The Healthy Living Diet for Life

By Val Silver

healthy foods for a healthy life

What is a healthy living diet? It is an easy healthy eating plan you can live with and enjoy for life. It is not just about eating healthy foods, but how and why you eat. It is not about this or that diet plan. Rather, it is a commonsense approach that meets the nutritional needs of many of us. It is easily tweaked for those who need to adhere to a more specialized diet. 

Wouldn't it be great to put your food issues aside and make peace with your plate?

The healthy living diet will help you do that.  

In addition to what to eat, you will also learn easy healthy eating habits and food preparation tips you can live with and feel good about. If you have pounds to lose, you may find that this plan makes it almost effortless for you to release excess weight and keep it off over time. 

Note: The following healthy living diet tips are for informational purposes only. Adjust your food or nutrient intake to suit your special health needs. Always consult your doctor before making changes to your prescribed eating plan.

The Best Diet for Healthy Living

In 2020, the U.S News and World Report rated the Mediterranean Diet best overall, the easiest to follow, and the best diet for diabetes, eating plant-based, and for healthy eating. It has been in the number one position for three years. People living in Mediterranean countries enjoy longer lives and lower rates of memory loss, cancer, diabetes, and obesity than those living in other western countries. Still, a number of doctors and nutritionists agree and disagree with this rating. 

In the Mediterranean region, long, leisurely meals including lots of beans and green vegetables along with moderate amounts of fish, seafood, whole grains, pasta, nuts, unpasteurized cheese, and olive oil are often enjoyed with family and friends. Shoppers walk or cycle to the market on a daily basis to buy fresh food for their meals.

Foods on the Healthy Living Diet 

Advice about which foods to eat, when, where, how and why vary as widely as the experts sharing their advice. I've done my best to include common-sense principles that have the most support at this time. Having said that, listen to your body and make choices based on what makes you feel vibrant and healthy in body and mind (addictive cravings aside). 

Eat a wide variety of food from the following categories to maximize nutrients and reduce your chances of developing sensitivities. Most people eat the same foods over and over in different forms. And these are often most problematic for many. Wheat, corn, soy, dairy, sugar and eggs are in many foods and are eaten at most meals. 

Plant-based foods

Eat healthy plant foods in a rainbow of colors.

Plant foods form the foundation of the healthy living diet. Aim to fill at least half your plate with vegetables, pulses and legumes along with a complement of fruit, seeds, nuts and whole grains.

The natural color of food indicates some of the nutrients it contains.

For example, orange foods are a rich source of antioxidant carotenoids such as beta-carotene which converts to Vitamin A in your intestines.  Purple foods contain resveratol and lutein. Dark green foods contain lots of alkalizing, oxygenating, blood building chlorophyll. Red tomatoes, especially when cooked, are a rich source of cancer-fighting lycopene.

Aim for five to nine servings of vegetables and fruit a day on the healthy living diet. Eat more vegetables, than fruit. Pile your plate high so you fill up and get lots of micro-nutrients. 

  • Favor green vegetables. Green food drinks are a great way to close the gap if you don't eat enough greens. Toss a handful of kale or spinach into a smoothie. You probably won't even taste it. 
  • Eat at least 50% of your fruits and vegetables raw if your digestion can handle it. Raw doesn't mean cold. Some vegetables are best cooked like tomatoes and broccoli and mushrooms. Denser greens like kale or seaweed can be dehydrated.
  • Eat whole fruits and berries with the skin on if edible. Whole fruit is an important source of vitamins, minerals and plant chemicals that are needed for good health. It is healthier than over-processed juice which has little value and is therefore considered a junk food. Stick mainly with low-glycemic fruits like grapefruit if you are diabetic or want to lose weight. 
  • Many super foods are colorful foods. Eat one or more at every meal and for snacks, too. 
  • Have a few spoonfuls of cultured vegetables with a meal. Fermented foods are rich in probiotics and aid digestion. If you like sauerkraut, buy the refrigerated kind. Also try cultured beets, radishes, carrots available in some health food stores. You may have to make your own. Easy.
  • For fun, choose a different fruit or vegetable to try on every shopping trip. You just may discover some new favorites.

Eat high-fiber complex carbohydrate plant foods.

Humans ate lower carbohydrate diets in their hunting and gathering days. In summer, when fruits and berries were available, the sugar was quickly burned off by lots of activity. The same principle is useful today. Active people can consume more carbohydrates without storing them as fat. Sedentary people need much less.  

Fiber supports the workings of your gastro-intestinal tract, supports elimination, feeds good gut bacteria, and absorbs toxins.

Complex carbohydrates are absorbed slowly by the body so there’s less effect on insulin and blood sugar.

Complex carbs to eat often:

  • whole fruits and berries with the skin on if edible. 
  • vegetables
  • beans of all kinds - if using dried beans, soak them for several hours or overnight in water with a tablespoon of vinegar or baking soda. Pressure cooking is the best way to neutralize lectins in beans. 
  • seeds - chia, ground flax, sesame, sunflower, hemp
  • whole grains and grain-like foods such as quinoa and buckwheat. Enjoy a serving of slow cooked oats or other whole grains. Grains milled to a fine powder are absorbed quickly. Look for stone ground and actual pieces of the food. Do not confuse multi-grain with whole grain. Whole grain cereals may be called groats. They still have the cereal germ, bran and sometimes the hull. Don't overindulge on grains if you want to lose weight.
healthy living diet foods buckwheat groats and greens

Limit as much as possible white flour, white rice and sugar. The  jury is still out on potatoes. They do contain nutrients and keep you full longer. Eat them with the skin on and avoid french fries.  

Check the fiber and sugar content on packaged food. If the amount of sugar is over 5 grams (one teaspoon) a serving and the fiber is less than 3 grams choose something else unless the total carbohydrate count is less than around 10 grams. 

Season foods with herbs and spices

Season animal and plant foods generously with herbs and spices. 

It is easier to stick with the healthy living diet when your foods taste good.

Season foods generously with turmeric, thyme, oregano, rosemary, pepper, garlic, celery seed, fennel, coriander, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and other herbs and spices you like for flavor and a myriad of natural health promoting properties. Turmeric, for example, is a powerful anti-inflammatory spice. Fennel and dill aid digestion. Pepper aids absorption.

Unrefined salt is an important seasoning. Your body needs some real salt to be healthy. Do yourself a favor. Throw out the over-processed, chemical laden white salt and season your food with Celtic salt, Himalayan salt or Redmond's real salt. Unrefined salt contains dozens of minerals your body needs. Most people can safely consume a teaspoon or two a day to support your body processes and improve the taste of food.

healthy living diet foods and spices

Protein and Fats

Include quality protein with most meals and snacks.

Protein is vital for tissue building and repair. The body cannot store protein, so you need to supply it during the day. Protein needs vary. The average 150 pound adult needs about 55 grams per day.

Your body can make most, but not all of the amino acids you need.

Some foods contain all the amino acids you need. Many foods contain some, but not all the amino acids you need. When eaten together, some foods combine to make complete proteins, such as beans and rice.

The following foods contain all the essential amino acids, or complete protein, your body needs: 

  • quinoa - not a grain, gluten-free
  • amaranth
  • soybeans (for health reasons only eat fermented soy, such as tempeh)
  • buckwheat, also known as kasha (not a wheat and gluten-free)
  • hemp seeds
  • spirulina and Klamath Lake blue-green algae
  • plant-based protein powders
  • animal and fish flesh, dairy and eggs. An ounce of meat or a large egg provides approximately 7 grams of protein. 

Note: Animal foods are pro-inflammatory, cause acidity in the body, and raise blood sugar. It is best to limit your diet to no more than 14 percent animal food in total. If you choose to eat meat and fish for protein, a 3-5 ounce serving once a day or less is plenty. Organic, wild or pastured sources are better than factory farmed meat and fish for humane and health reasons. 

Cook protein-rich animal and plant foods slowly over low heat (250 degrees) to avoid damaging the proteins. 

Consume healthy fats

Don't be afraid of fat. On the healthy living diet you are encouraged to consume a complement of natural fats, including saturated animal fats in moderation. Approximately 30-40% of your calories should come from fat. 

Fats are vital for good health. Plus they keep you feeling full longer and slow sugar absorption into the bloodstream. 

Good sources of healthy fats include:

  • nuts-soak for a few hours before dehydrating or roasting to enhance flavor and digestibility.
  • seeds
  • coconut
  • olives
  • avocado
  • animal meat, dairy, eggs
  • fatty fish such as mackerel, sardines, herring, tuna and wild-caught salmon are good sources of Omega 3 fats

When purchasing oils, choose cold-pressed or expeller-pressed oils. Coconut oil and avocado oils are good for cooking over higher heat. A little sesame seed oil for lower heat cooking tastes good with vegetables. Do not let oils reach their smoke point. Olive oil and nut oils are nice on salads and cooked greens.

If you use flax seed oil, keep it refrigerated. It goes rancid within 20 minutes of being left out. It is probably safer to grind the seeds. Use immediately or freeze for later use. This way, you get all the benefits of the seeds, including the soluble fiber.

Avoid trans-fats and vegetable oils such as corn, soy and canola. Most are over-processed, too high in Omega 6 fatty acids, and deodorized to cover up the fact that they are rancid. Yuck! Ditch the hardened vegetable oil when baking. Avoid trans-fats like the plague.

Healthy Snacks

foods that heal almonds

Snacks can be a great way to get additional nutrients during the day. Prepare them ahead of time for easy healthy eating when you get the munchies.

Junk foods may give you a quick pick me up but will soon have you looking for more to eat. Empty calories don't supply your body with the nutrients or water it was looking for. Certain foods, like those containing high fructose corn syrup, can even stimulate your appetite. Your favorite goodies are not forbidden on the healthy living diet or it would never work. But you do want to limit them to the occasional treat.

Enjoy a variety of good-for-you snacks and junk food alternatives when you have a long stretch between meals. Healthy satisfying snacks include protein, vitamins and minerals and healthy fats. These healthy snacks are easy to prepare and good to eat:

  • an apple or a banana with nut butter or nuts.  
  • whole grain crackers and cheese
  • trail mix 
  • vegetable sticks with hummus
  • a  low-sugar smoothie made with berries, yogurt, greens, and other superfoods
  • an ounce of dark chocolate with a few nuts
  • unsweetened Greek yogurt with berries

Beverages on the Healthy Living Diet

easy healthy eating beverages

Hydrate with water and nutritious beverages.

Water is the most essential nutrient of all. It's a vital part of the healthy living diet or any meal plan. Here's how to make sure you get enough:

  • Drink a tall glass of fresh pure water first thing in the morning to re-hydrate yourself. Squeeze in the juice of half a lemon or lime for flavor and a Vitamin C boost, if you want. 
  • Healthy smoothies are great for between meal munchies and even make a quick meal on the go. 
  • Juicy fruits and melons are up to 90% pure water and a good source of antioxidants and nutrients. They make for simple, hydrating, delicious healthy eating.
  • If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation. Red wine, and dark grape juice, contain resveratrol. Dark beer brewed with hops contain B vitamins and relaxes you. Always drink extra water when you drink alcohol. It is dehydrating and toxic to the brain and liver, meaning it causes damage and kills cells. Any amount of alcohol greatly increases the risk of breast cancer in susceptible women. Avoid alcohol altogether when risks outweigh benefits.

Did you know that food is your body's main source of water? That's why thirst sometimes masquerades as hunger. Have a glass of water instead of reaching for food. That will save you hundreds of unneeded calories a day. Then, in 20 minutes, if you still feel hungry, have something to eat. Smoothies, green drinks, and juice also hydrates you, but not as quickly as water because they have to go through the digestive process first.

How to know if you need more water? Except for your first trip to the bathroom in the morning, urine should be light yellow. If urine is dark, you probably need more water. If it's clear, ease up.

Supplements and Healing Foods

Choose supplements wisely.

When you primarily eat nutritious food and follow the suggestions in the healthy living diet, you will not need to take many supplements.

  • Vitamin D3 is helpful if you don't get enough sun, or are over 40 and don't manufacture through your skin well anymore. The average adult needs about 4000 I.U. daily for maintenance. Have periodic blood tests to make sure your levels stay in the safe range.
  • Another important supplement is Omega 3 fatty acids if you don't eat fatty fish regularly. 
  • Many adults are deficient in magnesium because of depleted soil and too much stress. A night cap of magnesium citrate powder (or other easily assimilated form) might be just what you need to relax mind and muscles. Helps with elimination, too.

Emphasize healing foods.

Food can be your medicine or your demise. It can keep you healthy, help you get well, or make you sick. The nutrient-rich foods on a healthy living diet will help your body heal and stay healthy.

In addition, certain foods, herbs, and spices can help you heal and improve specific conditions.  For example, dill and fennel aid digestion. Turmeric and other spices quell inflammation. Cruciferous vegetables are recognized as superb for aiding your detoxification system and fighting cancer.

If you have physical wellness challenges, choose foods that are supportive for what ails you as part of your daily healthy living diet. 

Related Pages

How you eat and prepare your food are important parts of the healthy living diet. Easy healthy eating habits and proper food preparation help you get the most benefit from the food and drink you put in your body.

Following the guidelines of the healthy living diet along with other healthy living habits will promote healing and a lifetime of good health.

The Healthy Living Diet page updated 12/2020

Sources: Is the Mediterranean Diet the Best Diet on the Planet?
The 10 Best and Worst Foods for Longevity

For Educational Purposes Only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease or medical condition. Please consult with your health provider before using natural remedies and/or complementary therapies if you are pregnant, nursing, or you are being treated for a medical condition. Be aware that certain herbs and supplements interact with medications.

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