Tag Archive for: healthy eating

At this point, you’ve probably heard of the vegan diet. And there’s a good chance you know a handful of vegans. Veganism and other plant-based diets are becoming more and more mainstream with every passing year. According to one survey, only 1% of consumers in the U.S. identified as vegan in 2014. By 2017, that number had grown to 6%.This surge in popularity means that the vegan diet is more accessible than ever. While plant-based alternatives to meat and animal products were once few and far between, shoppers now enjoy a wide variety of plant-based substitutes at most stores. The same is true in many restaurants.

This also means that more people than ever are considering adopting a vegan diet—that’s where this article comes in. Whether you’re considering going vegan or simply curious about plant-based diets, read on for a deep dive on the different types of veganism, the health benefits of a vegan diet, and everything in between.

What is a Vegan Diet?

People who follow a vegan diet, also known as a plant-based diet, avoid consuming animal products. Like vegetarians, this means that vegans do not eat any form of meat. Additionally, however, vegans also avoid dairy, eggs, in many cases honey, and all other animal-derived food ingredients.

Veganism can extend beyond foods, too. Some vegans try to avoid any products—whether it is food, clothing, or toiletries—that involve animals in their production. Leather shoes and clothes are a no-go, as are products that rely on animal testing (these might include shampoos, makeup, and so on).

These lifestyle decisions are not always easy or convenient. So why do people choose veganism? Naturally, the answer changes from person to person. Some of the most frequently cited reasons for going vegan include animal rights, environmental concerns, and, of course, health.

The term “vegan diet” is a broad category that can be further divided into subcategories. That is, not all vegans are the same type of vegan. If that statement feels a little confusing, don’t worry—the list below breaks down some of the most common types of vegan diets:

  • Raw vegan diet: As the name suggests, raw vegans avoid eating foods that have been cooked. Or, more specifically, foods that have been cooked at a temperature above 118°F (48°C). This diet relies on raw fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and other minimally processed plant-based foods.
  • Whole foods vegan diet: Again, this one is pretty self-explanatory. Followers of a whole foods vegan diet build their meals around minimally processed plant-based foods. This includes fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and more. Unlike a raw vegan diet, however, this diet has no guidelines surrounding cooked food.
  • Raw till four vegan diet: This diet is a variation on the raw vegan diet in which you eat only raw plant-based foods until 4pm each day. After that, you are free to eat cooked and processed plant-based foods as well.
  • 80/10/10 vegan diet: The 80/10/10 diet is another variation on the raw vegan diet. In this case, the goal is to eliminate fat-rich plant-based foods, such as avocados and nuts, from your diet. Adherents to this diet strive to get 80% of their calories from carbohydrates (usually fruit), 10% of their calories from fat, and 10% of their calories from protein each day.

Health Benefits of a Vegan Diet

As mentioned above, health is one of the main reasons people go vegan. But are plant-based diets actually healthier than other options? The short answer is that it depends. Let’s get into the long answer.

Plant-based diets tend to have a few clear health benefits. Followers of a vegan diet may find it easier to reach and maintain a healthy weight. Some studies have also linked vegan diets to lower rates of heart disease.

There are a variety of reasons behind these health benefits, but many can be attributed to the same root cause. In general, nutritionists suggest eating a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and other whole foods. In other words, a well-balanced diet. Plant-based diets often naturally fall into line with this advice, as the main foods consumed are, well, plant-based.

That being said, following a plant-based diet does not guarantee better health—but more on that in the next section.

The Common Nutritional Challenges of a Vegan Diet

As mentioned above, going vegan isn’t a one-way ticket to better health. Just like any well-rounded diet, a healthy plant-based diet requires planning and intentionality. For vegans, this might mean paying extra attention to the nutrients listed below:

  • Protein: If you’re used to getting your protein from fish, meat, or eggs, don’t worry—there are plenty of plant-based protein sources as well. Some of the most common protein sources for vegans include soybeans (and tofu), lentils, beans, nuts, and seeds.
  • Vitamin B12: This vitamin is an essential nutrient that is most commonly found in fish, meat, and dairy—none of which are vegan. If you’re following a vegan diet, it is crucial that you eat foods that are fortified with vitamin B12. These might include fortified plant milks, cereals, or even nutritional yeast. Additionally, you may need to take a vitamin B12 supplement to ensure you are getting the proper amount each day.
  • Calcium: When most people hear calcium, they think of milk. Vegans have to think outside the box (or, in this case, carton). Common plant-based calcium sources include tofu and leafy greens. Some plant milks are also fortified with calcium.
  • Zinc: This micronutrient is another essential mineral that is most commonly found in meat (and shellfish). Plant-based sources include nuts, beans, and whole grains, but may also consider taking a zinc supplement.

Following a Vegan Diet: 3 Common Myths and Misconceptions About Veganism

Although veganism is more mainstream than ever, there are still a number of common myths surrounding vegan diets—most of which simply aren’t true. So let’s take a look at three of the most common myths and misconceptions about veganism and break them down:

  1. Vegans are malnourished: One of the most commonly touted criticisms of vegan diets is that veganism isn’t nutritionally viable. That is, many people think that it is impossible to get the proper nutrients while maintaining a plant-based diet. As outlined in the section above, this isn’t actually true.
    While some nutrients, such as vitamin B12, are less readily available in plant-based foods, there are a number of ways vegans can introduce that nutrient into their diet. By and large, vegans tend to eat a very nutrient-rich diet, as fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are jam-packed with essential nutrients.
  2. Being vegan is inherently healthy: On the flipside, some people believe that going vegan will automatically make them healthier. While vegans often do enjoy many of the health benefits listed above, maintaining a well-balanced diet is still essential. There are plenty of vegan foods that are highly processed and not very nutritious. In order to see the health benefits of being vegan, you will still need to be intentional about your meal planning.
  3. Being vegan limits you: Veganism is by definition restrictive. By choosing to follow a vegan diet or lifestyle, you are narrowing the foods and products available to you. But this doesn’t have to limit you! Rather than focusing on what you can’t eat, focus on all of the new foods and recipes out there to try. Sometimes a few restrictions can open the door to creativity.
Red wine pouring into wine glass

Red wine pouring into wine glass

Although people have been drinking alcohol for thousands of years, the role boozy beverages play in a healthy lifestyle is hotly debated. Some argue that teetotaling is the healthiest option, while others tout the health benefits of a daily glass of red wine. If you’re not sure what to believe…read on.

At the end of the day, your alcohol choices are up to you. But as you navigate the world of drinking, abstaining, and everything in between, it’s good to have the facts.

What Is Alcohol and How Does It Work?

Most define alcohol in loose terms: it’s found in beer, wine, and liquor (and more) and is responsible for intoxication—and other side effects—of such beverages. This description, while accurate and practical, doesn’t answer what alcohol is and how it actually works. For that, we need to turn to science.

Alcohols (yes, plural intended) are organic compounds composed of at least one hydroxyl (a hydrogen and oxygen atom bonded together) that is bound to an alkyl group. These compounds are incredibly common—a wide variety of organic compounds can be classified as alcohols. The two most notable are ethanol and methanol. We’ll be focusing on ethanol, given it’s the alcohol  found in alcoholic beverages.

Ethanol, which looks a lot like water, is a byproduct of plant fermentation. When it’s consumed your liver immediately begins breaking it down to remove it from the body. But your liver can only work so fast. Intoxication is the result of drinking alcohol faster than your liver can do its job.

With your liver working overtime, the excess alcohol enters your bloodstream. Once in the blood, alcohol acts as a central nervous system (CNS) depressant. It slows down a variety of brain functions, starting with the cerebellum, which is responsible for balance and motor function. Alcohol also triggers the release of certain neurotransmitters, including dopamine and serotonin, both tied to mood boosts and mild euphoria.

The Short-Term Effects of Alcohol

Although alcohol doesn’t affect the body immediately, it does act pretty quickly. Everyone processes alcohol a little differently, but after a drink or two, most people start to feel the first effects. These include mild euphoria (think dopamine and serotonin release), lowered inhibitions, and slowed reaction time.

The more you drink, the more it impacts your body. Short-term effects of alcohol include slurred speech, decreased motor function, distorted vision, vomiting, impaired memory (to the point of “blacking out”), and even loss of consciousness. Many of these more serious effects are signs of alcohol poisoning—a clear indicator you’ve overdone the drinking.

Alcohol also acts as a diuretic—a substance that causes frequent urination. This means when you’re drinking your body is losing fluid faster than usual. And this can lead to dehydration. In fact, dehydration is one of the biggest contributing factors to the hangover you might feel the next day.

Most people drink in the evening as they wind down for the day. While this isn’t necessarily a problem, consuming alcohol right before bed can disrupt your sleep cycle. You may find it easier to fall asleep after drinking your beverage of choice, but alcohol can prevent your body from reaching the deepest, most restful stages of sleep. This may leave you feeling unrested and fatigued.

So how long do these effects last? Well, it depends on the person, how much they drank, how fast they drank it, and a whole slew of other factors. Alcohol can typically be detected in your system anywhere from six hours to three days. But most of the short-term effects will likely clear up within a day.

The Long-Term Effects of Drinking

The human body is incredibly resilient, and there generally aren’t long-term health problems tied to moderate alcohol consumption. The key word here is moderate. Heavy drinking, on the other hand, can start to take its toll on the body over time.

Naturally, the long-term effects of alcohol consumption vary from person to person. Some of the most common health complications of prolonged, heavy drinking include high blood pressure, increased risk of heart disease, increased risk of stroke, liver disease, and digestive problems.

And these are just the physical effects. Excessive alcohol consumption has also been tied to higher occurrences of certain mental illnesses, including depression and anxiety. In extreme cases, heavy drinking can also lead to alcohol dependence, which, like most addictions, is both a physical and a mental ailment that needs to be dealt with.

How Much Is Too Much? Levels of Alcohol Consumption

From complete abstinence (teetotaling), to moderate, and all the way to and excessive or heavy, there are many levels of drinking. And, as mentioned, most long-term health risks stem from heavy alcohol consumption.

This begs the question: how much is too much?

Although there’s no exact answer to this question—everybody processes alcohol a little bit differently—most government health agencies have guidelines to follow. In the United States, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) classifies the levels of drinking as follows:

  • Moderate drinking: For men, moderate drinking is defined as up to two drinks per day, fifteen drinks per week. For women, those numbers change to one drink per day, eight drinks per week.
  • Heavy drinking: Any drinking that exceeds the CDC guidelines for moderate drinking. Three or more drinks per day for men, or more than fifteen drinks per week. And for women, two or more drinks per day, eight or more drinks per week.

Additionally, the CDC also defines binge drinking—heavy drinking in a small window of time. Five or more drinks per single occasion constitutes binge drinking for men; for women, this number is four or more drinks.

As you get older, you may want to revisit these guidelines, as well as your relationship to alcohol—especially if you are a man. Aging is associated with a decreased ability to metabolize alcohol. As such, both the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and the American Geriatric Society advise men over the age of 65 to consume no more than one drink per day.

Fact or Fiction: Drinking Can Be Good For Your Health

You’ve probably heard someone make the claim a glass of red wine in the evening is actually good for health. And, more specifically, good for your heart. But how true is it?

This theory is believed to have originated with what is called the French Paradox—the notion that French people love three things: butter, cheese, and wine. Cheese and butter are not terribly good for the heart, and yet France sees relatively low rates of heart disease. So some theorized that red wine must counteract the effects of those fatty foods.

As nice as it sounds, there’s a narrow amount of science to back this up. Some beneficial phytonutrients, like resveratrol, can be found in wine. But phytonutrient totals are typically pretty limited and vary a lot wine to wine.

Some surprising nutritional perks are hidden in beer. Unfiltered beers can contain small amounts of antioxidants, soluble fiber, and other micronutrients. These nutrients aren’t in high enough quantities to justify pouring yourself a beer just for the nutritional content. But hey, if you’re already cracking one open, you’ll take all the nutrients you can get.

Fresh vegetables

Fresh vegetables

In today’s world, you can find just about any food in stores year-round. And while there are certainly benefits to the widespread distribution of produce—like being able to make avocado toast on any given Sunday of the year—these food distribution networks have also had other unintended consequences, some good, some bad.

One such consequence is the disappearance of seasonal eating. Throughout the world, many people have access to the same foods throughout the year. This, in turn, means that many people keep their diet consistent regardless of the season. While there’s not necessarily anything wrong with this, it does raise another question: should we be adjusting our diets based on the season?

The short answer is yes—and there are a variety of reasons why. But let’s get into the long answer.

Seasonal Nutrition and Sunlight: Why Your Diet Needs More Vitamin D in the Winter

Whether you’re conscious of it or not, your body responds to and interacts with its environment in a number of ways. One example of this is the way your body converts sunlight into vitamin D. The process starts with UVB radiation, which the sun emits constantly. When this UVB radiation hits the skin it is absorbed by a compound known as 7-dehydrocholesterol. UVB converts this compound into previtamin D3, which eventually becomes vitamin D3—a vitamin that can help support healthy bone development, and energy levels.

So what does this process have to do with the seasons? It’s simple: in the winter months, most people get less sun. And this means they are also getting less vitamin D.

Vitamin D isn’t naturally found in high concentrations in most foods, so picking up the slack during winter months requires a little bit of planning. Here’s the good news: many foods are fortified with vitamin D, so you have options. If you’re trying to add a little vitamin D to your diet to make up for lost sunlight, try eating a breakfast of milk and cereal—both of which are often fortified with vitamin D. Just check the label to make sure this is the case!

If you’re a fan of seafood, you’re also in luck. Vitamin D is found naturally in salmon, tuna, swordfish, and sardines.

Additionally, vitamin D supplements are always an option—just include them with your daily multivitamins.

Seasonal Eating and Nutrition

As outlined above, adjusting your diet depending on the season can have a variety of health benefits. But many people adjust their diet seasonally for a different reason: they want to practice seasonal eating. This is exactly what it sounds like—that is, eating fruits and vegetables that are “in season.”

For many, seasonal eating is about the environment. Food that has to travel halfway around the world to get to you has a much greater carbon footprint than food that is grown just down the street. But it turns out there can be health benefits to seasonal eating too!

By eating fruits, vegetables, and other produce that is in season and locally grown, you naturally vary your diet. After all, not too many foods are in season year-round. A varied diet can help you get a good balance of the vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients your body needs to thrive. Additionally, some studies suggest that locally grown produce is more nutrient-rich than its imported counterparts. This is because the longer some produce is stored, the more some antioxidants can break down. This isn’t to say imported produce is inherently bad, just some food for thought.

Holiday Snacking: Striking the Right Balance

Fall and winter food

As the weather takes a colder turn, your diet may change for another reason: the holidays. Between Halloween, Thanksgiving, and the winter holidays, there’s plenty of opportunity for snacking. The rhetoric surrounding holiday eating often paints this as a bad thing, but it all depends on how you approach it.

First things first, there’s nothing wrong with snacking. And there’s nothing wrong with indulging in your favorite treats around the holidays. What’s important is that you are mindful of your own nutritional goals.

If you feel like you often replace nutrient-rich foods with salty and sweet holiday snacks, try setting out some veggies with the other snacks. This is a simple option that can help you maintain variety in your diet and provide your body with much needed vitamins and minerals.

As you’re eating, remember to slow down. Snack foods have the tendency to go down faster than our bodies can register them, meaning you won’t actually realize you’re full until several handfuls of popcorn too late (or whatever snack you happen to be eating). By slowing down, you can counteract this tendency and allow yourself to really savor and enjoy the food.

Aligning Seasonal Nutrition with Your Nutritional Goals

There’s no “right” way to approach seasonal eating and seasonal nutrition—it all depends on what your nutritional goals are. If you’re trying to eat a varied diet that includes many fresh fruits and vegetables, you may want to try the wide variety of locally-grown produce available each season in your area.

eating bugs

eating bugs

If eating bugs makes your skin crawl, you might be in the minority.

With more than 1,900 species of edible insects on Earth, bugs are a regular item on the dinner menu. Two billion people regularly munch on insects. Entomophagy (the practice of eating bugs) is common in Africa, Asia, and South America. Insects are even considered local delicacies in tropical paradises.

So reprogram your taste buds because insects are actually quite nutritious—and even delicious. Bon appétit!

Eating Bugs is Part of Our Human History

Humans have been eating bugs for ten thousand years. Entomophagy (the practice of eating bugs) was first done by hunter-gatherers to survive when resources were low. They learned which bugs were edible by observing animals. This helped them steer clear of poisonous insects and spiders. Bugs quickly became a regular source of nourishment—one that has persisted to this day.

At first glance, insects do not seem to make a great meal. But when compared to other protein sources, those tiny bugs offer more than meets the eye. Grasshoppers are more densely packed with protein than beef. And they differ from beef in two other categories: fiber and fat. Per ounce, grasshoppers have less fat and more fiber.

Grasshoppers are not the only insects worth mentioning. There are several other bugs on dining tables throughout the world.

People Eat Insects All Over the World

South America and Africa

Beetles are a favorite snack of people living in the Amazon basin and parts of Africa. They are richer in protein than other insects. Beetles are also great at turning cellulose (plant sugars) into digestible fats.

Australia

Ants are tiny but they have a lot to offer your body. Aboriginal peoples in Australia eat honeypot ants as a sweet treat, because these ants’ bellies are chock-full of a nectar-like substance. In Colombia, a type of leaf-cutter ant is toasted and eaten as a snack.

Thailand

Red ants are often cooked or added to salads in Thailand. One-hundred grams of red ants provide more protein than 100 grams of egg (about two boiled)—approximately 14 grams for ants to 12 grams for eggs. Ants are low in calories and carbs, so they’re a real bargain for the calorie-conscious.

Latin America, Asia, and Africa

Crickets, grasshoppers, and locusts are the most commonly eaten insects. This could be because they are easy to find and catch. Many people say that roasted crickets taste nutty. These bugs pick up the flavor of whatever they are cooked with and are popular in stir-fries and curries.

Bees are already sources of a crowd favorite—honey. But bees themselves are eaten, too. The indigenous peoples of Africa, Asia, Australia, and Mexico eat bees when they are still young. The egg, larval, or pupal bee brood taste like peanuts or almonds. Watch out for adult bees. They can sting.

South Africa

Stinkbugs are hidden treasures of insect cuisine. Consumed in Zimbabwe and parts of South Africa. They are said to add an apple flavor to your cooking and are a rich source of iodine.

Food of the Future: Insects Are a Sustainable Protein Source

The current world population is seven and a half billion. To feed their growing populations, many world leaders are looking for sustainable sources of protein. Eating bugs provides a solution.

Insects made headlines in recent years because raising them is cheap to grow and easy on the environment. Crickets for example, take up very little space, reproduce quickly, and can sustain themselves with composting scraps and a little bit of water. Many call bugs “eco protein” because of their efficiency in converting plants to protein.

This makes insect farming more efficient than raising cattle.

Bugs require less water than livestock and take up less space. One-hundred pounds of cattle feed is required to produce 10 pounds of beef. But the same amount of feed yields 45 pounds of cricket.

Fans of “eco protein” are also excited about eating bugs as a method of pest control. Harvesting insects may be a more environmentally conscious solution to controlling the pests that destroy crops. That’s why insect cuisine is gaining traction as an alternative to pesticides.

Protein—Bugs or No Bugs—is Essential for Your Health

Whether you eat bugs, beef, chicken, fish or vegetable sources, quality protein in your diet is a must. Protein is essential to physical fitness. Most people understand that protein builds muscle, but it does much more than that. Your connective tissues are rich in protein. Hair, antibodies, blood, and enzymes all require protein to function properly.

Dietary protein is often misunderstood—with many not understanding the current recommendations and guidelines.

Current dietary recommendations say you should get 10 to 35 percent of your daily calories from protein. There are lots of ways to do that. Animal meat is a good source, but so are Greek yogurt, milk, beans, cheese, nuts, and eggs.

And you can consider insects in that list of protein sources, if you are brave enough to try eating bugs.

Are There Cons to Eating Bugs?

Every big change has pros and cons. There are great reasons for eating insects, but let’s touch on a few downsides to consider before adding bugs to your diet.

It’s important to note that all the “cons” listed here only present a very small risk, no greater than the risks associated with the foods we already consume. Experts agree that the benefits of eating bugs significantly outweigh the risks.

Food Allergies

While insects have been consumed for centuries, modern science knows very little about how they affect our bodies.

One study found that insects have the potential to trigger the same kind of allergic reaction that shellfish (like shrimp and lobster) do.

Insects and shellfish are both classified as arthropods, which means they have an exoskeleton. This similarity in anatomy and physiology could be related to the possibility of allergens.

If you know you have a shellfish allergy, you may want to pass on the roasted grasshoppers.

Bacteria

Insects should always be raised in a clean environment. If the farm isn’t hygienic, there is a chance for a small amount of spore-bearing bacteria, or a parasite to find its way in.

Regulating the conditions in which bugs are farmed would likely be enough to eliminate this risk entirely.

Pesticides

There is very little research on pesticide use in insect farming. One study found very low levels of certain harmful chemicals in raised bugs. However, these levels were no greater than what we find in our animal-based foods already.

Toxins

Ants, bees, and many other insects produce toxins as a defense mechanism for predators. These toxins can be dangerous to humans if consumed. Some can even kill you.

You should have some knowledge of which insects are safe to eat. This risk is much higher with eating insects in the wild as opposed to bugs raised by an insect farmer.

How To Start Eating Insects

If you’re sold on the benefits of eating bugs, you’re probably wondering how to get started. The retail market for insects is small, so you’ll likely be purchasing them online.

One of the least shocking ways to start is with cricket flour. This can be purchased ready-to-use and added to baked goods, salads, soups, and smoothies.

You can also order dried and prepared crickets. But remember that these bug snacks are akin to eating beef jerky. The texture and consistency are nothing like an actual steak.

The tastiest way to start eating insects is to order them live, directly from an insect farm.

Freeze your live bugs for 2-10 hours. Wash them well. Then prep and cook them like you would any regular meat. You can sauté them with garlic or vegetables, or bread them with flour and fry them in oil or add them to pasta. There are plenty of recipes online for inspiration.

Grow Your Own Bugs

Once you order some bugs, you’ll probably realize that they’re just as delicious as a lot of other foods! The most environmentally and financially sustainable way to incorporate bugs into your diet is to raise your own bugs at home.

Crickets, mealworms, and waxworms are some of the most available bugs and require as little as two square feet of space. The size of a plastic bin. You can purchase a pre-built hive, or download a plan and build your own habitat.

Eat a Bug, They’re Good for You

If you’re looking to spice up your diet, look no further than the bugs outside. Eating bugs is perfectly safe—as long as you get the right ones—and it’s an excellent source of protein. Your body needs protein to keep you healthy and active.

But if you’re nervous about trying a bug with your next meal, consider the positive environmental effects associated with bug farming. And you won’t be alone. Join the billions of people who make insect protein a regular part of a healthy diet.

Family going to holiday on summer vacation

Family going to holiday on summer vacation

Travel with family means a lot of baggage—literally and figuratively. It’s enough to deal with the regular stress of making sure everyone packed the right clothes, has their tickets and identification, are properly fed, and not actively crying. The last obstacle you need thrown in is a health challenge of any kind.

There’s no sure-fire way to avoid illness and injury while traveling. But there’s good news: you can take certain steps to help you and your family stay safe and healthy on your next adventure. All it takes is a little bit of planning. So before your next vacation or road trip, utilize the family travel tips you’ll read below.

Prevention is the Best Medicine: Preparing Your Family for Travel

Before embarking on a trip with your family—whether it’s a short road trip or a transoceanic flight—it’s important that everyone is already healthy. If you (or your children) haven’t been to the doctor for a checkup in a while, it’s a good idea to go in for an appointment before any major travel. This is especially true if your upcoming travel will take you into remote areas or countries with developing healthcare infrastructure.

Additionally, traveling—especially to a new country—can expose you to different diseases and put you at greater risk for contracting various illnesses. Thanks to modern medicine, numerous vaccines are available to help protect you. Before traveling abroad, it is important that you and your family are up to date on your vaccinations. Your doctor may also recommend additional vaccinations or prescription medications to further protect your health. Because many of these prescriptions require several days to operate effectively, plan ahead and consult your doctor as early as possible.

If you are traveling with young children, there is a chance they will not have completed their routine vaccinations. Before going on your trip, be sure to talk to their pediatrician. In some cases, the doctor may recommend a slightly accelerated vaccine schedule for your child or advise against travel entirely.

What to Bring to Keep the Family Healthy While Traveling

You’ve booked your tickets, planned your route, secured accommodations, and consulted your family doctor. Now it’s time to pack. Everyone will need to bring appropriate attire for the trip, but some other travel essentials may be less obvious. Check off items on the list below to make sure you have your family’s health essentials covered.

  1. Sunscreen: Sun exposure is nearly impossible to avoid. If you go outside, you’re going to catch some rays. But there’s also a downside to sun exposure: sunburns, dehydration, and—in intense heat—heatstroke.
    To protect your skin from the damaging effects of the sun’s rays, it’s important to wear sunscreen throughout the day. If you’re out in the sun for extended periods of time, remember to reapply your sunscreen every few hours. Otherwise, you might run the risk of a nasty sunburn!
  2. Medications: Naturally, if there are any medications or prescriptions you or other family members take on a regular basis, you should pack them when you travel. You should also bring emergency medications—such as those prescribed for acute anxiety or EpiPens—if there is any chance you’ll need them.
    Certain medications may have restrictions on how much you can travel with, so do your research beforehand. It’s also a good practice to bring documentation for your prescriptions. You might not need it, but if someone starts asking for proof, you’ll be glad you packed it!
  3. Water Bottles: Dehydration is one of the most frequent health challenges people face. Fortunately, it also has one of the easiest solutions: drink more water. There are several ways to keep you and your family hydrated (more on that later), but a great starting point is packing water bottles. If you’re flying, remember that you won’t be able to bring liquids through security in some countries—so pack reusable bottles and fill them once you’ve made it past the checkpoints.
  4. Healthy Snacks: Food is fuel—it gives your body the energy it needs to perform essential functions on a day-to-day basis. Nutritious food can help you feel satisfied, energized, and can even support quality sleep. And all these things are important while traveling.Most of your food intake, even when you’re on the road, should come from full meals. (If you’re looking for tips to eat healthy while traveling, check out this article!) That being said, it’s not always possible to sit down and enjoy a meal. Sometimes you need a snack to hold you over for a few hours.
    As you pack snacks for your trip, your focus should be nutrition. High-protein foods and whole grains will leave you feeling full and energized for longer than sugary, processed foods. If any family member experiences motion sickness—either in a car or on a plane—pack bland foods that are easy to keep down. These will come in handy if you or one of your kids is feeling nauseous but still needs to eat.
  5. Protective clothing: Clothes can protect you from your environment—whether that’s toxic plants on a hike or temperatures well below freezing. As you plan for your trip, consider the environmental factors you might face. Will it be hot? Cold? Raining? Your wardrobe choices should reflect the environment and weather.While it can be fun to buy new clothes for vacation, it’s also a good idea to bring along some old, reliable outfits—those you know you can walk in comfortably for several miles. There’s nothing worse than gearing up for a day of exploring a new place, only to have your clothes chafe or tear.

Hydration on the Go for You and Your Kids

When it comes to healthy travel (and health in general), it’s hard to overstate the importance of water and hydration. Water seems to do it all for keeping your body running smoothly. So getting inadequate amounts of liquid can cause all sorts of health difficulties.

Staying hydrated at home can already be a challenge—and, when you’re on the road, it doesn’t get any easier. This means hydration should be a priority when you travel with family. There are many ways to ensure everyone stays hydrated, and your approach will probably depend on how you’re traveling.

  • Hydrating on planes: The prohibition on bring bottles of water through airport security can pose a problem for people trying to stay hydrated without paying ridiculous airport prices for a bottle of water. Fortunately, there’s an easy solution: pack reusable water bottles for every member of your family. Once you’re through security, you can fill them at a water fountain and bring them on your flight.
    Once on the plane, your water supply can be limited. You can’t just fill the bottle up at a fountain. To avoid getting dehydrated, especially on long flights, limit the amount of alcohol and caffeine you drink. Replace it with plain water instead.
  • Hydrating on road trips: Nothing says summer like a multi-day road trip. Traveling by car isn’t the fastest option out there, but it does give you the ability to bring a lot more with you. And when it comes to hydration, this is a plus. Reusable water bottles are still a great option for road trips, but you should also have a large supply of emergency water in your trunk. Long car rides can take you through remote areas, so if the car breaks down, you’ll need enough water to keep everyone hydrated until help arrives.
    It might seem counterintuitive, but your water intake doesn’t have to only come from water. You can also help keep your body hydrated by eating foods with a high water content. A cooler full of watermelon, oranges, or pineapple chunks makes for a healthy, hydrating snack on a road trip.

Bring Everyone into the Travel Conversation—Even Your Kids

You know your body and your needs better than anyone else. Similarly, you know what keeps you feeling your best mentally and physically. The same is true of your partner, your children, and anyone else you may travel with. You can only do so much planning and preparation for other people’s health—at a certain point you’ll need to bring them into the conversation.

As you prepare for your trip, talk to your kids. Ask them what you can bring that will help them feel relaxed, comfortable, and happy. This could mean packing an extra book, a tablet for movies and games, or music they want to hear on the trip. Try to pack snacks that are nutritious, but well-liked by your travel buddies.

And, of course, don’t forget to take care of yourself and have fun. Looking out for everyone else’s health is exhausting. Ask yourself what you’re doing for your health. Take time to practice self-care and kick back a little bit—after all, travel and vacation should be a time to blow off a little steam.

health and wellness

health and wellness

If asked, most people will say they’d like to live a healthier lifestyle. But when it comes to actually changing—well, that’s another story. So why do so many of people’s health goals go unrealized? One of the most common answers: “I want to be healthier, but I just don’t have time.”

If you’ve ever had a similar thought, you may need to reframe the way you think about healthy living. Being “healthier” doesn’t necessarily mean adding more to your already crammed calendar. Instead of further bloating your busy schedule, try integrating healthier habits into your established routines. It’s all about adjusting and substituting (more on that later).

So what exactly does this look like? As with many lifestyle questions, there’s no single, right answer—it all depends on you, your existing habits, and the changes you’d like to make. Fortunately, you don’t have to dive in without guidance. Whether you’re looking for ways to incorporate exercise into your workday, eat more nutritious meals, or simple health and wellness tips, you’ve come to the right place.

Since healthy living is highly personal, remember that what follows isn’t an exhaustive list, nor a set of steps to follow exactly. Think of it as a tasting menu—you can try different approaches out to see what fits with your schedule and helps you feel your best.


What is Healthy Living?

Most people are familiar with the basics of health and wellness: eat nutritious foods, exercise regularly, and get enough sleep. These are great starting points, but there’s just one problem—these practices are all rather vague. How much should you exercise? What foods should you eat? And how much sleep is “enough”? There’s a good chance you’ve asked yourself (and the internet) similar questions.

Internet searches have probably returned some general guidelines. The CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States), for instance, recommends adults get at least an hour and a half of exercise each week. And there are plenty of articles on nutritious eating that can help you out.

There’s so much available information that it can be intimidating. It can also prove difficult to distill these general guidelines and suggestions into specific, actionable steps for your life. If you’ve ever felt overwhelmed as you navigate your health and wellness journey, refocus on the most important factor: you.


Health and Wellness Tips for the Workplace

The main culprit responsible for people’s busy schedules is work. Most can agree on one thing: too much time is spent working. This can make it difficult to incorporate wellness practices—especially exercise—into daily life. People typically try to exercise in one of two blocks of time: before or after work.

A pre-work exercise routine is a great way to start the day, but it’s not for everyone. And the same can be said for evening workouts. Fortunately, there are other options—you’ve just got to be a little creative. Here are a few ways you can sneak some exercise at work.

  • Try a treadmill desk: You’ve probably seen, or at least heard about, standing desks. If not, the concept is simple: it’s a desk you stand at rather than sit behind. Standing desks have been all the rage in recent years, in part because of their perceived health benefits. And while there may be slight benefits to sitting less and standing more, recent studies suggest the difference in calories burned is minimal.
    Enter the treadmill desk. Rather than simply standing at your desk, you have the option to walk in place. This simple change can drastically increase the number of calories you burn each day, and, if you walk at a brisk pace, help amp up your heartrate during the workday.
  • Cycle during meetings: Treadmill desks are expensive, but workplace exercise doesn’t have to break the bank. For a cheaper—and often more discrete—exercise option, try cycling at your desk. Obviously, you’re not going to actually ride a bicycle in the office, but there are under-desk cycles that have become increasingly popular.
    Basically, these cycles are a set of bicycle pedals on a small stand that can sit under your desk. As you sit in your office chair, you can pedal away to get the blood flowing. Most machines have variable intensities, allowing you to customize your workout each day. And the best part? You can still sit at your desk for virtual meetings.
  • Change up your commute: Not everyone has the benefit of living close to their work. And many of the people who do live within walking or cycling distance of their office still opt to drive. It’s just the default mode of transit—especially in the U.S. where, as of 2019, roughly three out of four American commuters drove their car to work.
    If you’re looking to add a little exercise to your day, however, your commute is a great place to start. Sure, it might take a bit longer than driving, but a brisk walk or bicycle ride in the morning can help clear your mind, wake you up, and prepare you for a day at the office. Plus, it’s built-in workout time. You must be at work one way or another. Would you rather spend that time in traffic or promoting your physical and mental wellbeing?

You are What You Eat: Make the Most of Your Food When You’re Busy

After you drag yourself out of bed in the morning, making a lunch to bring to work is probably the last thing you want to do. Especially when you’re running late. And in this, you’re not alone. Whether it’s the convenience of eating out, lack of groceries in the house, or a dislike of cooking, many people go out for lunch during the workday—if they eat lunch at all.

If you’re looking to improve your nutrition at work, look at the list below. Chances are you’ll find a tip or two that you can use to eat more nutritious foods on a busy schedule.

  • Know your food groups: If you can’t find the time to prepare your lunches, you still have a lot of control over what you eat. You can choose where to go and what to order. And, naturally, some options are better for you than others. In some cases, nutrition is a no-brainer: obviously a salad is a more nutritious choice than a milkshake and fries.
    Sometimes, however, it can be more difficult to identify the most nutritious meals on a menu. This is where knowing the food groups comes in. While nutrition is a complex and nuanced subject, ensuring you eat a variety of foods—dairy, whole grains, proteins, fruits, and vegetables—will give your diet a solid foundation. When ordering at restaurants, choose dishes with several food groups represented. 
  • Meal prep on the weekends: Naturally, cooking your own food gives you the most control over your diet and nutrition. But cooking takes time. And when you’re busy, preparing meals is often the first task on the chopping block (pun intended). So why not take care of the cooking on your day off?
    If you have a free day—or even a free evening—during the week, use that time to prepare healthy meals for the week. There are a few different approaches to meal prep. Some people cook a whole bunch of the same meal and portion it out for each day. This is great if you don’t mind eating the same lunch every day for a week.
    If you prefer a little more variety, you can try prepping different foods that can be combined in various ways, giving you a few options for your on-the-go lunches. For example, if you cook enough chicken, rice, and broccoli for the week, you can easily make a rice bowl to take to work. If that’s not speaking to you, you have cooked chicken you can use in a sandwich and have the broccoli on the side. It’s all about mixing and matching ingredients and getting the time-consuming work of cooking done beforehand.
  • Swap soda out for water: Most people don’t drink enough water. So don’t be like most people. The National Academy of Sciences recommends that men consume 15.5 cups (or 3.7 liters) of liquid every day (this total includes water, other beverages, and foods like soup or celery), and women take in 11.5 cups (or 2.7 liters). If you find yourself falling short of that number, try swapping water for other fluids. Instead of a soda in the afternoon, have a couple glasses of water. Not only will this help promote hydration, but it’ll cut down your sugar intake, too!

Finding Health and Wellness Tips That Work for You

Healthy living on a busy schedule doesn’t necessarily mean turning your life upside down. It’s all about finding ways to incorporate healthy practices into the things you are already doing.

Not all the tips mentioned above will work for everyone—and that’s OK! Try them out and see what works for you. Remember, it’s a process—you don’t have to make all the changes immediately. Take time to adjust to each change and be gentle with yourself. Changing routines is difficult, but it is worth it.

healthy food on the go

healthy food on the go

Even instant rice takes five minutes to cook. If possible, push aside the considerable absurdity of that fact and think of it instead as a commentary on the time it takes to cook for yourself. That temporal investment is one of the few cons of making your meals. But if healthy eating on the go is your goal, you may have to toss out the more time-consuming components of cooking.

After all, busy schedules don’t pair well with building layers of flavor over hours of work on a succulent braise. That’s sad for your tastebuds and, possibly, your overall health.

Cooking really is great if you have time. You control the ingredients, level of salt, and tend to produce healthier fare. Not to mention all the other mental, emotional, and financial benefits you cook up by being your own chef.

But slowly steaming yourself for hours over a hot, humid array of pots and pans isn’t the only way to eat healthy. You can still enjoy meals that are easy, quick, and good for you. It just might mean holstering your wooden spoon and spatula in favor of foods you don’t need to cook. The good news is that tasty and healthful options abound.

Browse the menu laid out below to help you pick healthy on-the-go food options. Any one of them is a massive improvement over a trip to the vending machine, drive thru, or spin around your favorite delivery app.

On the Run: Grab-and-Go Healthy Meals and Snacks

Somedays, you’re in such a hurry that you’re basically a cartoon tornado. You’d be lucky to make it out of the house with two of the same shoes on, let alone any healthy on-the-go food. During these most hectic times, you can still take a few minutes (and that’s all it will take, promise) to grab a snack or nutritious meal replacement.

Here are your best options to snag as your whirlwind morning or afternoon slings you out into the world:

  • A high-quality shake with plenty of nutrients and designed for sustained energy
  • One or two snack bars for the day—ideally, packed with whole-food ingredients, a good source of fiber, and appropriate for your dietary goals
  • A protein-packed cheese stick
  • Whole fruits (apples, oranges, and bananas are very portable) or even single-serving applesauce or other no-sugar-added fruit cups
  • A bag of on-the-go veggies, like baby carrots, celery sticks, mini sweet peppers, sugar snap peas, or radishes

Healthy Eats Thrown Together Quickly

There are times you aren’t literally sprinting out of the house. It might not feel like it, but you actually do have time—especially if you cut out a few minutes of early morning doomscrolling on social media—to toss a few ingredients together.

A few of your quick, healthy meal options are as follows:

  • Celery sticks and your favorite nutritious nut butter
  • Carrots (baby or stick style) and hummus
  • A handful of nuts and fresh berries
  • Single-serve popcorn
  • Greek yogurt and a fresh fruit of your choice

Full Meals Done as Fast as Possible

Having a bunch of easy snacks to make is essential to eating healthy on the go. But sometimes your day requires more of a traditional meal to fuel the madness. You don’t need a five-course tasting menu, though.

Quick and easy healthy meal options can include:

  • Veggie or salad wraps
  • Pre-made or easily stirred up salads (go with the bagged kit and replace the dressing with oil and vinegar if the included option is too packed with sugar, fat, or calories)
  • Stuffing a sandwich with fresh veggies and some lean, low-sodium meat (if you want)
  • Skipping the bread and just roll up sliced tomatoes, peppers, or avocados in low-sodium lunch meat
  • Piling sliced or chopped veggies and canned beans into a bowl
  • Avocado toast or other enhancements to toasted bread (nut butter and pomegranate seeds, for one)

A Little Prep Pays Off for Healthy Eating on the Go

It may seem like cheating to count meal prep done by your past self. But that weekend or less-busy version of you could do present, in-a-rush you some favors. To pull this off, you’ll need to do a little bit of planning and commit to working ahead on healthy meals you just need to mix up, mash together, or microwave.

You can boil eggs, bake proteins, prepare produce, and make more than you can eat at your non-rushed meals to guarantee leftovers for the next day. Maybe you only want to—or have time to—cook once a week. Use that time to make batches of soup, grain bowls, or other easy, healthy meals.

Create a future that’s little less frantic food-wise and make healthy eating on the go possible with a little bit of prep work. Whether it’s more planning or a better understanding of healthy on-the-go food, you have the tools to eat smart without spending too much time sweating over the stove.

nutrition on the go

nutrition on the go

Healthy eating is the backbone of any healthy lifestyle. It provides the energy you need to focus throughout the day, helps keep your immune system operating at its best, and fuels your body for physical activity.

Of course, eating right is easier said than done—especially when life gets busy. When you have a lot on your metaphorical plate, it’s tempting to forego healthy, nutritious meals. That might mean replacing them with fast food, a snack from the vending machine, or simply skipping the meal.

In other words, when life gets busy, many people tend to deprive themselves of the key nutrients that will keep them operating at their best. But it doesn’t have to be this way. It’s time to learn which nutrients will help power your busy life and how to incorporate them into your daily meals.

Nutrition 101

If you’re completely new to the world of nutrition, don’t worry—this section provides a quick, crash course on the basics. And if you’re a seasoned expert (pun intended), a little review never hurts, right?

Nutrition—in the context of this article—refers to the process of providing your body with the food it needs to support normal growth and development, as well as maintain essential body functions. To do each of these tasks, your body requires a variety of nutrients. These nutrients range from amino acids, fats, and carbs to vitamins, minerals, and everything in between. So when people throw around phrases like healthy eating, nutritional food, or a good diet, they’re referring to eating habits that provide your body with the nutrients it needs to function. But also avoiding—or reducing—the intake of less nutritious options.

Though it can sound involved—and, frankly, intimidating—eating a well-balanced diet can be done easier than you think. In fact, simply eating a large variety of whole foods can provide the building blocks of a balanced diet. You can reach for a variety of different foods: fruits, vegetables, grains, proteins, and dairy.

Between these food groups, you can get most of the nutrients you need on a day-to-day basis. So if you’re eating the recommended daily amount of each food group, your diet likely has a strong foundation. From there, you can adjust your eating habits to focus on specific nutrients—but more on that later!

The Importance of Nutrition on the Go

The food you eat directly fuels your energy levels. Carbohydrates such as sugar, for instance, can provide quick, temporary bursts of energy. But the benefits of good nutrition go far beyond your energy levels.

Nutrition is the unsung hero (or villain) of your day-to-day experiences. Whether it’s the quality of your sleep or your ability to focus throughout the day, nearly every element of your day is affected, in part, by what you put in your body.

This makes nutrition especially important when you’re busy. An inability to focus can set you behind on the day’s tasks. Similarly, a poor night of sleep can throw off your entire day. But in both cases, you can set yourself up for success by focusing on your eating habits.

Naturally, the optimal meal plan looks a little bit different for everyone. It’ll take time and experimentation to figure out what works best for you. But there are some general guidelines to start you on the right path. The next section breaks down some of the nutrients you’ll likely need to fuel your busy life and why they are so important.

Key Nutrients to Get You Through Busy Days (And Where to Find Them)

A well-balanced diet ensures you have a solid foundation, but you’ll still need to pay close attention to the foods you eat. Each day, you should strive to consume a variety of foods. This will help you maintain a baseline level of nutrition to keep you going.

Once you’ve established that baseline, you can focus on other key nutrients. The list below outlines some of the vitamins and minerals that especially power your busy lifestyle. This is not an exhaustive list of what your body needs, but rather a list of key nutrients involved in healthy energy production that you can use to help supplement an already balanced diet.

B vitamins: It’s been said many times, but it bears repeating—food is fuel. That being said, your body has to perform chemical processes to convert the food you eat into usable energy. This is where vitamins B1, B2, and B3—AKA thiamin, riboflavin, and niacin—come into play. These three B vitamins help support the ways your body breaks down and processes macronutrients. These processes, which spark electron transfers, also need support from B vitamins to produce one of the body’s main sources of energy.

When it comes to energy production, vitamins B5 and B7 (pantothenic acid and biotin) also play an important role. Similar to the other B vitamins, these two vitamins facilitate a number of chemical processes and reactions that help your body metabolize various substances and create usable energy.

B vitamins aren’t all about energy production, though it is one of their main functions. Vitamin B9, AKA folate, helps your body build DNA and RNA, supports tissue growth, and promotes the regeneration of red blood cells. Obviously, these are important bodily functions.

To metabolize—or break down and process—folate, your body needs vitamin B12, or cobalamin. So remember how folate helps your body perform a number of crucial functions? Well, your body also relies on vitamin B12 for those same processes.

At this point, hopefully one thing is clear: the B vitamins do a lot. So where can you find them? The B vitamins can be found in a variety of foods including pork (B1), brown rice (B1), leafy greens (B2, B3, and B9), dairy (B2 and B5), and fish (B3, B7, and B12). For an in-depth look at each of the B vitamins, check out this guide!

Electrolytes: Contrary to popular belief, electrolytes are more than just salt. Electrolytes are water-soluble substances that conduct electrical charges. Some of the most common electrolytes found in your body are calcium, sodium, potassium, and magnesium.

Your body uses electrolytes—and their conductive properties—to support healthy muscle contraction, chemical reactions, and fluid balance. Because your body is about two-thirds water, nearly every cell contains electrolytes.

Electrolytes exit the body through fluids—usually through urine and sweat. Those found in your urine are typically excess electrolytes, meaning your body doesn’t need them. If you’re sweating a lot, however, it may be necessary to deliberately replenish your body’s supply of these electrically charged minerals. So how do you do this?

It’s simple: just eat and drink electrolyte-rich foods and beverages. These include bananas, dairy products, coconut water, avocados, and watermelon. (It’s important to note that excessive amounts of electrolytes can also have detrimental effects on your health. If you suspect you have too many or too few in your diet, you can have a urine test done to measure your levels.)

Calcium: Calcium is mentioned twice in this list because it’s one of the body’s most important nutrients—crucial enough to merit its own section, too. You’ve probably heard that calcium helps maintain strong bones. While that’s true, calcium does a whole lot more, too.

That includes supporting:

  • healthy muscle function
  • nerve signals
  • a healthy heart beat
  • normal cell signaling

As you can see, calcium plays a vital role in your body’s daily function. Additionally, too little calcium in your diet can negatively impact cognition—which can be catastrophic during a busy day.
You can find calcium in dairy products, tofu, and cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, kale).

Magnesium: Like calcium, magnesium is also an electrolyte. The essential mineral also plays a vital role in your body’s ability to produce energy. And it helps regulate your body’s levels of another key nutrient—calcium. Too little magnesium in your diet may result in muscle weakness and fatigue.

If you’re looking to add more magnesium to your diet, consider snacking on whole nuts or pack a salad of leafy greens for lunch.

Iron: As with most of the nutrients listed, iron plays a vital role in energy production. It also helps your red blood cells carry oxygen throughout the body. Iron deficiency can lead to fatigue—which can throw a wrench in your busy day.
Meat is one of the main sources of iron in many people’s diets. If you are vegetarian, focus on eating iron-rich foods, such as beans and nuts.

Vitamin C: Nothing interrupts a busy schedule like a cold. Not feeling your best makes it incredibly difficult to take on your daily tasks. Enter vitamin C, which supports the production of leukocytes—white blood cells that help maintain your health.
Most nutrients have many roles, and vitamin C is no different. In addition to supporting a healthy immune system, this vitamin also helps optimize your body’s creation of metabolic energy (energy extracted from nutrients.). Specifically, vitamin C supports the process your body uses to transport and process fatty acids.

So whether you’re looking to maintain a healthy immune system or support healthy energy levels, it’s crucial that your body gets enough vitamin C. You can load up on this vitamin by eating more citrus (or drinking orange juice), broccoli, or Brussels sprouts. Snacking on raw bell peppers is another good option.

Zinc: Like vitamin C, zinc plays a key role in the health of your immune system. (It also does a whole lot more, from supporting eye and kidney health to helping optimize DNA production.) Zinc is most commonly found in meat, seafood, and eggs. So vegetarians and vegans, take note: you might need additional sources of zinc in your diet. This could mean eating more legumes and nuts, or simply taking a dietary supplement.

Water: Good old H2O. Pretty much everyone knows they need to drink a lot of it, and yet many people don’t. Dehydration can cause headaches and fatigue. Fortunately, there’s a surefire way to avoid this: drink more water. If you struggle with proper hydration, consider investing in a large water bottle to carry with you throughout the day. There are even apps that can help you track your hydration!

Balancing Your Diet and Your Schedule

When it comes to healthy eating, it’s easy to let your schedule interfere. But eating a balanced diet doesn’t necessarily require a lot of time. It just means more planning and a little bit of prep.

If you find yourself munching on vending machine snacks throughout the day, consider stocking up on nutrient-rich snacks like nuts or fresh vegetables and hummus. Similarly, a homemade, vegetable-packed sandwich can make an excellent, nutritious lunch—you just have to set aside time to make it.

At the end of the day, balancing your diet might mean balancing your schedule. Nutrition doesn’t necessarily require hours and hours of planning and preparation—15 or 20 minutes of meal prep in the morning can make all the difference. In an hour or two on Sunday, you can knock out your meals for the week. Find what works with your schedule and stick with it.

Nutritious meals might seem time consuming, but they’ll supply the fuel you need to push through a busy day. And with optimal energy levels and focus, maybe you’ll find that nutrition saves you time after all.

Good nutrition is the backbone of any healthy lifestyle. Without satisfying necessary caloric and nutritional needs, your body can’t keep you thriving. This includes everything from basic functions—like breaking down and removing waste and protecting itself against toxins—to growth, development, and maintaining energy levels. But what exactly is “good nutrition”?

Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer. As your body grows, changes, and develops, so do your nutritional needs. Though the basics of nutrition stay the same throughout life, your nutritional needs will vary depending on your physical activity levels, lifestyle habits, and age. This article will focus on that last one: nutrition by age.

As your body changes from infancy to adulthood—and everything in between—it requires slightly different nutrients to optimize growth, development, and function. And some of these nutrients might not be what you’d expect! So take a closer look at some of the surprising nutritional needs for each age group.

Newborn Nutrition: 0-12 Months

Whether you decide to feed your newborn breastmilk, formula, or a combination of the two, your baby’s nutritional needs should be a top priority. In their first year of life, most babies more than double their weight. That’s a lot of growth—not to mention the brain development that occurs during this time period. All these changes in babies’ bodies require the proper fuel.

From birth until about six months, it’s recommended to feed your baby exclusively breast milk or newborn formula. This will help them acquire the fats, proteins, and other nutrients they need. If your infant is breastfeeding, their nutrients come from the person feeding them. For this reason, it’s important for that individual to stay on top of their own nutrition and supplement their diet with the nutrients their baby needs. So what exactly are those nutrients?

You’re probably familiar with the more common staples of infant nutrition—calcium to support bone strength and growth, for example—but let’s take a look at some of the less talked about nutritional needs of infants.

  • Folate: The less-known vitamins and minerals are an often-overlooked aspect of nutrition. This is the case with folate, aka vitamin B9, which plays a vital role in cell division. And that’s one of the key processes behind infant growth and development.
    To ensure your infant has appropriate amounts of folate in their diet, check their formula for the levels of vitamin B9. Or, if you’re breastfeeding your child, eat plenty of folate-rich foods, such as leafy greens and legumes.
  • Zinc: No single nutrient is more important than the rest. That being said, if you were asked to name a nutrient as MVP of your diet, zinc would be a strong contender. The mineral helps maintain a healthy immune system, supports cellular growth and repair, and helps optimize DNA creation—all of which are important at any stage of life, but are especially vital for infants.
    Babies born prematurely often have zinc deficiencies, which is a problem because they need zinc to catch up on their growth. When breastfeeding, be sure to stock up on zinc rich foods—nuts are a great, calorie-dense option!

Early Childhood: From Toddlers to Preteens

Growth and development don’t stop after infancy. From the terrible twos up through adolescence, the body continues to undergo rapid changes. It’s a formative time, and not just for an individual’s personality. Proper nutrition during these periods of change set the stage for a healthy adulthood. So what are some key nutritional needs for children and preteens?

  • Fats: Pop nutrition has given fats a bad reputation. But not all fats are bad. In fact, some fats are a crucial part of a healthy diet and lifestyle. This is especially true when it comes to children’s nutrition.
    When people talk about fat in food, they typically mean: saturated fats or trans fats. Children should eat saturated fats, or fats that come from meat, dairy, and eggs, in moderation. And trans fats, which are created when some foods are processed, should be avoided as much as possible.
    But what about the good fats—the ones that can provide children with energy, support overall health, and help them process other nutrients? These fats are found in foods like olives, nuts, and seafood. And these beneficial forms should make up most of the fat in a child’s diet.
  • Sodium: When it comes to sodium, the problem most children face is not too little of it in their diet, but far too much. Fast food is a frequent meal in many households. And understandably so: it’s quick, affordable, and picky eaters may actually eat it. But these foods also contain lots of sodium.
    The recommended daily value for sodium changes with age. Young children—up until age four—only need about 1,500 mg of sodium per day, while preteens should take in up to 2,200 mg. According to a 2011 survey, 90% of children in the U.S. exceeded the recommended daily value for sodium, with average daily intake coming in at a whopping 3,256 mg per day. That’s more than 1,000 mg higher than the recommended value.
    So what’s the big deal? In moderation, sodium is a vital part of a healthy diet. It helps nerves function, plays a role in muscle function, and helps the body maintain proper fluid balances. Too much sodium, however, can lead to blood pressure issues.

Adolescence: Nutrition During the Teenage Years

Parenting teenagers can be a challenge (to say the least). It’s a period marked by mental, emotional, and physical changes—all of which can be difficult to handle individually. Put these changes together, and you have the perfect storm. If there’s one thing teenagers need, though, it’s the space to exercise and explore their independence. And this might include choosing more of the foods they eat.

That being said, good nutrition should still be a priority. Adolescence is, after all, a period of change. And when the body changes, it requires fuel. Teens are likely familiar with the basics of their nutritional needs but might need some additional guidance when it comes to specific nutrients. The list below outlines a few of the unsung heroes of teen nutrition.

  • Iron: You’ve maybe heard that iron-deficiency can lead to anemia—a condition that can lead to extreme fatigue. But maintaining energy levels isn’t all iron is good for. High iron intake is also crucial during periods of rapid growth—teenage growth spurts, for instance.
    Monitoring your iron intake as a teen is especially important if you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet. Meat, poultry, and fish are some of the most common sources of iron—if you don’t eat any of these foods, you’ll need to be extra diligent about eating other high-iron foods, such as beans, broccoli, and spinach.
  • Sleep: This one is, admittedly, not a nutrient. But it is an often overlooked element of teen health. When it comes to adolescent growth and development, a well-balanced diet is only one piece of the puzzle—and sleep is the other. Sleep can help your immune system stay strong, helps support your brain and body to grow and develop, and can optimize mood and emotion regulation. As a teenager, you should sleep 8-10 hours a night. It might seem like a lot, but it’s worth it!
    Getting enough sleep isn’t simply a matter of getting in bed at a reasonable time. A variety of other factors affect sleep including ambient noise, blue light exposure, and even diet. While there is no single nutrient that will solve your sleep problems, a well-balanced diet has been shown to support quality sleep. In this case, well balanced means supplying your body with enough magnesium, calcium, and vitamins A, C, D, E, and K. (Not sure where to find these nutrients? Take a look at this vitamin guide and essential mineral overview for a quick crash course!)

Nutrition Later in Life

If there’s one guarantee in life, it’s that you’re not getting any younger. And as you age, you might notice your body experiencing a little wear and tear. To a certain extent, this is inevitable. With the right diet and healthy lifestyle choices, however, you can help keep your body running smoothly well past 60.

They say that prevention is the best medicine—and by paying attention to your nutritional needs as you age, you can help keep yourself feeling good. You’ve probably heard that calcium is crucial for maintaining bone strength later in life, but that’s not all is needed at this stage of life. So let’s take a look at some of the less talked about nutrients.

  • Magnesium: Calcium gets all the credit when it comes to supporting bone strength, but magnesium also plays a crucial role in maintaining healthy, strong bones. Additionally, it helps both the heart and immune system continue to function properly.
    As you get older, your body absorbs magnesium less efficiently. This means you need more of this important in your diet to actually get the necessary amount. What’s more, many medications also affect magnesium absorption—so be sure to ask your doctor about any side effects!
  • Water: Everybody needs to drink water. That never changes because healthy hydration is an important aspect of nutrition and a healthy life. However, some studies indicate that your body requires more water as you age. The effects of dehydration can also lead to more serious health consequences for older individuals. Fortunately, the remedy for dehydration is simple: just drink more water.
    To ensure you are staying properly hydrated, look at your urine. It might not be the most pleasant part of your day, but it’s a simple way to check your hydration levels. If your urine is dark and cloudy or bright yellow, you likely aren’t drinking enough water. (There is an exception to remember with urine color. Even well hydrated individuals taking high dosages of vitamin C and B vitamins can have very bright yellow urine.) Typically, your urine should be somewhere between pale yellow to clear.

Nutrition by Age

As you age, your body grows, develops, and changes in countless ways. This probably isn’t news to you. Navigating these changes can be tough but properly satisfying your body’s nutritional needs at each stage of life can help optimize the aging process. And no matter your age, it’s never too late to start caring about nutrition. So, with what your read above as a guide, take charge of your health one nutrient at a time!

With the ever-increasing popularity of fad diets and pop nutritionists, the world of healthy eating can feel intimidating. Everyone from your neighbor to your doctor to your mom seems to have advice on what you should—or should not—eat. And this advice is often contradictory.

But healthy eating doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, the simplest foods and meals are often the best for you. This is the guiding logic behind taking the clean eating approach to your diet.

Clean eating is the practice of filling your plate with primarily unprocessed, whole foods. It doesn’t outline how much you eat or when, but rather how you should select the foods you consume.

Bite into the Benefits of Clean Eating

Before diving into the ins and outs of clean eating, you should know one thing: clean eating takes commitment. It means diligently monitoring the foods you buy and eat—at home and when you’re out. That being said, the benefits of clean eating make it worth the effort. Take a look at why that is.

Food provides your body with the essential nutrients, energy, and building blocks to keep your body going. And, if you’re lucky, the food tastes good, too. People often think that the two are mutually exclusive: food is either healthy or tasty, not both. With clean eating, you can experience the best of both worlds.

Clean eating is an excellent way to provide your body with fiber, antioxidants, plant-based fats, and whole grains—all of which will help you feel energized and maintain overall health. And on top of that, a clean eating diet is full of flavorful, fresh foods that often taste better than their over-processed counterparts.

So if you’re looking to make your diet nutritious and tasty, keep reading to find the recipe for clean eating success.

The Key to Clean Eating? Stay Closer to Nature

Clean eating is all about focusing on foods that are as close to their natural state as possible. This means limiting the processed foods you eat. Think about potato chips: if someone showed you a chip, would you be able to identify the plant it came from without any prior knowledge? Sure—they’re made from potatoes, but those root veggies are processed to the point where they’re no longer instantly recognizable.

Compare this to, say, a baked potato. This is far closer to a potato’s natural form. And you can apply this logic to most foods—but more on that later!

As foods are processed, they undergo a number of changes. Processing can strip foods of nutritional value, and loaded them with sugar, preservatives, and other chemicals. Clean eating can help you maximize the most nutritional value from your food while avoiding those negative additives

Clean eating also means moderating your intake of alcohol. While a little red wine won’t hurt you, it’s probably no surprise that alcohol isn’t exactly good for you. It is, after all, a toxin that needs to be broken down and dealt with by your liver.

A Crash Course in Whole Foods and Food Processing

If you’re looking into clean eating for the first time, you’ll want to ensure you have a good understanding of whole foods—both what they are and how to identify them.

As mentioned above, whole foods are those that have undergone as little processing as possible. Or, in other words, foods that are close to their natural state. Unless you’re eating fruit right off the tree, most of the food you consume will be at least a little processed. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Chopping, washing, mashing, or cooking are all forms of processing. And some are better for your health than others.

Slicing an orange in half and eating it won’t reduce the nutritional value. It’s a form of processing with minimal impact on the food itself. The same is true of, say, washing an apple before you eat it.

Now, think about orange juice from concentrate. To reach that state, oranges are juiced, the liquid is reduced down into a thicker, concentrated form, some preservatives (and maybe even artificial flavorings and sweeteners) are added, and then water is added before use to make it a juice-like consistency once again.

Now, you might think, “that sounds like a lot of unnecessary steps.” And you’re right. At each of those steps, the original produce—an orange—strays further and further from its natural state. Many of these steps reduce the nutritional value of the juice and introduce unnecessary chemicals and sugars into it. Not exactly clean eating—or, in this case, drinking.

So how can you identify whole or minimally processed foods? The supermarket is full of options, but it can be difficult to parse out which foods are truly whole foods and which are simply being marketed as a health food. Fortunately, there are a few simple tips and tricks for selecting whole foods that you can use the next time you’re at the supermarket.

Tips for Selecting the Best Foods for Your Clean Eating Meal Prep

  1. Eat as many fresh fruits and vegetables as possible. Beans are another great whole food—just be sure to watch for added sodium in canned versions!
  2. Opt for whole grains. Refined grains—which are the more common form—contain less fiber and fewer overall nutrients. To check if your bread is truly whole grain, look at the ingredients label. Does it show “whole-wheat flour” as the first ingredient? If not, it is probably made from mostly refined grains.
  3. Don’t be afraid of food in its natural state. A bundle of dirty, fresh beets might seem intimidating at first, but with a little practice and research, you’ll be able to prepare and cook them to perfection!
  4. Read nutrition facts labels and ingredient lists. So many foods at the grocery store have added sugars, artificial flavors, preservatives, and other additives. Be sure to know what you’re buying—and eating.

Eating as Clean as Possible—Even When Life Becomes an Obstacle

There isn’t a clear line between clean and unclean eating. It’s a spectrum. And there’s room in your clean eating approach for a variety of foods—including some processed items that meet certain criteria.

In the real world of whirlwind schedules and limited time, you need to be realistic. Sometimes you have to rely on a nutrition bar, shake, snack, or other more acceptable processed food choices. Don’t beat yourself up for it. Moving to more whole foods and picking the right convenient options still mean your clean eating approach is working.

When you have to reach for processed snacks or meal replacements, look for these qualities:

  • Nutrient rich
  • Full of fiber
  • Packed with protein
  • Low in calories, low in added sugar, and—if possible—low on the glycemic index
  • Made with quality ingredients

This means you need to do a little research. Take a look at the nutrition facts panel and ingredients list to make the best choices.

And remember: making the better choice is always good enough. Choose progress over perfection. That means it’s OK to skip the fast food or potato chips in favor of a shake or nutrition bar that provides fiber and protein without a lot of extra sugar.

Start by Creating Your Clean Eating Meal Plan

If you’re sold on the benefits of clean eating, you don’t have to make the shift all at once. Fortunately, starting is the easy part.

As you begin making the shift towards clean eating, start with small changes. In each meal, try to identify one processed food that you could replace with a whole-food counterpart. If, for instance, you typically make sandwiches on white bread, try using whole-grain bread instead. If you eat cereal for breakfast every morning, try steel-cut oats instead. For snacks, see if you can stick to fresh fruit, vegetables, and lightly roasted nuts.

If you typically cook your meals from scratch, follow a similar process. You have total control over the ingredients, so it’s just a matter of choosing the right ones.

As you make these substitutions and small changes, you’ll figure out what works best for you. Your grocery list will gradually develop to include whole foods. And remember, clean eating looks different for everyone. So figure out what you like by exploring different ingredients and cuisines. Then make favorite meals the cornerstones of your weekly clean eating meal prep.