A young adult’s body goes through a lot of different changes. These changes require certain nutrients to aid the body and ensure proper growth and development. Unfortunately, many people today consume more than the recommended amount of carbs, fats, and sugars, and get insufficient amounts of essential nutrients. It’s no secret that these bad eating habits can lead to serious health concerns in the long run.
So, how can young professionals stay healthy? Here are seven diet tips to incorporate into your lifestyle.
Count your calories
Start by taking control of your daily calorie intake. Good nutrition always starts with a healthy amount of calories, as this plays a huge role in managing your weight. Maintaining your ideal weight is one of the important keys to improve not just overall health, but also your quality of life.
But how many calories do you really need each day? Answers depend on a lot of things, such as your gender, age, and daily activity level. Young men (ages 19 to 30), for example, only need 2,400 to 3,000 calories to maintain a healthy weight. Young women of the same age group, on the other hand, need 1,800 to 2,400 calories a day to maintain a healthy weight.
Choose whole grains
According to the USDA, Americans are indeed consuming enough grains; however, they don’t consume the right kind of grains. Rather than eating whole grains, they consume refined grains such as white bread, white rice, white flour, and de-germed products. These are usually enriched, meaning they contain certain B vitamins and iron (added in processing). However, they lack fiber, antioxidants, and trace minerals like copper, magnesium, and zinc. A diet rich in whole grains reduces the risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and certain types of cancer.
So, what should you choose? You can opt for whole grains such as oatmeal, quinoa, brown rice, flaxseed, barley, buckwheat, whole rye, wild rice, etc. Young men need around 8oz of grains a day, while young women need 6oz.
Can’t go wrong with fruits and veggies
Fresh fruits and vegetables just don’t get old. That’s why they’re called “powerhouse food”. These foods provide essential vitamins and nutrients, such as vitamins A, C, K, fiber, folate, magnesium, potassium, etc.–all with a small amount of calories. These foods can help reduce the risk of diseases such as cancer.
Younger women can have two and a half cups of fruits and veggies a day, while men are recommended to eat three cups. But how do you convert fruits and veggies into cups? Well, a couple of stalks of celery are equivalent to one cup. A large peach or eight (big) strawberries are a cup. A large salad bowl has pretty much all the nutrients you need for the day.
Alternatively, you can use a healthy substitute in the form of organic supplements; check out this comparison between Organifi and Amazing Grass, two of the market leaders for healthy natural supplements.
Fuel your muscle with protein
Protein is not just for muscle. It’s also important for keeping your skin and blood healthy. It is essential for the body to grow and repair as well. Fortunately, the typical American diet doesn’t lack protein.
Protein-rich food, such as beans, chicken, dairy, eggs, fish, etc., are broken down by the stomach into amino acids and absorbed by the small intestine. The liver sorts the protein out and the body absorbs what it needs. The rest, however, are simply flushed out through urine.
While protein is easily available in so many different forms (meat, protein shakes, protein bars, etc.), the problem for most people is choosing healthy or lean protein that is low in “bad fat” and high in “healthy fat”. Beans, nuts, legumes, seafood, and skinless chicken meat are good sources of protein and healthy fat, while red meat like beef and pork are considered as unhealthy fat.
How much protein do you need? Younger women need around five and a half ounces a day, while men usually need six and a half. Obviously, protein should be taken throughout the day, distributed between meals and snacks. A one-fourth cup of black beans is one ounce, so is one egg and twenty-four pistachios. A good rule of thumb here is that one ounce is around the size of a golf ball. Three ounces is about as big as a deck of cards.
Opt for healthy snacks
Snacks can help fuel your body between meals and provide extra energy for physical activities and growth. When snacking, choose food low in salt, sugar, and saturated fat. Some good examples are fresh fruits, vegetable sticks, and unsalted nuts and seeds.
Drink plenty of fluids
Doctors usually recommend drinking six to eight glasses of water a day. Water lubricates the joints, delivers oxygen throughout the body, regulates temperature, hydrates the skin, flushes body waste, and aids the digestive system. Of course, you can always drink other healthy fluids, too, such as fresh fruit juice.
Dairy is still important
While it’s easy to dismiss milk, younger adults should not do so lightly. Dairy products like milk, cheese, yogurt, etc., are excellent sources of calcium and vitamin D. Both nutrients are essential for bone health, teeth, and muscle. An adult’s body still needs these nutrients to gain strength. As a matter of fact, bone health peaks between the ages of 25 and 30. Thus, it is important to consume as much calcium as you can to support your body’s development.
Obviously, not all dairy products are the same. You can choose low fat or even non-fat dairy over full-fat dairy. People with lactose intolerance can opt for almond, coconut, or soy dairy to aid their body’s calcium needs. Both young professional men and women need about three cups of dairy a day. That can be converted into eight ounces of low-fat yogurt. An ounce and a half of hard cheese (cheddar or Swiss) is equivalent to one cup.