Eating well is vitally important to your overall health – remember, food is your medicine. What you put into your bodies is what fuels your thoughts, feelings and the physical energy to go about your daily lives. Awareness is everything; but it’s hard to be aware when you don’t have trustworthy resources or are bombarded with too many conflicting “facts.”
Even with all that I’ve learned about what’s good and bad to eat, I still sometimes find it hard to plan meals and eat well all the time. Ironically, being stressed about your diet actually makes digestion and absorption a lot more difficult for your body. Not to mention all the other nasty side effects of living with high stress levels.
With that said, there are some simple things that everyone can do to slightly adjust his or her eating habits and reap the benefits (more energy, more positive mood, less pain) while battling and/or preventing disease.
1) Plan to eat meals at about the same time each day. Our bodies like routine and training them to be hungry at appropriate times is crucial to proper digestion. In order to keep your blood sugar levels even, it is best to eat several small meals a day or 3 larger ones with snack breaks in between. This will keep your energy up and your mood swings down.
2) Keep meals simple. There is no need to spend hours looking for obscure ingredients in the grocery store to make a recipe that you’ve never made before (unless you’re into that, of course). Eating healthy doesn’t have to mean more time in the kitchen. It just means SOME time in the kitchen. Lots of veggies (steamed or in a salad), some protein (grilled or baked) and a bit of legumes or grains with garlic and spices shouldn’t take you longer than an episode of Jeopardy to whip up.
3) Replace what you already eat with items that are more wholesome. You’d be surprised at how many tiny swaps you can make that don’t radically shock your taste buds and supply your body and mind with more nutrients. Here’s a list of my favorites:
- Coconut oil for canola oil (you can also put it on your skin, hair, nails – Jenna Marbles loves the stuff)
- Spinach and kale (or other dark leafys) for romaine or iceberg lettuce
- Fish and chicken for processed or red meat
- Hummus for other dips (you can even make it yourself really easily)
- Multi or whole grain foods for anything white or refined
- Goat cheese for processed cheese
- Steaming, baking or grilling veggies and meats for frying or eating veggies raw
- Honey, agave or maple syrup for white sugar or artificial sweeteners (NutraSweet/aspartame, Splenda/sucralose, Sweet and Low/saccharine, acesulfame potassium)
- Real juice for fruit punch (better yet, just drink water – daily intake = your body weight (lbs) divided by 2, in ounces)
- Berries and colorful fruit or veg for bland colored ones (color means high flavonoid content – super chemicals that do great things in your body)
- Sweet potatoes/yams for white potatoes
- Brown rice or quinoa for pasta or break
- Almond, rice or soy milk for cow’s milk (some people can handle dairy just fine, but as always, moderation is the name of the game and rotating through these sources of milk products will do your body good)
4) Be kind to yourself – Eating right all the time is tough. It’s easy to go overboard with rules and beat yourself up when you veer off track; but getting all worked up over it will probably just end with you finishing off a tub of Haagen Daz. The key is balance and knowing how to hop right back on the wagon when you inevitably fall off.
In an ideal world we would get everything we need from the food we eat; but depending on a host of other factors (age, current or past medical conditions, lifestyle habits…etc.), you may be able to benefit from supplements and/or a specific diet plan made just for you and your needs. Ask an ND for help if you have any questions – we’re friendly and we love talking about food.