Have you decided to change up your eating habits in the new year? Where are you going to start? There are so many choices, both good and bad, not to mention all the advice that is out there. It isn't easy to navigate a healthy and balanced diet. Let's start with the basics. If you primarily eat foods with labels that contain words that you can't pronounce, it's safe to say you aren't truly eating 'real food'. So let's first determine what food is and what it isn't.
First of all, what does a healthy balanced diet look like? According the the food pyramid label there are 5 food groups. We need fruits & vegetables, starches or carbohydrates, proteins, fats and dairy.
What we eat is important to our overall health. Good food can reduce our risk of poor health and disease. What we put into our bodies is one of the most important health decisions we can make. Our bodies need fuel, just like our vehicles. If you pour a sugary drink into your cars fuel tank do you think it will run well or at all? Our bodies might be more forgiving than our vehicles, but eventually they will suffer irreparable damage. According to Center For Science in the Public Interest (https://cspinet.org/eating-healthy/why-good-nutrition-important) some of the leading causes of death are directly linked to diet; heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer. (Inactivity is also a contributing factor, which we will address in the next article as they go hand in hand for good health).
Eat real foods as often as possible. Foods without a label. A piece of fruit or a vegetable doesn't need a label. Neither does a piece of fish or an egg. You see what I'm leaning towards; plain and simple food. That doesn't mean they can't be savory. When you cook you can dress up those foods with herbs and spices, which also have no need of a label! However, rather than grabbing a bag of chips or a candy bar for a snack, go for that piece of fruit or vegetable like an apple or celery stick with peanut butter. Maybe a slice of cheese and a handful of nuts is more to your liking. Mix it up and try cooking or eating fruits or vegetables by grilling or stir frying them. Research recipes for new ways to cook. Get creative!
We need to change our food choices if they are unhealthy. Eat foods without labels for one month and see how you feel! It is difficult to change everything overnight. So start slow. Let go of something you know is unhealthy and replace it with something you know is healthy!
There are many good choices. Fruits and vegetables; fresh, frozen and canned. Eat fresh when they are in season. Go for frozen or canned when they aren't. Studies have shown that there is still a lot of nutritional value in them, sometimes more, because our foods don't come straight from farm to table as they once did. They are picked green and journey to us as they ripen thereby losing valuable nutrients. Choose lean proteins, such as fish, chicken, turkey, beans, eggs, lean cuts of beef and pork, or low fat cottage cheese. There are many choices. You need dairy for bones, you can choose skim milks or non dairy milks and plain Greek yogurt. When cooking choose healthy fats such as extra virgin olive oil. Starches and carbs to include can be potatoes, bread, rice and pasta, just make sure to go for whole grain as much as possible and leave the skins on the potatoes, choose brown rice over white. When you need a treat, think darker chocolate for a sweet, it has less sugar than milk chocolate. Just do a little research and make a few changes and I bet you will be happy with the results.
If you have food or diet restrictions due to health or allergies, you can find substitutes for those items that are healthy and tasty. Poor food choices brings poor health. Processed foods are unhealthy. An occasional indulgence is not going to bring on a disease but a steady diet of them is going to take a toll on your health. It's a new year, let's start this one out by being careful of what we put into our bodies. Feed it good food, real food. Once you stop ingesting a lot of non food ingredients, you will start to feel better. You are worth good health! Do it for yourself and see the difference it will make...