Contemplation Questions about Eating Healthy

What types of food should I eat?

Eating better foods gives you more energy, helps you to focus better at school, and excel at sports. We can divide foods into three categories:

  • Foods that give you energy or carbohydrates, which include whole grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables. These foods tend to be low in fat and added sugars, and rich in vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber. Choosing the right carbohydrates, such as fruits, green- leafy vegetables, red and orange vegetables, beans and peas, whole grain bread, whole wheat or corn tortillas, whole wheat pastas, and oatmeal, can help you to maintain a healthy weight, blood pressure and cholesterol, as well as to decrease your risk of type 2 diabetes.
  • Foods that rebuild and maintain the tissues of your body or protein, include low fat dairy, eggs, seafood, nuts and seeds, and lean (low fat) meats. Eating more salmon, light tuna, walnuts, almonds, sesame seeds, and soy products can also help you maintain a healthy cholesterol. Remember that low fat dairy is one of the best sources of calcium and vitamin D, which are important nutrients to keep your bones strong and healthy.
  • Ingredients that add flavor and texture to the meal while providing some important nutrients or healthy fats, include vegetable oils such as canola oil, olive oil, flaxseed oil, sunflower oil, soybean oil, and peanut oil. Remember to use only 1-2 tablespoons of oil at a time!

What makes other foods so bad?
You may have heard the term you are what you eat. Foods are used to nourish our bodies, therefore eating those that contain high quantities of solid fats, added sugars and sodium, may increase our risk of heart disease, cancers, type 2 diabetes and many other health conditions. Some of these foods may include grain-based desserts, pastries, biscuits, frosting, pizza, cheeses, sausages, franks, bacon, butter, shortenings, fried foods, frozen dinners, canned foods, cold cut meats, soft drinks, ice cream, sweetened yogurts or milks, and many more. Eating these foods on a special occasion can still be part of a healthy lifestyle, but making them part of our regular meals can lead to health problems.

How many calories should I eat?
Our bodies need calories or energy in order to complete all of their functions. We acquire energy through the food that we eat every day and we spend it maintaining our body and through our daily activities. Our calorie allowance depends on our age, height, weight, and activity level. Active adolescent males spend many calories because they are growing very quickly, whereas inactive females spend little energy. Visit to create a profile and receive your personalized calorie allowance and meal pattern recommendations.

What if I eat too many calories in one day?
Managing your daily calories is kind of similar to managing a weekly allowance. If the calories that you consume from food and drinks equal the calories that you spent through maintaining your body and physical activity, you are in calorie balance. However, if you tend to eat more calories that you spend, slowly but surely, you will be gaining weight. Reaching and keeping a healthy weight can be difficult. Lifestyle, your food environment, and social pressure can enable overeating and inactivity. Consuming fewer calories while meeting all nutrient goals can be challenging, therefore doing physical activity for at least 60 minutes per day can be very important to manage your weight.

Instead of drinking sugary drinks, what are some other choices?
Beverages are important sources of hydration, but sugary drinks such as sodas, fruit drinks, energy drinks, smoothies, coffee drinks, and sweet teas, can displace important nutrients by drowning us with added sugars and unnecessary calories. Some healthier alternatives may include low fat or fat free milk, 100% vegetable juices, unsweet iced teas, and of course…water!

Have you tried to make your own infused water? Flavor your water naturally by adding some of your favorite fruits, limes, and even some fresh herbs.

If I don’t eat healthy now, how would it affect me?
It is common to think that eating unhealthy will only affect us in “the future”, but the food that we choose to eat now has an immediately effect on our wellbeing. Healthy food supplies our bodies with all of the nutrients that it needs to feel alert and strong. Our food also feeds trillions of bacteria in our gut, which can help to absorb nutrients, keep our intestines healthy, and fight diseases. When we eat unhealthy foods, our bodies do not receive key nutrients to function well and our gut bacteria are not very happy campers. Eating unhealthy has immediate consequences for our intestinal health because it changes the type of bacteria present. Studies show that “bad” bacteria in our gut can contribute to obesity, type 2 diabetes, food allergies, heart disease, high cholesterol and common infections. We do not have to wait years to see the consequences of poor eating habits. Many of the chronic diseases, like heart disease and type 2 diabetes, can start to develop in childhood. Eating healthy foods with more dietary fiber and less fat can change the type of bacteria in our gut within a few days. After all, we are what we eat!

How do I know when I should stop eating?
Now days our plates and portions tend to be much bigger than what we actually need. Instead of listening to our body’s sign of hunger and say “no, thank you but I am full”, we tend to overeat. Sometimes, we eat in response to our emotions of boredom, sadness, annoyance, nervousness, and many others. Although it may feel weird at first, try listening to your internal signals of being hungry or full. As you eat, pause in between your bites of food so that you can give your body time to assimilate what you are eating. You may even drink some water in between so that you can really give yourself sometime to think about your hunger. As you continue eating, ask yourself: am I very hungry, hungry, satisfied, full, or stuffed? The goal is to eat until you are satisfied but not quite full. Remember that you can always eat a healthy snack in between your meals. As you practice this technique day by day, you will learn to recognize your body’s language of when it’s hungry and when it’s satisfied!