By Bre Baildon
We all have heard that it’s important to eat a balanced diet, but what does that really mean? The foods and drinks we fuel our body with impacts our health and also affects how we interact with others, how we feel about ourselves, our energy, and our mood! For students especially, eating well supports focus and memory for successful school days.
Healthy eating goes beyond following the food pyramid or eating more vegetables. It means including delicious, nutritious foods each day to build life long habits. Healthy eating looks different for everyone, and that’s okay! Do what works best for you and your family. The following tips are a good place to start.
Eat a Balanced Breakfast
While all meals are important, breakfast is a vital part of the day. A morning meal jumpstarts your energy and fuels your brain, no caffeine required. You don’t have to eat “breakfast foods” like cereal or toast. Eat something that sounds good to you from at least two or three different food groups. Whole grains, fruits, dairy, proteins, and vegetables are great! Running out the door with no time to sit and eat is not an excuse! Try a grab-and-go meal like:
Breakfast wrap: scrambled eggs with cheese in a wrap
Yogurt parfait: yogurt topped with fresh fruit and low sugar cereal
Brown rice bowl: fried egg and vegetables served over brown rice
Overnight oats: oatmeal soaked in milk and yogurt overnight topped with nuts or fruit
Add More Color
Colored candy doesn’t count here! Fruits and vegetables contain naturally protective antioxidants that give them unique, bright colors. Research shows that high fruit and vegetable intake promotes physical, social and emotional wellbeing. Eating more fresh produce could help you feel better! And when you feel better, you’re ready for what the day brings. Plus, vegetables and fruits add texture, taste, and color to meals, making it more fun to eat!
Korean food can be amazingly healthy due to the variety of vegetables in many meals. Aim for three different colors in each meal: the brighter the better! Think you don’t like vegetables? Try them in different forms. Cut a vegetable small, add to your favorite food, dip in a sauce, cover with cheese, or use as a crunchy topping. Get creative!
Choose Energizing Snacks
A quick bite to eat isn’t hard to find. But before you reach for chips or cookies, think about a healthier option. Snacking is a great chance to add extra nutrients into your day and to keep you full until it’s time to eat a meal. However, most processed and packaged snacks don’t do either of those. Instead, these snacks tend to be high in sugar, salt, and fat, which leaves us craving more and hungry soon after.
Snack on food that is nutritious and balanced. Here are a few ideas:
At the grocery store stock up on granola bars, yogurt, or pre-cut fruit and veggies
From a convenience store grab string cheese, nuts, steamed eggs, or tuna triangle kimbap
In your kitchen make whole grain muffins, a fruit smoothie, or air popped popcorn
Rethink Your Drink
Just like snacks, there are many options to quench your thirst in Korea. However, between the convenience store choices and cafe menus, most are full of sugar. For example, one small container of banana milk has about seven teaspoons of sugar, more than the daily recommendation! These are fine sometimes, but having sugary drinks often can harm both your teeth and health, and may lead to an energy crash, making you feel even more tired and hungry.
It’s so important to stay hydrated and you can do that without sweet drinks! Water is the best option. Try adding lemon slices or fresh herbs for flavor. It is helpful to keep a water bottle with you to refill. Unsure how much to drink? Multiply your weight in kilograms thirty for an idea of how many milliliters to drink each day. For example, someone who weighs 50 kg should drink about 1500 ml of water each day.
Enjoy Treats in Moderation
Fun snacks and sweet drinks aren’t off limits! Sweet, fried and heavily processed foods may give our body energy, but without any important nutrients like vitamins or minerals. This doesn’t make them “bad” or “junk.” Instead, these are just foods we shouldn’t eat all of the time.
Try eating treats occasionally and in smaller amounts. Think of sweet, fried and processed foods as “sometimes foods,” fine (even encouraged!) to eat infrequently. As long as you balance with “everyday foods” like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, there’s no harm. Plus, when you eat small amounts of treats, you’re less likely to crave and overindulge!
Remember, healthy eating is fun: focus on adding more nutritious ingredients, eating a variety of foods, and making small swaps to nourish your body and mind!
Bre Baildon is a registered dietitian who loves to think about our relationship with food. She believes eating is a joyful experience that can positively impact our daily lives. Find her on Instagram @knowledge.nutrionist. “Eat Healthy!” is part of the Balance series which shares wellness stories and ideas from members of the KIS community.