* This is part of a year-long weekly series called “52 Weeks to Eating better than Ever”. Click on the side bar for more information and to read the previous essays.
If you only did this one thing, focusing on fruits and vegetables as your primary target, you would be much healthier in the long run. Just focusing on eating those two things gives you a simple way to structure your meals and approach each meal.
Think about this simple plan when you get hungry, or better yet when you’re planning meals or at the store. When you start thinking about your next meal, just immediately begin to think about fruits and vegetables, because they should make up most the plate. Size-wise your plate should contain quite a bit, usually ½ to ¾, of fruits and vegetables.
Let’s say you’re craving a hamburger…ok, there’s nothing wrong with that. But take your mind to what you’ll have with it. A salad with tomatoes, onions, and carrots, topped with some oil and vinegar. Maybe a light Cole slaw too, but no fries. You can even have the bun. Just avoid the fries and it’s a major win for most people. Now do it repeatedly.
Let’s say you’re craving pizza. Ok, one large piece or two small ones won’t hurt you. But immediately think. Ok, I’m going to have pizza, but with extra sauce and lots of vegetables and no fatty meat.
You want eggs and bacon on Sunday morning? Ok, fine, nothing wrong with that. But add spinach, avocado, and salsa to the mix, and skip the biscuits. Skip the grits. Have some whole-wheat toast and / or an apple. Good decisions.
See how this adds up? Eating well is not about depriving yourself of things you like. It’s about making wise decisions based on what’s good for you.
It’s passé for gurus, health writers, and fitness people to think they have some sort of special esoteric secret food knowledge, but taking the USDA advice and eating like this is as simple and effective as it gets. Notice how the USDA “MyPlate” advice correlates to what I’m saying. Your plate should be ½ fruits and vegetables, at least.
By following this one simple tip, covering half or more of your plate with fruits and veggies, you’ll:
- Have a very simple formula to follow.
- Eat fewer calories, losing or maintaining your body weight.
- Get more fiber and feel fuller.
- Take in more vitamins, phytonutrients, and water.
- Boost your immune system and have more energy.
- Eat less junk food and have fewer blood sugar crashes.
If you compare this simple strategy to eating typical foods like pizza, sweet cereals, shakes, and cakes, hamburgers with fries, and heavy pastas, there is no comparison. Keep it simple, always think about filling your plate ½- ¾ with fruits and vegetables. I know there are various theories about paleo, Mediterranean, ketogenic, and low sugar diets, and there may even be some merit to some of them. But study after study, and case after case points to healthier long-term outcomes and less disease for diets built around fruits and vegetables.
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