10 Components of a Healthy Diet

Our road to eating with intention can be a difficult one, especially in our western world of super processed, quick, convenient fast foods. The temptations are relentless. Making the decision to improve our diet and help our bodies to heal themselves is an absolute intentional choice. You’ll grow old waiting for your brain to decide to crave a salad, but by feeding your body good food, you can help it to learn to appreciate how great it feels to eat well and before long, you will crave a salad! (If you prefer video, scroll to the bottom of this post.)

I’m going to summarize the ten components of eating a healthy diet as identified by Dr. Elson Haas in his book Staying Healthy with Nutrition. And by “diet” we’re not talking about the latest fad or eating low calories for a short period of time and then returning to your normal bad eating habits… here, “diet” means what you eat as a lifestyle.

10 Components of a Healthy Diet:

1. Natural Foods

Natural foods come from “as close to the garden” as possible. This includes fresh, organic fruit and vegetables and grass-fed free-range animal products. You won’t find natural foods in a box from the freezer. As a matter of fact, natural foods don’t even come with an ingredient list. All there is in a carrot is carrot. Natural foods give us more energy and vitality, plus nutrients our bodies need to run well and give it it’s best chance at healing.

2. Seasonal Foods

Eat fresh foods that are in season. Not only is it easier on your budget as these foods become abundant, it also helps attune your body to nature, and more specifically, the climate in which you live.

  • Spring is a time for rejuvenation. More fruit and fresh vegetable options start to become available, as we shift away from the warm foods of winter and look forward to cleansing our bodies for summer.
  • Summer is a time of activity. So many fresh fruit and vegetable options are available. It’s a great time to enjoy a variety of fresh salads and ripe, juicy fruits.
  • Autumn is a big shift in energy and climate. Harvest leads to the remaining fruits of summer with a shift to an abundance of root vegetables and squashes. Warm cooked foods start to be craved naturally by the body.
  • Winter is a time for warm, richer foods. Root vegetables last all winter long when stored in a cool dry place. These foods also require cooking to make them more pleasing to the palette and more digestible. They are usually associated with our “comfort foods” when we want to cozy in during the cold months.

3. Fresh Foods

Consuming foods as close to the time when they are harvested, means more nutrition for our bodies. Fruit, vegetables, grains, nuts, beans, seeds, and yes, even dairy products and meat should all be consumed as soon as possible for the most nutrition benefits.

4. Nutritious Foods

Eating fresh and natural foods naturally leads to good nutrition. Nutritious food provides the body with vitamins, minerals, amino acids, fatty acids, and phytonutrients. Eat organic whenever possible.

5. Clean Foods

There’s two ways to think of clean foods. The first is food that is free of chemicals, GMOs and are organic. Toxins wreak havoc in our bodies and we want to reduce or eliminate them whenever and wherever possible.

The second meaning of clean food means washing and proper storing of food to avoid spoilage.

6. Tasty and Appealing Food

This one sounds fun, doesn’t it! Eating isn’t just about taste or smell. We also eat with our eyes, our nose, and use our sense of touch to identify textures. Texture, colour, smell, and taste all combine to make us feel satisfied after eating. Eating a variety of colours and textures adds variety not only to your tastebuds but also to the nutritional variation of vitamins and minerals for your body’s cells.

7. Variety and Rotation

It’s important to eat a variety of foods. It doesn’t need to be daily, but over the course of a week it’s good to have different options. Different foods give us different nutritional elements, so variety is key. If you eat meals on a rotation, look at the ingredients your body gets over the time frame, make sure there is a lot of variety of ingredients in those meals. Switch out your rotational meals over time.

8. Food Combining

Food combining the idea of eating certain food groups together, while avoiding the combination of other groups. This one is a bit more challenging to fit well into western diet habits. However, it fits quite well into more indigenous diets found around the world. It’s important to try to incorporate this idea to maximize the digestion benefits. A well-tuned digestion process is a key to good health and disease prevention.  

Guidelines for Food Combining:

  1. Fruits are eaten alone or with other fruit. Give them time to digest before consuming other foods. (20-30 mins.)
  2. Proteins and starches should not be eaten together. This is where things become interesting/more challenging for people eating a western diet.
  3. Combine protein with vegetables or starches with vegetables.

For example: if we look at spaghetti and meat sauce as a supper, spaghetti is a starch and ground beef or poultry is a protein. So, this meal needs an adjustment – you could make a vegetarian pasta sauce, or you could us spaghetti squash in place of pasta with a meat sauce. There are ways to still enjoy “traditional” favourites with a little imagination and an open mind. But there are also SO MANY MORE delicious recipes available that do fit this way of eating!

9. Moderation

It’s not healthy to overeat or undereat. Eating smaller meals is key, portion control is essential. It’s important to eat when you’re hungry. Not “brain hungry”, but listening to the signals your body gives you that it needs nourishment. Usually, we eat on a schedule of some sort. We eat by the clock. It’s important, through practice, to learn to eat just enough at one meal so that the body is hungry again for the next meal.

10. Balance

Balance includes five areas of concern which involves eating in proper portions to gain the most nutrition for our bodies.

  1. Macronutrients – proteins, fats, carbohydrates
  2. Micronutrients – vitamins, minerals, amino acids, fatty acids and phytonutrients
  3. Food groups – Vegetarian: fruit, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts, seeds; Omnivour, add: dairy products, eggs, fish, poultry and meats.
  4. Flavours and colours – sour, bitter, sweet, spicy, salty. Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple (all the colours of the rainbow.)
  5. Acid-alkaline. Foods that form an acid or alkaline environment in the body after they’ve been consumed. The body prefers to be more alkaline.

Balance sounds very “science-y.” Not to worry…

If you increase the whole foods in your diet, and a variety of them, look for what’s in abundance in the produce section of your grocery store, you’ll be well on your way to incorporating these ten components into your lifestyle. Change doesn’t happen overnight. Work at it slowly. Change one recipe in your rotation to one using whole ingredients, then next week add another recipe, add another next month and so on. As you get used to the new flavours and textures, imagine where you’ll be a year from now. The important step is the first step to staying healthy through nutrition.

Leave a Reply