The Elements of a Healthy Diet, & How to Change


By Leo Babauta

One of the best things I ever did to change my life (along with exercise, mindfulness, simplicity and focus) is to teach myself to eat a healthy diet.

But one of the things that confused me early on was: what is a healthy diet? There are so many definitions of what’s healthy — low-fat, low-carb, Paleo, vegan, Mediterranean, raw, and so on. It can be pretty confusing.

While I risk making a lot of people angry with this article, I’m going to attempt to synthesize my personal research on healthy eating. This isn’t definitive, and I’m not a nutritionist, but I’ve been exploring a healthy diet and have read hundreds of articles on this, sorting the good from the bad.

Here’s what I believe is healthy.

Overall Principles

A diet is healthy if it:

gives your body nutrients it needs,
without giving you too many calories (too many calories leads to obesity over time),
or unhealthy things (like too much saturated or trans fat, nitrates, excess sodium, unhealthy chemicals).

This definition is for the long term, not day to day. On any given day, you could have less nutrients than you need, and too many calories and sodium, but if the diet balances out over time, then it can be healthy.

So healthy food contributes to that: a good nutrient-to-calorie ratio without a lot of the bad stuff.

What kind of nutrients does your body need? It needs essential amino acids (protein), healthy fats, …

What do you think?