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As restaurants reopen up to their prepandemic capacities, many customers are eating out more on a weekly basis. From drinks with friends to dinner with colleagues, the majority of us are no longer confined to our own cooking and our own ingredients. This said, diet and nutrition is still very much at the forefront of many people’s minds.

Balancing “good” and “bad” when it comes to food and lifestyle can be tricky, yet there are ways to ease the confusion. Sitting down with some Pinal Country registered dietitians revealed ways that individuals can maintain a healthy, well-rounded diet without altering their entire life.

Registered Dietitian Nutritionists Gabriel Castillo, Nicole Chavez, Tiana Glover and Steven Ortiz sat down with PinalCentral to highlight how individuals can nutritiously fuel their bodies.

“The foundation to a healthy diet is variety, balance and moderation. This means eating a variety of foods within each food group, exploring foods you haven’t tried yet and switching up what fruit and vegetables are offered each day,” said Glover. “Balance means including a food from each food group at most meals and snacks.”

Moderation, she noted, means enjoying foods that are low in nutrients, like processed foods, less frequently.

Touching on balance, each dietitian noted that there is no food group or even one food item to avoid entirely. Moderation is key, especially when aiming to eat healthy without uprooting your lifestyle.

“I wouldn’t say there are foods to completely avoid per se, but more foods to be mindful of when focusing on concerns regarding your health,” said Castillo. “For example, processed foods are a great example to limit and be mindful of because they are typically high in sodium, refined carbohydrates like sugar, trans fat and provide little nutrition compared to whole foods.”

A lot of the time, when we think of the trickiest situations for eating healthy, it boils down to eating out. Often, this is when individuals hit road bumps in their healthy eating goals because many ingredients are unknown, and options can be limited.

One recommendation to limit some of the challenges eating out can pose to healthy eating goals is to eat more home-cooked meals as often as possible, Ortiz said.

“However, it is not always a realistic recommendation in today’s society,” he said. “Therefore, whenever eating out, it is important to maintain balance. Focus on ordering meals that include vegetables, fruit or whole-grain as a significant portion of the meal.”

And diners don’t necessarily have to forgo soda all together while eating out, Ortiz said. However, he recommended downsizing from a large or extra-large soda to small or medium.

“This will help reduce the consumption of excess sugar during the meal,” he said.

Living a truly healthy lifestyle, however, often goes beyond our diet. So many decisions we make on a daily basis can factor into our overall health. Chavez, a nutrition program supervisor and RDN, had five additional tips for anyone aiming to maximize their health. They are:

1) Getting adequate sleep (the number of hours varies from person to person)

2) Cooking at home rather than eating out or warming up convenient meals

3) Incorporating regular exercise into your week (include some weight-bearing exercises)

4) Getting daily sun exposure safely

5) Staying hydrated

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