These days, it seems there is at least one article, study or documentary coming out each day that delivers conflicting information about what you should and shouldn’t be eating.

Are eggs good or bad? Should you eat low carb or low fat? Is dairy the enemy or is it red meat? If you were to pay strict attention to them all, your head would be spinning and your diet would yo-yo back and forth faster than a fidget spinner.

Here’s the thing: You can’t believe everything you hear and read. In this age of Internet and social media, we get instantaneous information thrown at us constantly, whether that information is true or false. So, my biggest piece of advice is, take it all with a grain of salt. Do your own research, or let me do it for you.

My podcast, Chew on This, deals with lots of health news and discusses all sides of an issue. Regardless of how you find it, I urge you to be well informed so you can make the best dietary decisions for you, based on your health and fitness goals.

So, what’s a person to do about diet right now? Be sensible. These are my top tips for eating sensibly and nutritiously without agonizing over every food you put in your body.

Healthy Eating Starts with Listening to Your Body

One of my earlier articles for Sixty and Me was about dairy foods and lactose intolerance, and how it affects about 75 percent of the adult global population. Chances are, you might be lactose intolerant, too. But the only way to find out is to pay attention to your body’s cues.

This includes headache, nausea and rashes. This can be accomplished by keeping a food journal and recording how you feel after each meal. Look for common threads, such as dairy, alcohol, eggs, peanuts, shellfish or gluten which are some of the more common intolerances.

Look for more subtle cues, too. Do you feel lethargic after consuming a carb-heavy meal? Maybe you are restless at night, when you normally fall right to sleep. A fuzzy brain is another sign. These symptoms could indicate a dietary cause. You may need to see a naturopathic doctor or nutritionist to get to the root of the problem.

Here’s another cue from your body: hunger pangs. Eat when you are hungry, and only when you are hungry (unless you are trying to gain weight). Many of us fall into the trap of assuming we are hungry when we may be thirsty.

Or we may simply be paying more attention to external cues like that carton of ice cream in the freezer or that bag of potato chips in the pantry. I could be the cooking show you are watching on TV or the plate of food being delivered to the person sitting next to you at a café.

You see it, smell it, think about it and can’t get it out of your mind until you eat it, even if you are not really hungry. Cravings are more psychological than physical; rarely do we crave carrot sticks over candy bars. Take a moment and think before you reach blindly for an unhealthy snack.

Eat Whole Foods

There really is no perfect or universally accepted definitions for terms such as “whole food” or “clean eating.” I define them as a focus on foods in their most natural state, with little processing (from cooking to canning, dehydrating to packaging) and never in a package with a list of mysterious ingredients or made in a fast food restaurant.

Of course, most foods we eat are processed in some way. You wouldn’t eat raw meat (unless it’s sushi!), yet the very act of cooking meat is a process. So, take that term lightly. Instead, try to incorporate lots of raw vegetables, seeds, nuts and grains, and prepare dishes yourself, at home.

There’s nothing wrong with cooking fresh produce, but clean eating really focuses on eating clean, i.e., whole and natural, foods for optimal health through better nutrition. Also, stay away from artificial preservatives, sweeteners, flavors and colors, none of which are healthy in any way.

Be Open to Change

As we get older, our bodies change and so do our nutritional needs. We no longer need to consume the same number of calories or even at the same times of the day. Something we used to tolerate can become a problem for our health, seemingly overnight.

Quite often I have heard this repeated refrain, “I’ve always eaten this way, and I’m not going to change now. I’m not going to give up the things I like to eat. You might as well kill me than tell me I can’t eat (cheese, milk, bread – you name it).”

Unfortunately, stubbornness has never been the way to good health, nor will it help anyone make a change for the better.

Instead of resisting change, think of all the positive reasons why you should change. Things like better health, longer life, radiant skin, more energy, weight loss, control over medical issues, the desire to ditch medications – whatever it is that motivates you to work on your personal health and fitness.

Stop focusing on what you are giving up and look forward to what you are gaining. Changes for better health aren’t something you can do for a while, then slip back into old, bad habits. These are changes for the rest of your life – to improve the rest of your life.

Don’t Beat Yourself Up

It’s okay to slip occasionally. We are human, after all. If you have a day when you eat bacon and ice cream and French fries, it isn’t going to kill you. Just be sure to get back on the bandwagon the next day, and brush off your sense of guilt.

By the same token, the opposite is true. If you generally eat fast food, highly processed food or food of which you are intolerant, but have a clean eating day now and again, you aren’t doing yourself any favors.

The best defense is a good offense, as the old saying goes. Be prepared to be tempted and slip up. Do your best to avoid those situations. Keep healthy snacks in your pantry and rid your kitchen of convenience foods.

When on vacation, plan to sample local dishes but consider how you will stay healthy and fit. If you do succumb to temptation, get right back on your clean eating plan as soon as possible.

It’s All Up to You

I hope you realize the importance of eating “clean” and “whole” foods, and that it’s more important to stick with what feels right than to pay attention to the latest research. It’s not easy to make a lifelong change for the better, but it is so very worth it.

What are your favorite healthy foods? Do you have any tips from your personal experience to help make the transition to eating healthy foods? What are you doing to establish a pattern of healthy aging? Can you share any healthy eating tips? Please share your thoughts below!

Candy MorehouseCandy Morehouse is the founder of Candy’s Sweet Life, a blog devoted to recipes for better health and a more natural lifestyle. Candy is an author, writer and podcaster who’s passionate about helping others eat more nutritiously and enjoy the best health of their lives at any age.

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