Wikipedia lists over 50 types of diets. And it humbly calls it “an incomplete list, which may never be able to satisfy particular standards for completeness.” In broad categories, the list includes belief-based diets, vegetarian diets, weight control diets, detox diets, fad diets, diets followed for medical reasons, and “other diets.”
Under the “other” category there’s an even longer list, including an alkaline diet, blood type diet, Dr. Hay diet, low-fat diet, low-protein diet, low-glycemic-index diet, low sodium diet, negative calorie diet, South Beach diet, and so on.
It seems that our dietary choices and preferences are getting increasingly complex, very much like the rest of our lives.
I prefer simplicity. One question I always like to ask is “How can I keep it simple?” With that in mind, here’s my little guide to a healthy and balanced diet:
1. Keep it balanced.
A balanced diet usually consists of 20-40% whole grains, 40-60% vegetables and fruits, and 10-20% protein and oil sourced from beans, diary, fish, poultry, red meat or nuts.
You may vary the composition of your diet according to your individual needs. The key is to include all three categories in your meals, and stay heavier on grains, veggies and fruits, and lighter on protein and oil.
2. Keep it whole.
Whole foods – without being chemically altered – are nutritious and contain the necessary enzymes to digest them properly. Eat wholesome, organic, locally grown foods whenever possible. Avoid processed foods, irradiated or microwaved foods, and deep-fried foods.
3. Follow the seasons.
Nature has the perfect plan for providing the appropriate foods in each given season. Eating seasonal foods not only helps you balance the seasonal influences, but often is less expensive as well.
4. Go for the flavors.
A good cook is skilled at balancing the flavors of his or her dish. This not only satisfies your taste buds, but also helps balance your organ systems. For example, salty flavors enter and benefit the kidneys, sour for the liver, bitter for the heart, sweet for the spleen, and pungent for the lungs.
Whereas a moderate quantity of one flavor benefits its related organ, too much of it will overwhelm and damage it. Again, balance and moderation are the keywords here.
5. Balance the temperatures.
This principle is well understood in all traditional cooking. For example, a warming curry is balanced by cooling cucumber and yogurt, and hot lamb is balanced by cooling mint source. I’ll explain this in more detail in a separate post.
6. Play with the colors.
Nature loves colors. And the nutrients of foods are often reflected in their colors and contained in their colorful pigment. Generally speaking, red is good for the heart and blood, green for the liver, yellow for the spleen, white for the lungs, and black/purple/blue for the kidneys.
I love colorful meals. They not only look beautiful, but also are balanced and nutritious as well.
7. Eat at regular intervals.
Eating irregularly taxes our digestive system. And our digestion is the foundation of our health. So it’s important to eat at regular intervals and to avoid eating your last meal late into the night – having it at least three hours before going to bed.
8. Eat mindfully.
Chewing your food well not only aids digestion, but also helps you fully enjoy your food. Avoid watching TV, working, studying, reading or other distraction while having your meals. Enjoy it, fully.
9. Eat with a balanced mind.
Eating when sad, angry, upset or worried hinders the proper digestion, absorption and assimilation of nutrients. It’s very important to enjoy your food with a grateful and peaceful mind.
10. Stop when you’re full.
Eat when you’re hungry, and stop when you’re about 70-80% full. Avoid overeating and nibbling all the time to give your spleen and stomach time to rest and recover.
“Keep it simple. Keep it balanced.” This is my motto for a healthy diet. I hope you find my little guide helpful. Please leave a comment if there’s anything you’d like to add to the list. Thank you!