With so many trendy diets and nutrition plans available, it’s hard to know which one is “best.” The trick is to find the one that works best for you. The program that works for your sister, your friend or your favorite celebrity may not be the one that will ultimately work for you. Finding your right plan can take some time. Here are a few simple things that will work with whichever program you choose and will help jumpstart your journey to a healthier you.
- Drink plenty of water
- Eat quality over quantity
- Choose foods without a nutrition label
- Limit your sugar intake & avoid trans fats
Drinking water is one of the easiest ways to improve your overall health. Since our bodies are made up of approximately 60% water, staying hydrated is crucial. Water provides us with many essential nutrients and minerals. It also helps in cleansing our bodies of unwanted waste. Many experts say it may even be beneficial in weight management.
QUALITY OVER QUANTITY
The quality of the food we eat is as important as the number of calories we consume. According to experts, we need to increase the amount of whole food we eat and decrease the amount of processed food. Whole foods are foods that are still in their natural state or are only minimally processed. Some examples of whole foods are fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and lean meats.
Foods without nutrition labels are the healthiest because foods in their natural state are most nutritious. We need to switch our focus from the nutrients listed to the actual food itself. Be aware of foods that masquerade as healthy. Processed food companies use words such as natural, healthy, fresh, organic, and naturally sweetened to make foods seem wholesome than they are. Real healthy foods do not come in packages that tell us they’re healthy. The nutrient level of food is directly related to its spoil rate.
Low nutrient level = Longer Shelf Life
High Nutrient Level = Shorter Shelf Life
LESS IS MORE
Be cautious when it comes to the amount of sugar you consume. Experts estimate that only ⅙ of our daily sugar intake is from desserts. The majority comes from processed foods and sugary drinks.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that sugar should be less than 10% of our total energy intake. Lowering that amount to 5% offers even more health benefits. Excluded from this recommendation are intrinsic sugars.
Intrinsic sugars are the sugars found in fresh fruits and vegetables. Some nutrition plans allow you to eat as many fruits and vegetables as you want.
A HEALTHIER YOU
Optimizing your health means identifying the foods and eating behaviors that will satisfy you while protecting your lifelong health. Plant-based diets lead to better health and longevity. The most sensible diets are those that combine high-quality protein foods, including fish and combined plant-based options.
When it comes to dietary fats, there are good fats and bad fats. There are three main types of fats: unsaturated fats, saturated fats, and trans fat. Unsaturated fats are an essential part of a healthy diet. Saturated fats in moderation are okay but should be switched out with unsaturated fats whenever possible. The WHO recommends avoiding trans fats as these fats can be detrimental to our health.
Here are some examples of unsaturated fats:
- avocados and avocado oil
- olives and olive oil
- peanut butter and peanut oil
- vegetable oils, such as sunflower, corn, or canola
- fatty fish, such as salmon and mackerel
- nuts and seeds, such as almonds, peanuts, cashews, and sesame seeds
This list, as well as additional information on the different types of fats, can be found here and by visiting medicalnewstoday.com.
The best way to instill sensible dietary improvements is with a step-wise action plan.
A step-wise action plan consists of 1-2 changes per week. It’s much easier to make small changes slowly; then it is to try to change everything at once. It’s also more likely that you’ll stick to those changes if you have time to adjust to them and they become part of your lifestyle.
A good rule of thumb is to eat food, not too much and mostly plants. Get rid of oversized plates and replace them with smaller ones. Eat 4 cups of fruits and vegetables each day. Have healthy snacks that don’t require any prep on hand, ready to be eaten. Cook at home more often. Don’t buy things you shouldn’t be eating. If it’s not available, you’ll be less apt to want it or eat it.
TIPS FOR HEALTHY SHOPPING
- Make a grocery list
- Don’t shop hungry
- Stick to the perimeter of the store
Limit the number of empty calories you consume. Replace the processed foods you eat with real food. When picking food, look for foods with the least amount of ingredients. Limit foods with nutrition labels. Avoid trans fats altogether, and practice moderation when it comes to processed foods.
The point shouldn’t be to eat until we’re full. A more sensible practice is to eat until we’re no longer hungry. Instead of asking the question, “Am I full?” we should be asking the question “Am I still hungry?”. If the answer is “No,” then we should stop eating.
Some other questions to ask when it comes to eating, are the following?
- Is this food real?
- Will this food bring me happiness?
- Will this food make me feel satisfied and fulfilled?
If you can answer yes to all these questions, then the food is worth eating. The point is to be mindful when choosing what foods to put in your body. When we practice intentional eating making healthy choices will become easier.