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Nutrition Essentials: Building a Healthy Diet Plan in the Digital Age

Building a healthy diet plan is essential whether you’re working from home or commuting to work. It’s one of the facets of chronic disease prevention. Of course, one can overly obsess over food, too. It’s best to come up with a good plan, keep it flexible, and adjust based on ongoing needs.

Cooking at Home

Cooking at home means you can control what ingredients you use, how much salt you add, and how much you fry/sautee your ingredients. It’s easier to control portion size, and it’s certainly cheaper.

When you cook at home you are also expending the calories sourcing and preparing ingredients. It’s also a meditative process (well, not for everyone, true) where you get to focus on something less serious.

I tell my patients to cook daily based on what their bodies need. Sometimes, they need food volume; other days, they need some hefty calories; and sometimes, they just need the flavors to keep them satiated.

Dining Out

Unless you live in very high-end neighborhoods where skilled chefs prepare your food, it’s likely that you are going to get something greasy and salty and sweet thrown together.

The quality of the ingredients and how they are prepared are essential. Lightly sauteed onion, for example, is quite healthy, but burnt in a tub of oil is more harmful than good.

When dining out, it’s often best to go for blander options. If you can, choose less dressing, less friend stuff, and less cheese. Fats, salt, and sugar are cheap, and they tend to give restaurant food the right mouth feel. They leave customers satiated, and that results in good reviews.

It’s easy to get an unplanned appetizer, dessert, and drink. These are not always bad, but sometimes they aren’t part of a healthy diet plan.

Consider Your Individual Dietary Needs

Hypertension? Salt doesn’t raise everyone’s blood pressure, but quite a few respond negatively to it. Carby foods also tend to raise blood pressure.

Fatty liver disease? High-density foods like creamy curries, fried foods, and carb-heavy meals are the enemy of fatty liver disease.

Obese? Obesity is a complex disease, but for most, it’s salt, carbs, and calorie density are big problems.

Inflammation? It is important to chew food properly and avoid ultra-processed foods. That often includes oils and most desserts. Fried foods, certain raw ingredients, dairy, and eggs may also cause inflammation in some.

Diabetes? Heavy meals, excess carbs, insufficient protein, and eating large portions can cause blood sugar fluctuations.

Building a Healthy Diet Plan

Cook seasonally whenever possible. Shop at the farmer’s market or check out the many great seasonal produce lists. It’s April now, so I can get oranges, garlic greens, green onions, some root vegetables, broccoli rabe, and fava beans.

Think about the stomach and mouth feel. Some people don’t care what goes in their mouths, so they just worry about the food’s makeup. Others are quite particular; they must have crunch, heat, salt, and flavors.

A good dish will have the following:

  1. carbs
  2. proteins
  3. fats
  4. flavor
  5. texture

Carbs can be quinoa, potato wedges, rice, or corn tortillas.

Proteins might be fish, chicken, tofu, beans, or tempeh.

Fats can come from olive oil, avocado, nuts, or yogurt.

Flavor is very individual, but your body will tell you if you need more sweets or savory. Sometimes, you just need a good spicy kick, and other times, you need something cumin-y.

Texture combines something softer (boiled sweet potatoes) with something crunchy (baked potatoes.)

Your meals don’t have to include all the necessary ingredients in each meal. Plan your day out to have the most carbs in daylight when possible. This shouldn’t be a hard rule. Stay flexible; life happens.

You can play around with your healthy diet plan as long as it includes healthy options that are mostly fresh and minimally processed. A bowl of rice and kimchi is perfectly fine—you don’t need meat or high-protein ingredients in every dish.

Don’t Obsess

It’s easy to get obsessed with cooking the perfect meal or following the perfect diet plan. Do it mostly right, and you’ll be fine. Some days, it’s better to just go with the flow than force a perfect diet.

Some days, you’ll overeat; others, you might not get enough calories. Unless you have to perform at ultra-high levels, allowing some wiggle room can help keep you sane.

Canned food is fine if that’s all you have. Maybe you don’t want to eat too much bread, but that’s all there is in the fridge – prepare the healthiest way possible.

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