Right now I am personally focused on my health and wellness goals since I know that is an area of my life still being neglected (my recent re-check of my balance wheel confirms it). It is great that the current block of challenges for Simplify your life relates to this area as it is keeping it top of mind no matter how much I want to avoid it.
I am happy to share a guest post today from one of my oldest friends who also happens to be my biggest food and health influencer with her great blog, Facebook page and interesting recipes- Justine from Full Belly Sisters.
These days, it seems that everyone swears by a different nutritional philosophy, from paleo to vegan. All the different approaches out there—each backed by scientific studies and loads of experts—can be confusing to people who just want to start eating better. So where can you begin, if you want to eat healthier? Here are five simple steps (that everyone can agree on!) you can take right now:
1. Make vegetables a part of every meal.
Vegetables are nutritional superstars: they’re loaded with minerals and vitamins, as well as antioxidants. Antioxidants protect against free radicals, which may contribute to cancer and heart disease, among other illnesses. Veggies are a fabulous way to add more fiber to your diet, which is essential to good digestive health. Because vegetables are high in fiber and generally very low in calories, you will feel full after consuming fewer calories, which means veggies can aid in weight loss or maintenance.
And when I say to eat vegetables at every meal, yes, I do mean breakfast, too. I promise, it’s not that hard! Mix some pumpkin puree into your oatmeal, add some broccoli and scallions to your omelette, toss a handful of baby spinach into your smoothie —the possibilities are endless!
You say you don’t like vegetables? I say you need to try more! There are so many different colors and varieties of veggies, plus so many different ways to prepare them—you just need to experiment and find the ones you really enjoy.
2. Consume more omega-3.
These are essential fats; our bodies need them but cannot make them, so we have to ingest them. Why do we need them? Among other benefits, omega-3s build brain cells and protect our hearts from disease.
You can take a fish oil or algae supplement; however, it’s relatively easy to consume whole foods and meet your body’s omega-3 needs. Try eating fatty fish, such as salmon; add chia seeds and/or ground flax seeds to smoothies, yogurt, salads, or baked goods (I even use them as a binder in things like meatloaf!); snack on walnuts; choose game meats or grass-fed meats and dairy. Some fruits and vegetables—such as avocado, greens, zucchini, and kiwi—provide some of these essential fats, too. Consume a wide variety of these foods, and you’ll be ingesting a good amount of the fatty acids your body needs.
3. Don’t eat anything that contains partially hydrogenated fats.
As a certified health coach, I try to focus on what my clients can add to their diets to get healthier; there are some things that simply need to be cut out completely. Partially hydrogenated oils (a.k.a. trans fat) are one of those things. They’re created by adding hydrogen to vegetable oil; this process makes the oil less likely to get rancid. Trans fat “both raises your ‘bad’ (LDL) cholesterol and lowers your ‘good’ (HDL) cholesterol,” according to the Mayo Clinic.
Trans fat’s long shelf life is why you’ll find it in so many packaged, processed goods. It’s in everything from crackers and breads to margarine and peanut butter. You want to avoid it, but how? In the U.S., a food label can read 0 grams of trans fat, as long as there’s less than 0.5 grams per serving; that doesn’t mean it contains no trans fat. So, get in the habit of reading the ingredient list of packaged items and if the list includes “hydrogenated oils,” put it back on the shelf and move on.
4. Watch your portions.
We are surrounded by portion distortion, from super-sized fast food meals to mile-high deli sandwiches to restaurant appetizers that contain more calories than we should consume in an entire meal. Simply put: most of us eat more food than we need to and that’s how weight gain can creep up on us.
We also tend to eat whatever is in front of us; so if you serve yourself an enormous plate of food, you’ll probably eat most (if not all) of it. Here are some tricks to help keep your portions a reasonable size:
- start your meal with a clear soup or salad, so your belly is at least partially filled with these low-calorie foods
- eat dinner off of your salad plate and salad off of your dinner plate
- in a restaurant, order an appetizer/starter as your meal, or split a meal with your dining companion
- fill at least half your plate with low-calorie, high-fibre veggies (remember: veggies at every meal!)
5. Eat consciously.
Food is fuel, but it’s not only that. It is taste and texture, colour and creativity. Feed your eyes and your soul with beautiful hues and scintillating smells. Get lost in the sensual process of preparing your meals, whether you’re washing and chopping veggies, sautéing garlic in butter, or just unwrapping a sandwich. Take your time chewing and tasting each bite. Listen to your body: eat when you feel hungry (not just when you “should be” hungry); when you begin feeling full, stop eating. Don’t snack standing at the fridge, don’t shovel in a few bites here and there while you’re furiously working at your computer, don’t grab whatever junk food your co-workers have left in the break room. Savour your meals. Food is not your enemy, so experience the gratitude of the moment and ENJOY!
Are there additional ways to eat healthier? Sure. I’d suggest adding more fruit and eliminating foods with artificial dyes as some good next steps. But these five steps I’ve laid out above are a great, simple place to start. So don’t hesitate: start eating better TODAY!
from Deb: So what step will you take today to eat healthier? I recently added a space in my daily planner to note what fruits and vegetables I plan to eat each day so that I am more intentional about my consumption (and they crowd out some less healthy snacks or seconds I used to put on my plate). One small change at a time is my plan! How about you?
Find your simple,
Justine Fontinell is a Certified Health Coach who is dedicated to helping women live happier, healthier, more fulfilling lives. Justine is a graduate of Institute for Integrative Nutrition and is board-certified by the American Association of Drugless Practitioners. Circle of Moms recently named Justine one of the Top 25 Foodie Moms for 2012. For more information on Justine’s services visit her website and check out her blog.