When you’re eyeballing a pretty pink donut, or lusting after a juicy burger loaded up with your favorite toppings, the last thing on your mind is whether or not it’s good for you. You just don’t care. The temptation is set before you. Really, you wonder, what harm can come from it?
Turns out, the “guilt police” lose the battle when your senses are locked in on a little food porn.
Hey, I’m right there with you. I indulge. I enjoy. And, I don’t feel any guilt after swallowing what “experts” say will harden my arteries and make me die.
Because…we’re all going to die at some point, right?
The real question is: How are you going to live?
A healthy diet and lifestyle can be complicated or simple. It’s entirely up to you. We choose simple!
Why? Because simple makes you smile, keeps you happy, and takes the stress and worry out of being healthy.
But why even worry about diet and lifestyle? We’re all going to get old, hopefully. We’re all going to die, eventually. Why not live it up while we are still living?
Well…you can. But what, exactly, is your idea of “living?” And how would you like your life to look as you gracefully step into your golden years?
Does how you eat and live today reflect what you hope for your tomorrow? Does it reflect what you want for your life…today?
Sure, there is a lot to learn about your body, your environment, your food, and lifestyle choices; however, like every complex “problem” you can break it down into simple, chewable, chunks so you are confident in your health decisions.
So let’s talk a little bit about your eating choices. Some call eating a “diet” but we prefer to call it a “lifestyle” because of the negative association placed on the “D” word.
You have to eat to live – that’s pretty clear. But you don’t have to stress out every time you go down the grocery aisle or lift a piece of food to your lips.
Start with an understanding of a few food basics.
When you follow the basics, your body works at optimal levels. You feed your muscles, fortify every cell in your body, support your nerve and digestive systems, maintain healthy hormone levels, and sharpen your brain. The basics allow you to respond to the world around you in a healthy manner.
Healthy food literally lights you up!…from the inside out.
Variety is the spice of life
In general, add variety to your meals. Choose lots of natural color, which means a variety of fruits and vegetables. Choose lots of flavors too. Go beyond the salt. Experiment with different herbs and spices. This wakes up your taste buds. Plus, there’s nutritional “magic” in those flavors to support your immune system.
For example, while some see parsley as a garnish; others understand it’s a tasty way to cleanse your system and freshen your breath. Eat the parsley….and more!
It’s not all calories in and calories out…
The saying “calories in, calories out” only tells part of the story…but it’s still part of the story. When you consume an appropriate amount of calories every day for your body makeup, activity level, and level of health, you are more likely to maintain your weight. When the calories you consume are high quality (meaning full of nutrients and avoid hormone-altering chemicals) you are more likely to maintain a healthy weight, experience more energy, and embrace a higher level of happiness and overall satisfaction.
Why? Because you just feel better with fully nourished cells.
Carbohydrates are Your Friend
Low carb, no carb, high carb, slow carb…sounds like a Dr. Seuss® riddle! Yet fear not because carbs can be your friend.
The trick is, you have to know what to stay away from and what to eliminate from your plate. Carbs got a bad reputation the moment we started to see the unhealthy side effects of processing, packaging, and prolonging the life of perfectly fine food with the addition of chemicals. As it’s been said: If it comes from a plant, eat it; if it’s made in a plant, don’t.
There’s nothing wrong with a potato. But slice it, dice it, throw it in a deep fryer, then preserve it for all eternity with a boat load of chemicals, and you’ve got problems.
As much as possible, avoid refined, processed foods. These carbs burn quickly and your body identifies them, basically, as sugar. To you, it looks like a piece of white bread; to your body, it looks like a plate of sugar.
Instead, reach for “complex carbs” more often. These are energy-filled carbs your body needs which digest slowly. These foods look like whole grains (using all parts of the grain); sweet potatoes, beans, pasta made with something other than white flour (like chickpeas), dried figs, and more.
Your body needs fat. Not because you need to survive a long, harsh winter, but because many of your most important vitamins and minerals are easily absorbed when they hitch a ride on some healthy fat.
For example, the healthy salad you’re about to dive into is packed with vitamins; however, without some fat to help it along, those vitamins may never reach your cells. They don’t call them “fat soluble” vitamins for nothing!
You don’t have to give up butter, but use it sparingly. Avoid margarine – it’s faux food. And when you’re cooking, grab cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil rather than animal fat. Think: plant-based oil. If something is “partially hydrogenated” put it back on the shelf and slowly back away.
You can get your fats in other places too: avocados, nuts and nut butters (almond, walnuts, cashews), oily fish like salmon (Omega 3 fatty acids are awesome!), seeds (sunflower, hemp, and flax).
One easy trick: rather than mayo for your tuna salad, use avocado. It tastes amazing, won’t spoil in the sun, and provides good stuff for your body.
Not all fat it bad. In fact, some of it boosts your health and well-being.
Protein Does the Heavy Lifting
Protein, or rather the amino acids making up protein, is your cell’s building blocks. You already know protein builds muscle, but it really does so much more!
- Want age-defying skin, you better get enough protein.
- Want a sharp mind so you can talk about the “good old days” when you’re rockin’ the rocking chair, you better get enough protein.
- Want to ward of preventable disease by giving your body a fighting chance, you better get enough protein.
The key here is to get the best quality protein you can afford. If you eat meat, then choose organic and grass fed.
More evidence is surfacing showing the extra dollar or so per pound for organic and grass fed may give you real returns for your money…health returns.
The quality of the meat is directly related to the quality of the food the animal eats. When the animal eats better food (like grass rather than corn, sprouted rather than later-harvested), the meat that ends up on your plate has more nutrients. There’s an actual chemical process which takes place in the animal’s stomach as it digests what’s eaten. This affects the quality of the meat you eventually consume.
Also, keep your animal protein portions small. Think “on the side” rather than “Flintstone-Brontosaurus-style.” Explore non-meat proteins as well…there are lots of them! Most vegetables have protein, fish, beans, and soy products (like edamame, miso, and tempeh to reduce the amount of processing involved).
The burger we mentioned in the beginning? Juicy, yes; high-quality meat, yes; everyday, no.
Fiber Keeps it Flowing
You’ve got to keep the pipes clean. It’s that simple.
If you eat a large amount of processed foods you’re not getting enough fiber. These foods are stripped of many nutrients, including fiber. Without fiber, the nutrients are not going to get where they need to go.
They’ll get stuck. You’ll feel stuck. And bloated. Not a good thing!
Feeling bloated makes you sad, right?
Fiber is found in the skin of fruits and vegetables; in nuts like almonds; dried fruit like figs; seeds like flax; beans, berries, and whole grains. A really easy way to start your morning off on a great fiber foot is to add a teaspoon of flax seed in your morning cereal or yogurt. Sprinkle it on some whole grain toast with almond butter, or add it to a morning smoothie.
Simple trick: Don’t peel the skin from your produce. Wash it well and eat what makes sense. In fact, did you know there could be cancer-fighting properties in orange and lemon peels? Throw a couple pieces in your smoothie or juice. Take a nibble from that orange you just peeled. Sure, it’s a little bitter, but perhaps the magic is in the bitter…
Taking it Down to Phytonutrients
Most of us are familiar with the “Big Guys”– carbs, protein and fats. However, little things really make a difference for keeping your mind happy and body healthy.
A hug, a smile, an encouraging word, and phytonutrients.
Phytonutrients are the little guys. They work hard to prevent age-related disease, combat toxins in our environment, and keep every system in your body healthy.
You may have heard green tea is good for you; that’s phytonutrients at work.
You may have heard green foods are good – the greener and darker the better; that’s phytonutrients at work.
You may have heard red wine can protect your cells; that’s phytonutrients at work.
You may have heard beets are good for your blood; that’s phytonutrients at work.
It’s simple to get phytonutrients working for you. Embrace fruits and vegetables, avoid chemicals (herbicides and pesticides), choose organic for thin-skinned produce you eat the most; indulge in 70% dark chocolate – a small square will satisfy your sweet tooth; and experiment with different teas like green and oolong when you need something hot and comforting.
Micronutrients in Food and Beyond
When you eat a variety of whole foods, you’re going to get a variety of vitamins, minerals, and micronutrients. This is good for your body!
However, because of poor soil conditions and some of the processing our food goes through, it’s a good idea to supplement you healthy food choices with high-quality supplements. This stacks the odds in your favor for optimal health.
Face it, sometimes we tax ourselves with stress, toxins, and physical exertion above and beyond normal. Even the best of us indulge in something that’s not good for us. We are not perfect – nor are we expected to be.
Supplements may supplement your already good food and lifestyle choice (not replace them) and give you an advantage. While there are lots to choose from, and what’s best for you will depend on your individuality, needs, goals, and preferences, the basics are:
- Good quality multivitamin with ample amounts of Vitamins A, C, E;
- Vitamin D (at least 2000 IU);
- Fish Oil;
- Curcumin or Turmeric (keep whole-body inflammation in check);
- Whey Protein or good quality Hemp or Soy protein for vegetarians.
*Note – it’s always a good idea to discuss supplements with your doctor. Sometimes, supplements and prescription medications don’t play nice. Be sure your doctor is an informed member of your health team and has all the information about your lifestyle choices.
The Source of Life – Water
You can survive a long time without food; a much shorter time without water. Water truly is your life source so be sure you drink enough every day.
If you don’t love the taste of water, add some lemon or other citrus juice, drink tea, or infuse fruit into sparkling water. You will get water from your food, but the reality is for most people it won’t be enough. Watch for added sugar in bottled beverages you drink…just because it’s “wet” doesn’t mean it’s the best choice.
If this is the first time you’re reading about healthy eating, you may feel a little bit overwhelmed. Don’t worry, you’ll get the hang of it soon enough.
When you start to include more of the good stuff into your daily eating routine, an amazing thing will happen.
Your skin will respond by appearing more fresh and radiant;
Your eyes will respond by reflecting an inner happiness;
Your body will feel energized in ways you may not have felt in years, and;
Your mind will be sharper and clearer and…happier.
It’s amazing what can happen by simply giving your body fuel in the form of food it really craves. Once you experience the rush of healthy eating, you’ll wonder why you waited so long to experience the clarity and joy that comes from the “Right Stuff.”
And that “food porn?” Well, you’ll still enjoy it…it just becomes a little cleaner…