When it comes to our health and safety, most of us try to find a good health plan that will cover us in case of any type of medical emergency. But, a lot of us overlook the most important type of health plan: taking care of ourselves. If we look after ourselves and live a healthy, active lifestyle, we will be less likely to develop certain health conditions, which can cost a lot of money in treatments, including heart disease and diabetes. And another bonus of living healthy is that in many cases, the healthier you are, the less expensive your health plan may be, because the providers will not be taking as much of a risk of paying for medical care in the future. Besides the fact that the healthier your lifestyle, the better you are going to feel, in this tough economy, isn't saving money a great incentive to get into and stay in shape?
One of the first steps to healthy living is following a healthy, well-balanced diet that is rich in all of the nutrients that we all need in order to survive. All diets should have certain amounts of three important macronutrients: protein, carbohydrates, and fats. Yes, even though we hear so many bad things on the news these days about fat and carbohydrates, we do need certain types of these macronutrients in order to be healthy. With fats, the ones we need are polyunsaturated and monounsaturated, not saturated or trans fats.
The carbohydrates we need are complex carbohydrates, which come from such delicious dietary sources as whole grains, brown rice, and whole wheat pasta. The carbohydrates to avoid are simple carbohydrates, which come from sugar sources that include white bread. Many health organizations suggest that a healthy diet consist of 50% carbohydrates, 35% proteins, and 15% fats.
I Love Junk Food... Can I Eat It and Still Be Healthy?
Let's face it people...we all love junk food and it is nearly impossible for many of us to eliminate it from our diets completely. The good news is that if we eat right in the first place, it is okay to allow ourselves the occasional indulgence. In fact, many people who are very healthy eat a regular diet during the week and let themselves have their treats on the weekends. As long as you don't go overboard and eat everything you can get your hands on, this shouldn't be a problem for anyone, unless of course you have health issues that require very restricted diets.
There are other ways that you can enjoy your junk food, even if you are trying to lose weight. Portion size has a lot to do with weight loss. For example, if you normally go to a take-out and get a super-sized combo, try doing something different. Skip the combo and just get the burger or whatever the main part of the meal is. If it is a burger, skip the mayo and opt for ketchup or mustard instead. These are also both fattening, but not nearly as much as mayonnaise. Skip the fries and order a low-fat milk, diet soda, or even better, water, to drink. Believe it or not, just a simple change like this can make a huge difference when it comes to your overall good health and even for weight loss.
And there are many ways you can get the great taste of junk food, without the fat and calories. There are all kinds of great tasting substitutions you can make for certain dishes, including:
- Instead of frying chicken in oil, prepare it as you normally would, substituting bread crumbs for crushed whole grain cereal (mixed with your favorite seasonings), and bake it in the oven. You will get the great taste of crunchy fried chicken, without all the fat and calories.
- You don't have to give up French fries either. Instead of buying prepared fries, or greasy ones from a take-out, cut up potatoes into fries, and bake them in the oven. The will get as crispy as regular fries, but because there is no oil or grease used to cook them, they are as healthy as a baked potato, especially if you leave the skins on, which are loaded with nutrients. Enjoy these fries with your oven fried chicken for a delicious, healthy meal.
- Love chocolate? Go ahead and enjoy it in small amounts. But, switch from fattening, sugary milk chocolate to dark chocolate, which is great for you and is loaded with anti-oxidants.
- If you like crunchy treats, instead of eating salty, fattening potato chips, try having some light microwave popcorn instead. Or, enjoy a handful or two of unsalted nuts, which are delicious and loaded with energy-providing protein, making them the ideal afternoon snack.
Healthy Eating and Physical Activity Go Hand in Hand
If you are really serious about creating your own good health plan, you need to add exercise to your daily routine, if you are not already doing so. It is extremely important that we all get a certain amount of exercise every day, and many experts recommend that the amount of exercise we get be at least a half an hour. Exercise doesn't have to be boring old stationary exercises either. You can take a leisurely stroll through your neighborhood (the less leisurely, the better the workout benefits), or go for a run along the beach. If you have kids, you can play outdoor games with them, such as tag or soccer, which will give you loads of exercise. And when you are playing and having fun, you will probably get more than a half an hour, adding to the health benefits of your activities.
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