Diet

What is Healthy Food

Eating healthy food is important but what foods are best & healthy? Know the Importance of eating healthy food & tips to include them in your diet.

Kannan
Jul 14, 2022

Do you know what foods are best to put on your plate? Or how much you should eat of these foods? What is healthy food to eat?

It can be hard to figure out what the term ‘healthy food’ means and how to fill your plate with these. In this article we’ll help you get the answers to these questions along with plenty of examples from Indian cuisine with which you can build a healthy Indian diet plan.

Healthy food in simple terms are foods that improve your health and well-being. And eating such foods is what we call healthy eating.

Healthy eating means eating a wide variety of foods from each of the 5 major food groups (discussed below) in the amounts recommended.

what foods are best
You are what you eat

The importance of healthy food cannot be understated. Eating a variety of foods from the 5 major food groups will provide your body with the nutrients it requires (like vitamins, minerals and protein). This will improve your health, help your body perform its functions correctly and can help reduce the risk of various diseases like diabetes. Eating a variety of these foods will also keep your diet interesting by including different flavours.

 

Eating healthy does not have to be boring!

 

No matter where you're starting, you can start by making little changes to make your eating healthier. Just focus on eating foods from the 5 major food groups and reducing your intake of other treat foods.

 Importance of healthy food

Your body needs a number of nutrients in order to maintain good health. And the role of a healthy diet is to provide your body with these nutrients. Here are the main nutrients:

 

  • Energy for daily living. You usually get this from carbohydrate-rich foods like rice or roti.
  • Proteins. Protein is made up of amino acids which your body uses for many chemical processes like immunity and digestion.
  • Fats. There are many types like saturated and unsaturated fats.
  • Vitamins. E.g. vitamin C and vitamin D
  • Minerals, like calcium, potassium and magnesium.
  • Phytonutrients, which are present in vegetables and fruits.
  • Water.

 

If your diet does not include enough of these important nutrients, this can cause problems.

For example:

  • If you don’t get enough calcium and protein, it will negatively affect your bone health.
  • If you don’t get enough vitamins and minerals, your immune system can become weak which will result in you falling sick more often.

 

Getting too much of some of these nutrients is also a problem.

For example:

  • If the diet has too much energy (calories) this will be stored in the body as fat. This fat will be stored where you can see it (belly fat) as well where you cannot see it (around your organs, like in fatty liver). This usually happens in a diet too high in carbohydrates and sugar.
  • Eating very high amounts of fat can also cause health problems. For example in a keto diet where more than 70% of your daily diet is fats. Anyone trying a keto diet should only do so under professional guidance and typically, only for a short period.

It is important to balance the various food groups in a scientific way. When you do this with a healthy eating diet plan, you will see many positive changes. For example:

  • You will lose excess weight and body fat.
  • Your body composition will improve
  • You will retain muscle, which is important as you age.
  • You will maintain good bone health.
  • You will improve your digestive system.
  • You will avoid lifestyle diseases that are caused by poor diet like diabetes, fatty liver, cholesterol and other metabolic disorders.
  • You will have high energy levels and immunity.

The 5 food groups

The 5 main food groups are as follows:

1. Carbohydrates


These are the energy-giving foods in simple terms and very easy to find in your daily diet. Examples of foods that are mainly sources of carbohydrates are:

  • Rice and rice-based foods like poha, idli and dosa.
  • Wheat-based foods like roti, paratha, pasta and bread.
  • Other grains like millets and oats.
  • Some vegetables like potatoes and raw banana are also high in carbs.

2. Vegetables


They are the main sources for vitamins, fibre, minerals and phytonutrients that are crucial for good health. All vegetables will give you these nutrients in different amounts.

The one exception is vegetables like potato and raw banana which are healthy but tend to be high in carbohydrates.

So watch how much of these you consume but feel free to use all other vegetables in your daily diet. Indian cuisine uses a wide variety of vegetables like ladies finger, beans, cabbage, spinach, pumpkin, cucumber, carrot, tomato etc. The more the variety of vegetables in your diet the better. In fact, a healthy diet plan should include vegetables (and fruits) of different colors so that you get a variety of nutrients too.

3. Fruits


Similar to vegetables, fruits are also rich in vitamins, fibre, minerals and phytonutrients. They are sweet and can help you deal with sugar cravings. Because they contain high levels of water, they are relatively low in calories. Aim to include a variety of fruits in your daily diet. We have plenty of choices in India like banana, guava, chikoo, watermelon, mangoes, jackfruit, apples and more.

4. Healthy fats

The body needs some fat to maintain good health. The foods that give you high quality good fats are ghee, oils like coconut, olive, sesame & peanut, nuts, seeds and dairy products like milk, curd, butter and cheese. Of course, excessive fats are not good for us but we should not avoid it completely either.

5. Protein

There is a lot of misconception that protein is only required for building muscle or if you lift weights. This is not the case.


Protein is essential for a number of functions like immunity, hormones, digestion as well as bone health.

It is therefore important to consume enough protein on a daily basis for good health and weight loss

In addition, including protein also helps with reducing snack cravings as high-protein foods are very filling. Therefore, any diet for weight loss & good health must focus on including high-quality sources of protein. Examples of foods that are high in protein are paneer, greek (hung) yoghurt, soybean, eggs, seafood and meat. Foods like dal, channa and rajma have some protein but have 3-4 times the carbohydrate. So do not rely on them as your main source of protein, but use them to add to the other higher protein options and to increase the fibre content in your diet.

Treat foods


While they are not a group of healthy foods, it’s important to recognise them and understand how to factor them into a healthy diet. We live in a world where sugary, fried, oily & junk foods are easily available. Think of all such foods as treat foods.

Treat foods are high in energy (calories) but do not contribute to good health.

Chocolates, candy, cake, soft drinks, biscuits and ice cream are examples of sugary treat foods. Chips, mixture, chaat, samosa, puffs are examples of fried/oily treat foods. This also includes many so-called 'health foods' like protein bars which are really treat foods. It may not be possible to completely avoid them, the goal should be to have them only occasionally.



It's okay to have some of these foods now and then as an extra treat. But if these foods regularly replace more nutritious and healthier foods in your diet, your risk of developing obesity and chronic disease, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and some forms of cancer, increases.

The goal of healthy eating should be to balance the 5 food groups while allowing a little room for the treat foods occasionally.

healthy and junk food
Healthy food and junk food

Healthy Indian foods

The following foods are common in Indian cooking and will help you with eating a healthy diet that covers the five food groups. These are healthy foods to lose weight too.

Green leafy vegetables


We are lucky to have so many types of spinach (palak or keerai) in India. They are available year-round and can be used in many ways. They are some of the most nutritious foods in the Indian diet. We also have some unique vegetables in Indian cooking like drumstick, snakegourd, ash gourd, bottlegourd, as well as varieties of green beans like flat beans, string beans etc. While it can take a little effort to prepare them, the health benefits are worth it.

Lentils and legumes

We have a number of varieties of dal, sprouts, channa and rajma. They are nutritious, filling and a good source of protein. You can use them in meals and also as a snack.

chana chaat
Healthy Indian food: Chana chaat

Local fruits

We are blessed to have a huge variety of fruits in India throughout the year. Mango, jackfruit, watermelon, sitaphal and chikoo are some examples. In addition, we get many varieties of banana, orange, papaya etc throughout the year. Use these fruits as your main snack.

Eat the fruit, not the juice.

Chewing food helps your brain realize you are full. Drinking juice does not have the same effect.

Healthy fats

Use Indian fats like ghee, coconut oil, sesame oil in your cooking in small amounts. You can also include a small quantity of nuts like almonds and walnuts occasionally. They’re good for health and add flavor to your food. Adding a little fat is important to make the meal satisfying.

Milk products

Milk and milk products are an excellent source of nutrients, including protein and good fats. You can use milk, buttermilk, curd, hung curd, butter, ghee and paneer in your healthy eating plan in moderate amounts.

Indian snacks

Instead of oily or sugary options, pick light snacks like puffed rice and makhana.

They mostly contain air anyway!

So they will help you snack in a light way and help you with your weight loss diet plan.

Probiotic foods


Healthy gut bacteria play an important role in maintaining good health. Indian cuisine has many probiotic foods that are made via fermentation. For example idli, dosa, dhokla, curd, kanji, chaas, chilra and koozhu. Try to include some fermented foods in your daily diet. Homemade yogurt is the simplest example of this. The greater the variety of these foods in your diet, the better.

idli chutney sambar
Probiotic Indian food: Idli

Spices


Indian herbs and spices like turmeric, cinnamon, clove, cumin, coriander, curry leaves etc provide numerous health benefits and add flavour to your food as well. So they are an important part of a healthy Indian diet plan. They are helpful not just in Indian dishes but also when making salads and soups. You can use spice mixes as seasonings for salads, sprouts and soups to make them tasty and something you will want to have often.

How to lose weight while eating healthy food

When you think of weight loss, the most common idea you hear is about being in a calorie deficit, i.e. eating fewer calories than your body needs. This will result in a shortfall that your body needs to make up. The body will burn fat to make up for the shortfall, resulting in weight loss.

For example, if you need 2,000 calories in a day, a weight loss diet might have you eat 1,600 calories. The balance of 400 calories will be used from the fat stores in the body.

While the math seems simple, the human body is far more complex than this.

Calorie counting is not accurate, with estimates being wrong by upto 50%. Also, focussing on calories can distract you from getting all the nutrition that your body needs, which can only be obtained from a healthy diet. In addition, eating much lesser than your body needs can result in many problems such as:

  • being hungry all the time
  • poor moods
  • low energy levels
  • being tired most of the time
  • problems with menstrual cycles for women
  • deficiency in essential nutrients like vitamins, fiber and protein

As you can see, eating too little is not a healthy approach to weight loss. Instead, start by focusing on food quality and a healthy diet.

The key to losing weight while eating healthy food is to focus on the 5 food groups in the correct amounts. They are healthy foods to lose weight while also giving your body the nutrition it needs.

food pie chart
Different groups of foods

We have noted below some tips that will help you implement this in your daily diet.

Tip 1: Make small reductions to carbohydrates


The typical Indian diet has slowly become higher in grains than before. In addition, we have added western grains like oats, corn flakes, muesli, bread and biscuits to our daily diet. Both factors have resulted in a very high carb diet. A small reduction in this will help you balance your diet, make it healthy and help you with weight loss.


Tip 2: Fill 1/3rd of your plate with vegetables


This simple rule is a powerful one. Getting enough vegetables will give you good nutrition, fibre, water and also keep you full. This makes it an essential part of a healthy diet that results in weight loss.

Start increasing your vegetable intake slowly to hit this target in a few weeks.

Doing it slowly will allow your body to get used to it and prevent any digestive issues.


Tip 3: Start adding more protein


A typical Indian diet tends to be low on protein. While dal, channa and rajma can help give you some protein within your healthy diet plan, you should also focus on adding more high-protein foods in your daily diet - like paneer, soybean, greek yoghurt, eggs, seafood & meat. Protein-rich foods help you feel full for longer and help manage sugar cravings also.


Tip 4: Snack on fruit


Instead of processed foods, choose fruit as your first option for a snack. You can have 2-3 medium sized fruits a day.

Tip 5: Water first



We often confuse hunger and thirst.

We think we are hungry when we really are thirsty.

So always have 1-2 glasses of water first. This will usually satisfy you. If you are still hungry after that, you can eat a healthy option. But have the water first.

Conclusion

Hope this article has given you a good idea of what is healthy food to eat. It's food that is from the 5 food groups and gives your body the nutrition it needs. You can include the Indian foods listed in this article in your diet to improve the quality of your diet and to achieve your weight loss goal.

The Daily9 system for a healthy diet & weight loss

The Daily9 system is based on the principles of healthy eating and the 5 food groups. This helps with weight loss and also many health conditions that Indian men and women face like digestive issues, diabetes, PCOS, thyroid, fatty liver and joint problems from excess weight. We’ve worked with thousands of Indian men and women and understand the unique challenges they face when trying to lose weight or find a weight loss diet plan. You can see some of our success stories here

Most importantly, the Daily9 weight loss diet plan is practical and suits an Indian family environment. This will set you up for success with weight loss and also weight maintenance in the long run.

If you’re looking for a scientific and practical approach to weight loss, take a look at the Daily9 coaching programme. It’s the only programme that helps with weight loss and weight maintenance.



share article +

Hi, we're Daily9 👋

We're determined to make better health a reality for you and your family. How? By showing you simple and proven changes you can make to the way you eat, move and look after your body. Discover more by signing-up to our weekly newsletter.

Thank you! Please check your email to confirm your subscription.
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.