If you’re like most people and your daily food consumption is SAD (the Standard American Diet), then most likely your nutrition intake is indeed sad.
It can be quite overwhelming and difficult to establish healthy eating habits, but all of these habits begin with small behavior changes that aren’t so insurmountable after all.
We’ve come up with a few simple action steps you can take to make life-changing lifestyle changes and the “why” to back them up (we’ve done the thinking for you, so all you have to do is carry out the action!).
Our philosophy at Recharge is to eat foods that work well with your body, and everybody’s body is different. So, what foods might work well for you, might not work well for someone else. Diet and lifestyle are a personal journey – find what fits you best and stick with it! A balanced diet is comprised of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. Although you can vary the proportion of each macro nutrient depending on your personal needs, not one should be completely eliminated.
While we don’t advocate for depriving yourself of comfort foods for the rest of forever, we do encourage the mindset of “everything in moderation.” So yes, it IS perfectly acceptable to occasionally treat yourself to the bowl of ice cream or the cheeseburger.
Here’s what you can do to set your health and nutrition on the right path forward:
1. Out of sight, out of mind: removing temptations and making better choices
If your sweet tooth seems to be taking a precedence in your life lately, try removing the temptation from your house or desk drawer at work. By not having that temptation of candy or ice cream at your ready, you won’t even be enticed by it. If you still are craving something sweet, opt for fresh fruit instead. Fruit is nature’s candy! Donate that bowl of leftover Halloween candy and replace it with fresh clementines. Pack grapes and apple slices in your lunch to satisfy that afternoon slump at the office. Keep freshly cut cantaloupe or pineapple in your refrigerator at home for a quick, sweet snack. Not only does fruit provide natural sugar to give your body a boost of energy, it’s also chock full of fiber and vitamins to keep your digestive system happy. Even so, if you’re used to drinking Mountain Dew on a daily basis, trying replacing that one bottle a day with one bottle of water. Soda is a sugary diuretic, so it essentially leeches nutrients from your body and forces you to urinate frequently, leaving you dehydrated.
Your body will thank you when you replace junk with wholesome food
It’s quality over quantity. While one small candy bar may contain less calories than one serving of fresh fruit, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to determine which has more nutritional value. We are aiming for nutrient-dense food, as opposed to minimally caloric food. Diabetes is a disease rampant throughout the United States, and even ever-growing among other country populations as well. You would think that with a disease on such a rise, everyone’s fate is in diabetes’ hand, but, this is far from the truth! Remarkably, most cases of diabetes can be avoided or even reversed with proper diet and nutrition. Yes, there are some genetic factors that play into one’s predisposition for the disease, but since diabetes effects blood glucose and insulin levels, we have the power to control such levels with the foods we eat. Insulin is the hormone our bodies produce to regulate the glucose, or sugars, in our blood. When we regularly flood our bodies with sugary foods, our bodies can begin to stop producing insulin all together, hence Type 1 diabetes, or not make enough or use insulin well enough, hence Type 2 diabetes. And diabetes is just the beginning. When blood sugar and insulin levels go awry, the rest of your body compensates for the chaos inside, so other hormone levels are effected, which can lead to subcutaneous fat storage, chronic fatigue, thyroid issues, etc.
2. Breakfast doesn’t have to be complicated, but it should be nutritious
If your idea of breakfast is a cup of coffee and a strawberry-frosted donut with rainbow sprinkles, don’t worry, you’re not alone; but, in this case, there is not strength in numbers! Just because most of America “Runs on Dunkin” doesn’t mean you have to, or should, really. A lame morning meal of a caffeinated beverage and a pastry-somehow-deemed-as-a-“breakfast”-food is really nothing less than a recipe for disaster. Breakfast is your first chance of the day to kick-start your metabolism. Breakfast literally is a break from fasting all night, so you should reward your body with a nutritious meal to start the day. What does a healthy breakfast look like? Again, it’s a balance of fats, protein, and carbohydrates. If time is of the essence in the morning, make overnight oats the evening before, with rolled oats, shredded coconut, ground flax seed, almond milk, banana, and a touch of honey or maple syrup – no need to heat this delicious porridge up! You can eat it cold, straight from the fridge! And if you do have time, scramble some eggs and eat them with toasted whole wheat bread topped with smashed avocado and a cup of fresh berries.
Eating a wholesome breakfast provides your body with fuel for the day
When you start the day off with a well-balanced meal, you’re more likely to make more nutritious food choices throughout the rest of your day. When you eat well, you feel well and you think well. The fiber, protein, and fats from a well-rounded breakfast will leave you more satiated than would that sugar-laden donut, so you’ll also be able to ward off any premature lunch hunger pangs, thus keeping you from reaching for any junk food lying around your home or office.
3. Your plate should be colorful – we eat with our eyes first
Before you sit down to your next lunch or dinner, snap a quick photo of your plate. What does it look like? What colors are on your plate?….if there are any colors. Does the food on your plate resemble a rainbow? Or is it “cowboy food” – hot, brown and plenty of it? This is a great time to re-assess your fruit and vegetable intake. The USDA recommends eating 3-5 servings of vegetables and 2-4 servings of fruit per day. If this seems like an impossibility to you, begin by slowing adding some color onto your plate at each meal. The more colorful the food, the more nutrients it contains. And the more natural the state of your produce, the more beneficial it is for your body. Next time you go to your favorite burger joint, instead of ordering that tempting side of fries, ask for a small salad instead. Wine night with the girls? Try ordering the hummus and veggie appetizer instead of the hot crab dip with toasted baguette. If you’re out to brunch with your in-laws and that side order of buttery, syrupy, pancakes are calling your name, try ordering a small bowl of fruit instead.
Fruits and vegetables are superfoods for the body
The research to back up the incredible power of plants is extraordinary! In fact, it’s so extraordinary, we’ll be posting more about this topic later. But for now, it’s important to know that the abundance of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber in plants does wonders for the body, strengthening the immune system and warding off diseases like cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and so much more.
Fueling your body with healthy foods will lead to a healthy lifestyle that outpours into all facets of your life. As the old saying goes, “there’s only one way to eat an elephant – one bite at a time.” Small changes like these can have a huge impact on your health. Overtime, choices like these won’t feel like choices at all, but rather they will be your new normal.