Whether you want to lose weight, lower your blood pressure, have better control of your blood sugar or simply feel better, jumpstarting a healthier lifestyle begins with food. By now you probably know what foods are best to cut back on, but knowing what to eat instead can be confusing, especially with the rise in popularity of certain clean eating ideologies like Paleo and Whole30 that call for cutting everything from added sugars to entire food groups.
The best way to jumpstart a healthier lifestyle is to stop debating which foods to ditch and start incorporating more whole, nutrient-dense foods into your diet, including whole or minimally processed foods like fruits and vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats and lean proteins. Why these foods? They’re packed with health-promoting nutrients like fiber, vitamins and minerals, and they provide the body with high-quality fuel.
Fruits and vegetables contain fiber, vitamins and minerals and may help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and certain cancers. Additionally, veggies fill you up with fewer calories, which is helpful if you want to lose weight.
Whole grains are great because they carry a lower glycemic load which translates to better blood sugar control and fewer insulin spikes. They’re also a good source of fiber, which helps keep you full and regular.
Healthy mono- and polyunsaturated fats are an excellent source of slow-burning energy and they even help improve blood cholesterol levels, which can reduce your risk for heart disease. Similarly, lean protein foods provide the body with sustainable fuel since they’re slower to digest, and they contain all of the amino acids needed to build and maintain healthy muscles.
Below you’ll find a variety of foods from each of these four categories. The list is long but remember, it’s not about eating all of these foods. Rather, choose a variety of the ones you most enjoy.
Ultimately, the best foods to jumpstart a healthier lifestyle are the fruits, veggies, whole grains, healthy fats and lean proteins you like. Not only will you eat more of them, more often, but there will also be less room on your plate and in your stomach for the foods you want to cut back on. It’s a win-win!
For some fresh recipe ideas that incorporate more of the foods below, check out Zipongo’s extensive archive of recipes.
- Berries (blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, acai berries, etc.)
- Melon (cantaloupe, honeydew, etc.)
- Dark leafy greens
- Brussels sprouts
- Potatoes (with skin)
- Sweet corn
- Baby corn
- Green beans
- Hearts of palm
- Sugar snap peas
- Swiss chard
- Water chestnuts
- Brown rice
- Whole-wheat flour (100 percent whole-wheat bread, pasta, tortillas, etc.)
- Whole grain corn/corn meal (100 percent corn tortillas, polenta, etc.)
- Wild rice
- Nuts and nut butters
- Seeds (pumpkin, chia, ground flaxseed, etc.)
- Olives and olive oil
- Soy nuts
- Nuts and seeds
- Nut and seed spreads (peanut butter, almond butter, cashew butter, sesame seed butter, etc.)
- Soy protein products (soy crumbles, breakfast “sausage” patties, etc.)
- Beef (eye of round roast and steak, sirloin tip side steak, top round roast and steak, bottom round roast and steak, top sirloin steak)
- Lamb (chop, leg or roast)
- Pheasant (skinless)
- Pork tenderloin
- Veal (loin chop or roast)
- Low- or reduced-fat dairy (cheese, cottage cheese, milk, yogurt, greek yogurt, kefir, etc.)