Dr. B explains the principles of a healthy diet. In today’s world, we are inundated with all different opinions on what makes up a healthy diet. Everything from low-carb to gluten-free to not eating before or after a certain time. But a lot of what is promoted is inaccurate or uses false or misleading information. It is important that the information you base your eating habits on, comes from well-researched sources. Contrary to what many diet enthusiasts tell you, eating healthy is not at all difficult. There are six basic diet planning principles you should follow to ensure your diet is a healthy one. They include the concepts of adequacy, balance, energy control, nutrient density, moderation, and variety. First, let’s take a look at adequacy. A diet that is adequate provides enough energy and enough of all of the nutrients to meet the needs of healthy people. If you did not get the energy or nutrients your body needs, you could suffer ill effects. So be sure that your diet is adequate in both energy and nutrient value. Up next is the principle of balance. Balance in the diet helps to ensure adequacy. Balance in the diet involves consuming all categories of foods without putting emphasis on just a few. For example, some people promote eating a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet. These types of diets can often exclude certain foods, like whole grains, that offer us essential nutrients. And therefore, excluding food groups can lead to nutrient deficiencies over time. Also, eating too much of one group of foods can lead to getting too much of other nutrients. So, be sure to balance the foods you eat, so that you are not eliminating some nutrients and getting too much of others. Now let’s take a look at the concept of energy control. Earlier we discussed getting an adequate number of calories. The principle of energy control tells us to be sure that we don’t get too many! Our bodies need a certain number of calories to perform its daily activities. However, if we exceed the amount of calories we need to fuel our daily activities, then our bodies will store the excess amount as fat. And though we need a certain amount of fat stores, having too much can lead to being overweight or obese. And that can lead to other health complications. So, when consuming calories, we want to make sure we get enough, but we don’t want to get more than we need! Nutrient density is a concept that not everyone may have heard of, but instinctively knows it is an area they need to focus more on. There is a reason we are always told to “eat our vegetables!” There are some foods, like vegetables, that offer a lot of nutrient value but only a small number of calories. These are considered ‘nutrient dense’ foods. Conversely, there are some foods that offer little to no nutrient value, but a ton of calories. These are considered ‘calorie’ or ‘energy dense’ foods. A good example would be a candy bar. In our diet, we want to emphasize eating more nutrient-dense foods and limit the amount of calorie-dense foods. Next up is moderation. This is one that sometimes can be tough to follow! Although we want to ensure our diet emphasizes nutrient-dense foods, that doesn’t mean we can’t sometimes enjoy calorie-dense treats. But the key word here is ‘sometimes’. Eating foods that are nutrient poor every once in a while, can be a part of a healthy diet. But we have to do so in moderation. If we eat junk food every day and for every meal, there are going to be health consequences. So, remember, if you want to enjoy foods that might be considered nutrient-poor and calorie-dense, that’s okay…but do so in moderation! And last but not least, is the concept of variety. Variety tells us to get a wide range of foods in our diet to ensure we are getting the nutrients we need to stay alive and healthy. Diets that limit variety can also limit the intake of some nutrients and ensure the over-consumption of others. And that can mean trouble for our overall health. So, to ensure your diet is healthy, be sure to add variety to it. Besides, who wants to eat the same boring stuff day after day? Exercise your taste buds and experience a wide variety of flavors! After all, that is why we have them! So, those are the six-basic diet-planning principles. Be sure that you get sufficient energy and enough of all the nutrients to keep you healthy and strong; Be sure to get enough of the foods that provide the nutrients you need but not too much; Get enough calories to sustain your needs without going too far over or too far below; Eat more of the foods that give you more bang for your buck; Enjoy less nutrient-dense foods and beverages sometimes, but don’t go crazy; And ensure that you try new foods and enjoy a wide variety of them, so your diet isn’t too bland and so that it offers you a wide assortment of nutrients. Lastly, these six basic principles can be applied to your current diet so that you are not making huge changes to the way you eat.