Commercials, magazine articles, and even food labels can make it difficult to make healthy choices. Being healthy is really quite simple. It doesn’t come in a box or a pill. It doesn’t have to cost extra for supplements, vitamins and expensive “healthy” snack bars. Being healthy isn’t gluten free, fat free and tasteless. Being healthy is a habit! It is having knowledge to make smart choices. Read on to discover the simple truth. Educate yourself on healthy habits that provide will you with energy and good health!
- Clean eating
It’s no secret that the line between food and food-like substances have, somewhere along the way, become blurred. Food-like substances have become sneakier and sneakier in their attempt to confuse us into buying into this notion that something made in a machine is also made for our body. When it comes to food, simply put, simple is best. Diets high in processed, prepackaged foods are synonymous with a diet high in sodium, refined sugar, and saturated fats. True clean eating would be eating nothing processed. This proves difficult in the modern era but we can strive for making as much of our diet as whole food as possible. Start this challenge off right by incorporating more whole foods into your diet. Limiting prepacked meals, most convenience snacks, and food that comes from a drive through window are all ways to help this process again!
- Frequency and quantity
Even the cleanest eating could lead to weight gain. How? Too much, too little, too often, or too infrequent. While the QUALITY of what we eat matters so greatly, so does the amount and timing of our meals and snacks as well. Consider the following: when building a fire you hope to last all night, is it best to throw ALL logs and kindling in to start or is it best to feed the flames intermittently? For those we’ve never spent time around a campfire, you’re best fire comes from a continual fueling – this is what keeps a steady burn going. When it comes to our body, if we eat infrequently our body is much more likely to store some of these nutrients as fats, not to mention it does a number on our insulin and hormones levels! Additionally, if we eat – say once a day – for most people that is likely to be one BIG meal leaving another reason our body stores extra calories stored as fat. Think about it from the body’s perspective: “we haven’t eaten in hours! I’m starving, let’s keep eating! Oh… we better hang on to some of this in storage in case we don’t eat for a long time again!” So, the best way to fuel your own fire is to eat smaller portions and eat consistently. Aim for every 3-5 hours for the best metabolism, energy, and insulin level regulation.
- Hydration Station“You’re nothing but a bag of dirty water.” This is a phrase no less than 50 times a semester during my subsequent anatomy and physiology courses. My professor repeated this over and over again with clear and successful intentions of making this phrase stick permanently and refers to the amount of water making up our body – roughly 2/3rds!! Now knowing this can help complete the understanding of just how important water is to our body. Imagine our body as a swimming pool… Now imagine that this pool water was never changed, leaving the filters to become clogged over time, and leaving debris and algae to build up across the water and the lining. This is, loosely, what happens to our own system when we dehydrate ourselves. Even 2% (!!) dehydration can cause impaired mental and physical performance. It is said we should drink 8 glasses of 8 ounces of water a day, or 2 liters, or a half a gallon. HOWEVER, if you are sick, working out, pregnant or nursing, or if the temperature has gone up this amount becomes higher.
- The power of green (PSA about fruits and veggies) There is a reason your mother always told you to eat your fruits and vegetables. Fruits and veggies pack a nutritious punch and yet they do not contain a lot of calories. They are what we call “nutrient dense” foods and they are fantastic for you. Fruits and veggies contain heavy amounts of vitamins, minerals, fiber, enzymes and co-enzymes. Enzymes is the word used to describe something that helps speed up a process in the body; in other words, fruits and veggies help our body do the things it needs to do with less energy. This is one reason we feel more awake from an apple than from a cookie. Fruit does yield more of a glycemic response in the body, so aim to get more veggies than fruits everyday striving to make one of these vegetables servings some type of leafy green.There is a reason your mother always told you to eat your fruits and vegetables. Fruits and veggies pack a nutritious punch and yet they do not contain a lot of calories. They are what we call “nutrient dense” foods and they are fantastic for you. Fruits and veggies contain heavy amounts of vitamins, minerals, fiber, enzymes and co-enzymes. Enzymes is the word used to describe something that helps speed up a process in the body; in other words, fruits and veggies help our body do the things it needs to do with less energy. This is one reason we feel more awake from an apple than from a cookie. Fruit does yield more of a glycemic response in the body, so aim to get more veggies than fruits everyday striving to make one of these vegetables servings some type of leafy green.
- Beware of the Bubbles…In our quest for better health, we often focus on what we chew and cook forgetting that our liquor calories can be the fat storing culprit as well. A diet could be spectacular in all other ways except for drinks. Poor drink choices even in combination with a healthy diet can cause weight gain, increased risk for heart disease, diabetes, and/or metabolic disease, and loss of energy. Sadly enough, our nation’s number one source of carbohydrates is POP. This is most startling and concerning considering soda contains NO beneficial nutrients and can contain upwards of 50 grams of sugar for one sitting. Let’s see at 4 calories a gram that is 200 calories of nothing good! Pop is not the only questionable drink. Juices, sports drinks, alcohol, and even “fruit” smoothies can rack up the calories and decrease our overall health when not consumed in moderation. I cannot, even in moderation, condone pop consumption and I urge you to consider cutting back or stopping altogether if you’re currently consuming regular soda drinks. As mentioned above, water is the absolute perfect beverage for our bodies! I understand this can get a little dull for some; try drinking mineral or soda water with a splash of juice or fresh slices of oranges, limes, and lemons. Refreshing and alkalizing for our body!
- Myths part 1 Carbs are bad: The critics of carbs, such as Atkins and South Beach, make the claim that carbohydrates cause weight gain, and by excluding them you can lose weight. Well, that can be true, cut out all carbohydrates and you will undoubtedly lose weight. You will also lose muscle as your body shifts into an acidic state called ketosis. In this state, the body begins to eat its own muscle stores to use for fuel. Muscle is NOT meant a fuel source, so this is both inefficient and dangerous for our body. It also decreases our overall metabolism, as protein is more thermogenic – meaning it uses fuel more efficiently. The other factor to consider with weight loss from extremely low carbs is that it is not permanent or sustainable, meaning as soon the person goes back to consuming carbohydrates their weight comes back with it (and sometimes even more).
- Myths part 2 Fats are bad: Truly, fats get a bad reputation due to their high calorie to gram ratio (9:1 vs carbohydrates and fats at 4:1). Fats, however, as we already know are VITAL to our being. The line our cell membrane which make up our very being – cells are of course our most basic human building block! Fat keeps our organs safe and they keep our body warmer (a handy trick in the dead of winter). Fats also help slow digestion and are necessary for absorption of our vitamin A, D, E, and K. Last but not least, fats add flavor to our food! So diets programs or “diet foods” that boast about having no fat or having had the fat removed must find a different way to bring flavor to their product. This is usually done by adding more chemicals and/or more sugar. You are MUCH better off enjoying a moderate, healthy consumption of fats then trying to remove all fats from the diet.
- Eating on the go The number one tip I have for eating on the go is to plan ahead. Leave “emergency” snacks stored away in the car. A ziplock baggy of dried fruit and nuts or a stashed granola bar does wonders in preventing that unnecessary pit stop at the drive through on the way home. If you know you will be traveling, take a moment to consider the amount of time you will be in transit and whether or not a meal will be provided for you during some of this time. Make it a goal to eat about every 2.5-4 hours while you’re traveling, and plan accordingly as you pack your snacks. If you find yourself in a situation where you need (or want) to indulge in the on the go dining options then stick to some simple tips. Avoid fried foods, sub veggies for the normal sides where possible, and avoid heavy sauces or dressings. Almost all popular restaurants and fast food places have calorie and nutrition facts available online, so when in doubt, check your options before you bite in.
- What to do, what to do – In ten weeks, you’ve taken in a lot of information. Maybe a lot was review or maybe a lot of this was new. Either way, what we know is only PART of the process, right? It’s up to you to apply it! Our diet impacts SO much of how we feel day to day; so much of our energy levels and our overall health comes back to nutrition. Nutrition really is one of our best medicines… Below are some quick review tips:
- Keep diet as simple as possible. Avoid eating food items with lengthy, complicated ingredient lists
- Avoid long stretches of time without eating anything. These stretches tend to lend to overeating and poorer food choices.
- A healthy diet contains a balance of carbohydrates, protein, and fats. Start by tracking protein first.
- Water is ESSENTIAL for life. Carry a water bottle with you everywhere – you’ll be much more likely to sip often.
- Fruits and veggies are your friends. Add 1-3 more servings of veggies into your weekly routine, making one of these servings a leafy green.
- If you currently drink soda, I strongly encourage you to stop or to limit your consumption. Replace one sugary drink a week with a glass of water.
- Ignore the claims of weight loss from removing carbs and stick to the facts: carbohydrates are necessary and completely healthy for our bodies and minds. Stick to whole grains, fruits, and vegetables for the best sources.
- Again, ignore the claim that fat free food is a good thing. Some things are naturally fat-free and that’s great but some things are MEANT to have fat in them and that’s great too. Fats add value to our health and flavor to our plates. Stick to unsaturated sources, particularly Omega-3 oils!
- Plan ahead as much as possible for eating on the go. When this fails, stick to the basic and avoid the fried foods while you’re out. Your body will thank you!