What Should a Healthy Diet Include?

Oftentimes when a person decides to begin eating more healthy, they often end up following a “clean eating” diet. While a “clean eating” diet focuses on fruits and vegetables, it also often creates a list of “good” and “bad” foods. When you begin to divide foods into “good” and “bad” categories, you can begin to become obsessive over your food choices and feel that you can only eat food under the “good” category. This can lead to a perfectionism mindset, confusion and frustration. It’s not your fault that you are confused about what a healthy diet actually is—there are many different, conflicting sources on the web promoting “healthy” diets.

I’m here to tell you that healthy eating is not about being perfect. A loose definition of “health” is a state of physical, mental and social well-being and not just being absent of disease. How does this apply to a healthy diet?  While a healthy diet can help reduce the risk of disease, it should not be something that causes more stress to your mental and social well-being. Here are four things that should be included in a healthy diet:

  1. It allows you to eat the foods you enjoy. Food is not only fuel for your body but is often also a source of social and emotional health.
  2. It provides you with adequate nutrients. This can easily be achieved by eating a balanced diet that includes all five food groups: fruit, vegetables, grains, protein and dairy. The only reason you should avoid a food item or a food group is if you have a diagnosed food allergy or intolerance.
  3. It has no food rules and does not separate foods into “good” and “bad” lists. All foods fit into a healthy diet. There is a time and place for fruits and vegetables, but also a time for cake and ice cream.
  4. It is sustainable for life. The best way for a diet to be sustainable for life is to implement one change at a time that works best for your lifestyle.

My mission as a registered dietitian is to help separate the facts from fiction of all the nutritional information out there, guide individuals to a healthier self by meeting them where they are at in their life and food relationship, and help repair the misguided relationship between food and health. Making changes to your diet is not as simple as buying more fruits and vegetables. In order to make it a sustainable change, it must be a behavioral change. For behavioral change to be successful, the change should be self-motivated, only complete one behavioral change at a time, have a specific plan to achieve the goal and understand that behavioral change is a process (not a quick fix).

I plan to support Ben and his clients in being their best selves by providing science-based information in regards to not only nutrition, but also for behavioral changes, mindset changes, sleep improvement, stress management, and mood and energy levels. Each of these can help make changes to your diet more sustainable for life.

Leah Freund is a registered dietitian nutritionist and online dietitian nutrition coach who aims to help self-critical women stop being stressed about food “rules”, become more empowered in their food choices and begin nourishing themselves again. In her free time, you’ll find Leah walking her dog, Zeus, sitting outside reading a book or listening to podcasts and always being up for trying new foods and beverages. Join her free Facebook group, Leah Freund Nutrition Coaching, and follow her Instagram account @leah_marie_freund for more content.

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