Portion size and specific meal plans are important, but if you follow these 9 steps, you will be taking a giant nutritional leap toward good health.
1. READ INGREDIENTS
The less ingredients, the better. Quality over quantity. Read the list and the chart, which includes protein, carbs, fiber, sodium and sugar. (Important note: Do the math. If the label says “Servings per container 2″, and you consume the whole container, you must double all the numbers.)
2. DRINK MORE WATER
Many of us walk around in a state of dehydration. This can cause everything from constipation to headaches to energy loss. Drinking plenty of water aids in weight loss because it’s a great appetite suppressant. Often we think we’re hungry when we’re actually thirsty. Water also replaces sugary drinks that are high in calories and flushes out toxins and waste from our bodies. Try drinking a glass upon waking, one with each meal, one in between each meal, and one before, during and after exercise. Also, carry a bottle with you at all times, and consider tracking your water intake in a log until it becomes habitual.
3. SUBSTITUTE WHOLE GRAINS FOR WHITE FLOUR
“Whole” is the key. “Wheat Flour” is not the same as “Whole Wheat Flour”. White products have little to no nutritional value and are not easily digested. (The truth is, all grains are carbohydrates that turn into sugar, specifically glucose, in your body. The difference is in the rate of conversion – whole grains take longer to convert, so they do not give you the quick spike of energy and then the quick drop in blood sugar, which would leave you feeling fatigued. Fruits and vegetables, in particular, are, by far, the best sources of carbohydrates, and should be the first choice over grains.) When choosing a whole grain, broaden your horizons and try something different like millet, spelt and amaranth. Brown rice is okay too (in moderation), but mix it up and try some Quinoa (pronounced “keen-wah”), which is prepared just as easily, and contains a dose of protein.
4. ELIMINATE ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS
Even if it “comes from sugar”, an artificial sweetener is chemically altered, rendering it a “non-food”. Your digestive system doesn’t know what to do with it. Try substituting a small amount of sugar (yes, I know “it’s not sweet enough“, but it’s time to stop compromising health with your resistance to change.) Little by little (maybe every month) reduce the amount of sugar until you are no longer addicted to that substance as well.
5. REDUCE CAFFEINE
Although caffeine is a natural substance that has its advantages and disadvantages, if you NEED a cup of coffee or a can of coke to function, then you’re addicted, plain and simple. After your morning cup o’joe, try mixing in some decaf if you’re drinking more than a cup a day. Each successive cup (whether it’s the same day, or over the course of a few days) should have more and more decaf until it’s just decaf.
6. LOWER SODIUM
Excessive sodium can cause high blood pressure and increased weight gain from water retention. Watch out for the culprits… deli meat, canned soup, processed foods (even pancake mix!) Even if it’s all-natural and organic, it can still have way too much sodium.
7. INCREASE FIBER
Make it simple. No supplements necessary. Just increase the amounts of fruits and vegetables you eat. Uncooked, even better. How about a nice big salad with carrots, red pepper, broccoli, avocado and some beans?
8. NO HYDROGENATED OILS
What is a hydrogenated oil anyway? It’s an oil that’s been chemically altered by forcing hydrogen gas into it at high temperatures, sometimes with the aid of a metal catalyst. The more hydrogen, the more solid the oil (margarine). Now a trans fat, its consumption has been linked to diabetes, coronary disease and obesity. Trans fatty acids may bioaccumulate in the digestive system because the body does not know what to do with them. Substitute healthy fats… nuts, olive oil, avocado.
9. EAT ORGANIC WHEN POSSIBLE
Organic foods have two major things going for them (and you!) One – no chemical residue from insecticides; and, two – significantly higher levels of nutrients. Where dairy, poultry and meat are concerned, there are no hormones or antibiotics used. Produce with the highest levels of pesticides: peaches, apples, strawberries, spinach, bell peppers, celery.
** Special advice for new mothers: Getting caught up in the idea that a special diet is necessary for a new mom will not create a lifelong habit of healthy eating. What I mean by that is this… It is more difficult to maintain strict guidelines, when you are continuously moving from one phase to another throughout your life (pregnancy, breastfeeding, pre-menopause, etc.) than it is to focus on making easy changes and committing to eating an overall healthy diet forever. Although it is important to pay attention and make adjustments when necessary, such as increasing calorie intake for a healthy pregnancy and for successful breastfeeding, very few changes (if any) should be necessary if you consistently make the best choices every single day. The exception to this is when you are breastfeeding and you have determined that your baby’s discomfort is directly linked to a food sensitivity. In this case, you want to do some research on temporarily implementing an elimination diet to alleviate the symptoms.