Healthy meals are fuel for healthy living. The U.S Department of Agriculture and the President’s Council on Fitness have long been spreading the news about the benefits of a sound diet. These include lower risk of heart disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and even some types of cancer. So what does a healthy meal look like and is there any place in our diet for cheat meals? Read on for the surprising answers.

Healthy Meals

The most basic building blocks of a healthy meal include whole grains, protein, vegetables, fruit and dairy. Recent research on the benefit of low fat vs. full fat dairy has been mixed, so make your choice with an eye toward your nutritional needs and healthcare providers’ advice.

Healthy mealAt least half of your plate should hold fruits and vegetables. Your protein need not be meat; you can also choose seafood, beans, and soy products such as tofu, peas or seeds. Many people run into trouble with portion sizes and preparation methods. A giant steak with a fully loaded baked potato and green beans loses its healthy meal status by these pitfalls. Make that meal a healthy one by reducing the portion of steak to 4 ounces, trade the butter, cheese and bacon on the potato for Greek yogurt and steam the beans rather than sauté in butter. Consider adding some mushrooms to boost nutrition.

The key to eating healthy is variety. Be a bit adventurous in your food choices to avoid boredom and increase your intake of essential vitamins and minerals. Although supplements are available, food sources of vitamins are better for the body. With so much interest today in food and cooking, there has never been a better time to experiment in the kitchen. Use a cooking show, book or the Internet to cook up savory meals that are sure to make your heart as well as your taste buds sing.

You may find by trying many different kinds of healthy foods that you enjoy them more than you imagined. With time, your choices will help you develop a healthy eating lifestyle. This new way of eating can help you be far more successful at maintaining a healthy weight than cycling off and on diets. Does that mean you can’t enjoy French fries, apple pies or even bread and butter? Absolutely not. The key is moderation and intention.

Cheat Meals

Plate of fettuccini with pestoWhen you go for a cheat meal keep to the same rules you adopted with healthy meals. Think about portion and preparation. That means if you decide on fettuccini alfredo and garlic bread include a side of broccoli. Have just one piece of bread and a reasonable portion of pasta. Consider a glass of water or soup before the meal and skip desert after. Eat slowly and savor the food. Notice that you are eating a special meal and take time to really enjoy it. There is room in every diet for cheat meals. You can enjoy an occasional, guilt free cheat meal if you don’t over do it.