Food has been around since the beginning of time. For not nearly as long, many people have thought to have found the “Holy Grail” of nutritional advice. Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, Zone Diet, Low Carb, Low Fat, Paleo, Adkins, etc, etc. It’s 2015, and around the globe, people are getting bigger and bigger. The numbers of deaths from preventable diseases that are associated with obesity will continue to rise at staggering rates.
You have a choice to continue to perpetuate the problem, or start to become part of a solution. It’s hard; I understand. Billions of marketing dollars are spent annually telling you what’s “healthy”. There’s big business in genetically modifying foods in order to cut costs for large corporations, and in most cases, the government is blind to it while they both chase the bottom line of more money.
I started this post with the plans of writing a rant about all things food. However, while you’d find it humorous, I’m uncertain of the amount of help it would offer. Instead, I have decided to create a list of the most important, easiest changes for the majority of people to make to help improve their nutrition.
If you’re the person wondering if you should eat carrots as a snack over bananas due to lower sugar content; well this is not for you. I sure hope you keep reading and learn a few things, but this is geared towards the masses of people out there that either; 1- think they are eating well, when they are actually following the directions of marketers on TV, or 2-know they are not eating well, but overwhelmed by all the information they are being bombarded with.
Without further ado, here are the 6 things you should start doing now!
1. Drink more water- On average, the human body is 55-65% water. Water is in every cell in your body; so yes; it’s very important! If you wait until you’re thirsty for a drink, it’s too late; you’re already dehydrated. You should aim to drink half your body weight in ounces(of water) each day to remain properly hydrated. The key word is “water”. Not water in coffee, soda, tea, etc. “Water flavored water.” Many times when you sense hunger, it’s actually thirst. Drinking a glass of water, may also curb your appetite; since many people mistake “hunger pangs” as actual thirst. Keeping properly hydrated may help decrease headaches, help with painful joints, improve kidney function, and improved circulation.
2. Eat less sugar- Obvious, right? However, when asked, most people have no idea how much sugar is in many of their most commonly consumed foods or drinks. Besides the obvious, soda; the next biggest culprits of hidden sugars disguised under “healthy foods” are store bought juices, flavored yogurts, and breakfast cereals. Even worse, is that many of these products are marketed to you as “healthy” food choices. When talking with gym members and patients, I often try to equate the amount of sugar in a particular product to the average candy bar(25-30g of sugar). They are surprised to find out that some of their “healthy” choices have more sugar in them than a Snickers bar! Then it hits them straight between the eyes when they realize, “how can I expect to see changes, if I consume 2 Snickers worth of added sugar each day….BEFORE lunch!” And that’s by just counting stuff that people deemed a healthy choice. Let’s not get started on your Starbuck coffee! A good rule is to keep added sugar under 40g/day.
3. Eat more good fat- The first thing to understand here is this; if the fat free craze was effective at reducing obesity we wouldn’t have the obesity epidemic that we currently do in this country. The majority of the time, “fat free” on a food product only means that it’s loaded with sugars and likely many chemicals to make your food taste good(despite the removal of fat). Fats are important for hormone production and many other important functions of the body. Good fats will also help to burn fat. Another great benefit of adding fat to your diet is that it helps with satiety; or feeling full after consuming a meal. Some good fats to include are wild caught fish, tree nuts, avocados, nut butters, eggs, olive oil and coconut oil.
Depending on your goals, the amount of fat you eat each day will vary…but the most important thing is that you don’t avoid it!
4. Eat less processed foods- You may have heard at some time in your life to stay to the perimeter of the supermarket. Processed foods are filled with additives and chemicals that can make them last for years without spoiling. I’m not going to say that everything that comes out of a box should be avoided; however it must be understood that the majority of your meals should not be in a box in your cabinet or freezer. Most processed foods are also loaded with sodium which can be linked to high blood pressure, and related to other signs of poor health.
5. Drink less alcohol- I find that way too many people put in the effort Monday through Thursday, then sabotage all the hard work over the weekend. Similar to the large amounts of sugars in juice and soda; most beer and wine have a large amount of empty calories, and simple carbohydrates that you’re sipping. If you opt for liquor, be careful of the mixers you choose, as those are often juice and soda. Three to six drinks per week should be a good number in order to avoid your alcohol causing havoc with your weight loss goals.
6. Don’t go crazy- I saved my favorite for last. Some people get so emotional about food, and uptight about their food choices that it makes they seem crazy. I joke with them(and maybe I shouldn’t be) that if that keeps up, they’ll need to add psychiatrist to their list of doctors. We all know those people. When out at a party, they’d prefer to starve, than eat something that’s not organic, GMO-free, cage free, wild caught, etc. Allow yourself to enjoy food. Look forward to your “cheat meal”(key word is “meal”, not “day”). Do not allow one or two bad days; or a bad week of food choices derail your goals. You’re human, it happens. Get over it quickly and live another day.
Start slow. Create a good eating habit. Then another. Then another. Before you know it, you’ll come to the realization that healthy eating can still be delicious. If reading this makes you paralyzed with fear on how to get started, use the 80/20 rule. Here, 80% of your nutrition should follow rules similar to what you just read, and allow for freedom of the other 20%. After 30 days, evaluate your changes, and make changes as needed. When you reach a plateau, that may be a time to consider increasing the 80% to 85-90%.