Fruit and vegetables
Just because there’s no slice of chocolate cake next to the avocado doesn’t mean you have to swear off cake. Moderation is key. (For Spectrum Health Beat)

With everything society throws at us these days, it can be a challenge to follow a healthy diet.

Fads, superfoods and various health trends arise continuously from new studies, constantly challenging our ideas about what we should eat each day.

But good health doesn’t have to be complicated or challenging.

You can have your cake—and your kale—and eat it, too, along with all those tomatoes, beans, apples, yogurts and rice.

Building a relationship

A diet featuring an assortment of nutritious foods is associated with stable weight and a lower prevalence of metabolic syndrome.

Over-emphasizing any one type of food can deprive you of much-needed nutrients that you’d get elsewhere had you followed a more diverse diet.

Diet plans prioritizing a healthy variety of foods—and allowing for small indulgences—tend to be easier to stick to. They can help us change the concept of “going on a diet” to “eating a healthy diet.”

By establishing a goal to maintain your health in the long-term, rather than pursuing impractical short-term goals, you will likely find it easier to understand and accept that one meal is not going to destroy you or fix you.

Similarly, no single food item on its own will make you healthy.

Balance is the key to healthy living.

Eat a variety of vegetables, healthy fats, protein and carbohydrates, with emphasis on the complex items. This is a far more sustainable approach to health maintenance.

Abstaining from any particular food or food group can lead to an unsatisfied diet, which can lead to splurging and, eventually, the return of weight you had lost.

You should also keep in mind that weight is not the problem—it’s all about the importance of building a healthy relationship with food through long-term actions.

Our habits define our health.

Some key concepts to keep in mind:

  • Eat a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables, and aim to try something new. Have you ever eaten Romanesco or a prickly pear? It’s time to give them a try.
  • Concentrate on lean meats, low-fat dairy products, beans, legumes and alternative protein products.
  • Incorporate healthy fats into your diet, including avocados, nuts and olive oil.
  • Eat whole grains: brown rice, whole wheat pasta, whole grain breads.
  • Indulge occasionally and moderately. It’s OK to eat cake and fries once in a while, just pay attention to portion size and don’t overdo the frequency. Opt for a medium size or, preferably, a small.
  • Habits take time to change. Be patient and kind to yourself.