Last Tuesday was National Night Out (I think it is called something else now) and our neighborhood makes hamburgers and hot dogs for the event and everyone else brings a dish to share. We were discussing hamburgers and a seasoning someone brought that made the burgers tasty. I didn’t have any because I wasn’t sure it was gluten free but I was telling them about making burgers that were half chopped bacon so basically 50% burger and 50% bacon. They are really the most delicious hamburger. Someone said that was funny that someone so “healthy” would suggest eating a burger like that. Just goes to show that people are still soooo mislead by the media about what is healthy. I don’t eat burgers like that every week or even every month but they are a fun treat to have and all that saturated fat is sure good for the body. This has been discussed a couple of times on my website already.
So what exactly is healthy eating?
One survey conducted by the National Cancer Institute showed only about 9% of the people surveyed eat three or more servings of vegetables or two or more servings of fruit in a day. This was a recall study of foods eaten the previous day. Do you recall how many fruits and vegetables you ate yesterday? Yesterday was a good day for me. I ate lots of veggies but that is not typical for me and I am a Nutritional Therapist so I KNOW what I should be eating.
In the U.S. 46% of our food dollars are spent on foods (meals or snacks) eaten outside of our homes. For my family I would say that percentage is more like 15%-20% at most so someone else has to make up for my share of not eating out. The number of convenience stores has more than doubled in the last ten years! Americans drink a heck of a lot of soft drinks consuming their body weight in sweeteners! Yikes. Americans also drink more soft drinks than water although I would guess this may be changing as we seem to be really getting wise to how terrible soft drinks are for us.
Where in the world do you start to eat healthy?
You can get rid of chronic health issues, prevent further disease and make the quality of your life much better by making some pretty basic changes. Change is hard. People are resistant to it especially when it means giving up some of those comfort foods we have so grown to love. The thing you cannot forget is that a diet of proper nutrients gives your body all the materials it needs to detoxify and heal or to maintain good health. If your body is broken down with chronic health problems it is because you are not giving your body the fuel it needs to run properly and it is broken. Sometimes the damage can be reversed, sometimes it can be slowed down and sometimes you can stop it in its tracks. It really just depends on how much damage is done.
In any case, I guarantee you will feel better by making the following basic changes to your diet.
Start drinking more water.
Many people or other health professionals will tell you to drink eight 8oz glasses of water per day. The standard I follow is half your body weight in ounces per day.
What if you don’t like water?
You can read all about why water is so needed by your body here. I have always loved water so I don’t have a good answer for you on how to make yourself like it. You can try to start out with a sparkling mineral water like Perrier or San Pellegrino. LaCroix is a start too but it is not the same as the other two. Mineral waters have all the minerals your body needs including magnesium which most of us are deficient in. Your tap water can be a source of chemicals like fluorine, chlorine and other things like lead or plastics (depends on what kind of pipes you have).
Eat lots of vegetables every day. Eat 1-2 servings of fruit.
More than half your plate should be covered in veggies at every meal. One of the best ways to lose weight is to eat a lot of vegetables. The fiber can help you feel full longer and will help get things moving. It can even help keep your cholesterol and blood pressure in check.
Leafy greens are an excellent source of folate which is important for the methylation cycle in your detoxification system and also plays a role in producing the feel good hormone serotonin.
You get lots of minerals from veggies too but they are best absorbed when you eat your veggies with some fat (butter on broccoli, asparagus roasted with olive oil, a simple salad with a homemade dressing of olive oil, mustard and salt and pepper).
They help keep cancer at bay, increase your energy and help keep the toxins moving out of your body.
Avoid the deep fried foods, hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils (Trans Fats).
- High levels of trans fats in your cells increases your chances of developing cancer, especially breast cancer.
- High levels of trans fats are associated with heart disease.
- Consuming trans fats increases pain and inflammation. They keep your body from creating its own natural anti-inflammatory substances. If you have chronic pain this is one thing you will want to avoid for sure.
- Trans fats get in your cells making it easier for a virus or bacteria to invade and keep your immune system struggling.
- It is thought they are linked to ADD, depression and fatigue.
Stay away from refined sugar.
This is a tough one for a lot of us, myself included. Americans eat a lot of sugar every year. There are many different statistics on this but one study concluded that Americans consume around 170 pounds per year. That number was seven pounds per year in 1750 England. This stuff really wreaks havoc on your body.
- Eating it causes a loss of minerals, especially magnesium
- Eating sugar makes your body’s need for vitamin C and the B vitamins that much greater.
- Makes emotional stress even worse.
- Feeds yeasts in your body causing an imbalance and makes cravings worse (those yeasts in your body will actually make you crave sugar- it is their fuel)
- Have you ever been on the blood sugar roller coaster? Have the need for a pick me up in the afternoon?
- Sugar increases pain and inflammation
Limit or just don’t eat refined carbohydrates
Most of us get at least 50% of our calories from refined carbohydrates. These are all the grains that have been processed to nothing and made in to bread, cake, cookies, pasta etc. All you have left is the starch because all of the nutrients are gone. Have you ever eaten something you thought you were craving only to feel so unsatisfied afterwards and still looking for “that something” to fill you up. Well, if it isn’t an emotional need you are looking to feed it is your body looking for the minerals and vitamins that it is not getting. These foods will fill you up but they will not nourish you and that is really what you need to function properly- nourishment.
If you have Autoimmune disease of any kind you may be best served by avoiding all grains most especially wheat. If you must eat any grains it is best to consume them properly prepared which means soaked and sprouted. If you are going to take the time to do that you could benefit from their nutrients but you can get all the nutrients you need from other foods.
Keep the chemicals out of your diet and your life in general
There are around 80,000 chemicals approved by the FDA for use in anything from food to make-up and so on. We are inundated with toxins on a daily basis from our environment too. There is definitely no getting around that. You do have control over what you eat and what you put on your body though so you can control a bit of how toxic your life is or has become.
Your average American eats around ten pounds of chemicals in the form of food additives every year!
Did you know that additives are tested in their singular form and not together. So no one really knows what a combo of these things in a food product does to your body. Toxins and food additives are a huge burden on the liver. If you are consuming large amounts of sugar your liver is probably too busy to do anything about the chemicals in your body so they get deposited places (like the fat on your body) until your body can deal with them later.
Mono and diglycerides are listed by the FDA as the kind of additives that cause cancer, birth defects and fertility issues. Granted you probably have to consume a huge amount for these types of problems to occur but many people eat a whole lot of processed foods every single day. If you are one of those people you are getting way more additives than you should.
Brominated vegetable oil (an ingredient in some sodas like that yellow one depicting the droplets of water on the mountains) that keeps things mixed together. It causes kidney damage and is poisonous. It can make its home in your fat and nerve tissues.
Red# 40 is thought to be carcinogenic. Many food colors added to foods have been implicated in other things like ADD or ADHD making them worse. Avoid all colors that are followed by a number.
Aspartame and other artificial sweeteners. These are bad news for your brain and are thought to cause headaches, depression and anxiety.
TBHQ was not easily approved but somehow it was. Five grams of this stuff can kill you yet it is used as a preservative in many foods so it can sit on the shelf for a really long time without spoiling.
One could go on and on about a whole host of these types of food additives but you get the idea. Read the ingredients on what you buy or just stay away from processed food as much as possible.
Eat your food slowly and chew it thoroughly
In American culture is seems to be the norm to wolf down your food as fast as possible so you can move on the next thing. Or maybe you are running from work to a kids activity and eating in the car. Whatever the reason, it will serve you best to take some time out of your day to sit down and eat your meal. Relax. Enjoy. Be grateful for the food and the nourishment it will provide you. Take a bite, put down your fork and chew it well. Really chew it, 20-30 times before swallowing. You will find you eat less and you will feel more satisfied.
Don’t skip any meals either. Pack some snacks if you need to when you are out so you are not stuck with crappy food choices where you may end up. I usually plan for myself but sometimes my kids don’t want to eat what I have packed. We were on a road trip recently and stopped at a gas station (for gas but the kids were hungry because our dinner was small) and the guy ringing us up said he was really impressed with the choices my kids made. Okay, so it was gas station food but choosing a sandwich over a bag of chips was a good choice. The kids picked sandwiches, yogurt and cheese and Clif Bars. You will find in a pinch many stores are carrying something a little better than a overly processed snack cake or donuts that are stale.
Changing your diet can be overwhelming. I would suggest you don’t go on a diet. Those things NEVER work. Eat real food. Even if you cannot afford organic food it is cheaper to eat real food. Not only is it cheaper but it is better for your body. Your body knows what to do with chicken but it may question what to do with all the ingredients in a chicken nugget. Be kind to yourself when making these changes. You have to start somewhere and baby steps are always good. Even if you slip up. Be forgiving of your slip and move on. You will be happier and healthier for it!