Q: What's the best diet to stay healthy? It's so confusing because so many diets are touted to be the best.
A healthy diet doesn't have to be complicated. As the writer Michael Pollan put it simply: "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants."
Let's break that down. It's healthy to eat food as close to its original form as possible: whole vegetables and fruits, whole unprocessed grains and nuts, beans and legumes, low-fat dairy products, seafood, poultry, lean meats, and eggs. It sounds simple, but in our snack-obsessed, fast-food oriented, dessert-friendly culture, it's sometimes hard to do.
Sometimes people overlook the hidden calories in their beverages when trying to eat healthier. Water is always the best choice. Beverages should be calorie-free unless you're drinking low-fat or nonfat dairy or fortified nut milks up to three servings a day. Healthy adults should limit alcohol to one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men. (In this case, a drink is equal to 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits, 5 ounces of wine, or 12 ounces of beer.)
One helpful resource to consider is choosemyplate.gov, which provides national guidelines for healthy plate portions and offers customized tools to help with meal planning. Half of your plate should be fruits and veggies (eat the rainbow), one quarter of your plate should be grains (preferably whole grains such as brown rice, quinoa and barley) and one quarter should be a low-fat protein (e.g., beans/legumes, tofu, eggs, poultry, seafood, lean meat). This website offers lots of simple, evidence-based resources to help you move to a healthier diet and increase your physical activity.
Following these dietary recommendations and maintaining a healthy weight have been shown to decrease the risk of hypertension, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Food can truly be medicine!