don’t keep cookies, crackers, chips, chocolate, ice cream or soda in your pantry
If you do, chances are you will eat them, because, let’s face it, we have been raised with the idea that wasting is bad. If you don’t want to gain weight, you may keep a couple of treats for special occasions, but try to empty your pantry of sugary foods as much as possible.
71. Cook your junk food yourself
It will be healthier that the processed version, and it’s also a surefire way to stop eating junk food, because it’s not easy at all to prepare them all by yourself.
72. Snack on fruit and nuts instead of sugary treats
Fruit and nuts will give your body vitamins, healthy fats and fiber, which are all very important. Whereas sugary pick me ups will only give you some short term energy and a few inches to your waistline on the long term.
73. Bake, grill or broil your meals instead of frying
Frying produces free radicals, which will contribute to premature aging and degenerative diseases. Great cooking methods include baking, sautéing, steaming, grilling or broiling.
74. Stop eating when you’re 80% full
While Americans will say “I’m full”, the French say “I have eaten enough”, the Spanish say “I have eaten very well”, the Chinese say something like “I have eaten my belly’s worth”, and the Germans say “I am full / satisfied”. Traditional cultures like the Indian and the Japanese cultures say you should stop eating when you’re 80% full. I think it’s a good recommendation to follow.
75. Eat in smaller plates and drink in smaller glasses
The reason is very simple: smaller plates means you’ll control portions a lot more. It has been shown that people will invariably eat more food if the plat is larger.
76. Steer clear of fried foods, even homemade ones
As said in #73, fried foods are really bad for our health. They are best avoided; if you really can’t imagine living without French fries, make sure they belong to your occasional “treats” and are not eaten on a regular basis.
77. Eat your favorite comfort foods once a week
Comfort foods are here for a reason; they are comforting. And who doesn’t need to be comforted once in a while? I eat my comfort foods on Fridays or Saturdays. Make sure you include them in your meal plans, too.
78. Serve a good portion and don’t go back for seconds unless you’re really hungry
Sometimes we love a dish so much that we’d go for seconds, and even thirds! Before you get up and go back to the kitchen, ask yourself if you’re really hungry. If not, leftovers are great, too!
79. Kiss mayonnaise goodbye: use lemon, yogurt and mustard instead
Mayonnaise contains vegetable oils, which are not recommended neither for your health nor for your weight. A much better option is to mix 1 tsp mustard, 3 tsp lemon juice and 1 tbsp full fat yogurt.
80. Don’t eat while you are cooking
If you eat while you’re cooking and you then have your meal, you’ll end up eating more than what you need. Even 3 oz here and there can quickly add up and over a few months you’ll have gained 5 pounds.
81. Serve sauces and dressings on the side
I have a friend who pours 1 cup olive oil on her salad…and then, she eats it. It’s much better to put the dressing on the side, and make sure you don’t add more than ½ to 1 tbsp. to your own plate.
82. Don’t starve yourself to lose weight, this won’t work
Some people think they can stop eating and they’ll lose weight. That’s a very bad idea. Don’t do it!
83. Don’t fast unless you’re doing it under medical supervision
Fasting is not for everyone. If you have a metabolism that processed carbohydrates quickly, fasting is not for you. Make sure you talk to your doctor.
84. Don’t gulp down your food
Our mouth is meant for tasting but also chewing and starting to digest foods. Gulping down your food means skipping this very important step and giving all the work to your stomach.
85. Learn to love traditional foods
Traditional cultures, like the ones I grew up with, have created dishes that are very healthy and that combines many different nutrients and give the benefits of their synergistic effects. Cabbage cooked together with tomato is a traditional dish in China, Austria, India, and for good reason; research has now shown that there is a cumulative effect of their anti-cancer properties. Trust the cook!
86. Avoid skipping breakfast (unless you’re really not hungry)
Traditional wisdom as well as studies show breakfast is the most important meal of the day. A study among preschool children found consistently eating breakfast contributes to a healthy body weight. If you’re really not hungry, on the other hand, don’t force yourself to eat.
87. Chew your food well
Experts say we should masticate each mouthful between 20 and 30 times. This initiates the digestion process and makes life easier for your stomach.
88. Pay attention to how you feel when and after eating
If some foods make you feel bloated and tired, be mindful and try to avoid them next time. Listening to your body will greatly help you choose the right foods that are good for you and your body.
89. Remember that milk is a food, not a drink
Milk is a complete food that contains protein, fats and vitamins, and that should be consumed like any other food: with moderation.
90. Don’t chew gum
How many times did I hear my grand-ma say this when I was a teenager? Chewing gum sends a signal to your body that food is coming. The digestive processes like salivation and stomach acid secretion begin…but no food is actually coming. This puts a strain on your digestive system, who really doesn’t need it.
91. Eat meat on the bone and gelatinous cuts: it’s good for your joints
Remember grand-ma’s stews? They were a good idea: bone broths contain calcium and other minerals (released from the bones while cooking) and gelatinous cuts are a great source of glycosaminoglycans, a special family of molecules that help build our joints.
92. Eat wild foods whenever you can
Wild foods contain nutrients that grown foods don’t. Think about wild mushrooms, dandelions, wild berries…don’t forget to add some to your menu if you can get your hands on them!
Reach a Truly Vibrant Health with Fermented Foods
You can do all of the above. But I have found that adding some fermented foods to the diet is one of the most powerful ways to prevent disease and maintain great health.
93. Eat some fermented foods every day
Adding foods rich in enzymes to our diet is important because it will prevent our pancreas to become exhausted from producing digestive enzymes. Fermented foods also contain many beneficial bacteria that make our gut stronger and protect us against viruses and bad bacteria. Fermented foods are my secret weapon.
94. Eat real, live yogurt that contains probiotics
Most commercial yogurt is dead food. The purpose of eating yogurt is to benefit from the bacteria that it contains and this way, nourish and protect your gut. Try to find real yogurt, or here is how to make your own yogurt at home.
95. Drink homemade fermented beverages
These are wonderful for keeping the doctor away (and puts apples to shame!) and for repairing your gut naturally. Both my own family and my clients have seen tremendous results from drinking one single glass of a fermented beverage every day. You can easily prepare ginger ale or beet kvass (my kids love both of them).
96. Eat a tablespoon of sauerkraut every day
If you like it, you can make your own sauerkraut and add a tablespoon to your breakfast or your dinner. It’s also great in a sandwich. It will boost digestion and nourish your gut with lots of good bacteria.
Don’t Worry, Be Happy
97. Avoid stress as much as possible
We live in a world where Stress could well be our middle name.
The issue is that stress is very unhealthy; it can disrupt hormones and make you eat more of the wrong foods and less of the healthy ones. While it’s not easy to reduce stress, don’t let it invade your life.
98. Don’t feel guilty about that piece of chocolate cake
Negative feelings such as guilt and blame affect our health. If you want to eat sweets and cakes, eat them, and own it!
Don’t beat yourself up; enjoy them and experience the pleasure they give you.
99. Eat slowly and mindfully, without worrying
If you concentrate on your food, it will be easier to forget your worries at least during the 20-30 minutes you spend eating. And it will have a positive effect on your digestion and your mind. Associating food with worry is not good because your brain will then associate worry with food, and you may turn to food every time you worry about something.
100. Enjoy your meals and your food
Have fun, enjoy your food, be grateful, and enjoy the moment!
Food is happiness.
101. Don’t over think this. Be real.
What about you? Do you have a great healthy eating tip? Have you had great success implementing some of the ways listed in this post? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.