Healthy Eating: Tips From the Nutrition Consultant
Yummy vegetables are the key to health, but know your truths!
Tips from the Nutrition Consultant
Do you ever walk into the grocery store in a complete daze? Your eyes are glazed over and you are on autopilot? You walk through the aisle and just grab what you did the week before, hoping to get out of there at a decent time before the crazy people come in? But when you get home and look at your purchases, you are surprised at how some of them lack any nutritional value. You even glance at the ingredients and have very little idea of what is packaged in the product in front of you? Do you eat it? Would you feed it to your kids? I hope not!
As I started researching nutrition in 2009, I became engrossed (and grossed out) by all of the changes that have taken place in our foods from the time I was a young child (we're talking 30 some years.....so not too long ago....I'm young, I say!). Anyway, I began uncovering some dirty truths (no pun intended) about our foods, both the packaged ones the ones grown from the earth. It scared me a bit....well, a lot! At the time, I immediately did a clean sweep of my diet, as well as my families'. I only ate the organic choices of foods. I didn't buy anything that had more than five ingredients. Animal products were greatly reduced and only bought through a local farmer. I began to frighten everyone around me with the truths about the chemicals, both in foods and around us that were "toxic." In addition, I consumed myself with all of the other dangers from radiation to unseen carcinogens. I was officially the "nut" of the family. I was over-informed definitely! Some people say that ignorance is bliss, and I was really understanding their perspective! So much knowledge about the food and health industry around us put me in a brain fog.....badly. My anxiety skyrocketed. We were doomed!
But as time passed, and I started learning what I can live with and what I can't, I began to have a more realistic view about our foods and ways to keep my daily eats healthy ones. As a nutrition consultant for others, I feel this is a breakthrough. Here are some important tips to remember:
1.) Most importantly, you cannot be 100% perfect. I am speaking of both with the foods that we eat and what we are exposed to. What kind of life would you be living if you were living in a bubble only eating organic carrots and apples all of the time? At some point, each day in our lives, we are still exposed to some kind of toxin, whether it is microscopic or on a much larger scale. We must accept this fact and remember to focus on what we are in control of. From here, take what you can control and "edit" it. In other words, be healthy and strict with your "health rules" about 85-90% of your time. The other 10-15%, should allow you some flexibility so that you may eat a salad that is not organic from time to time. You may use this 10-15% to also let yourself indulge in an occasional dark chocolate bar as a treat. You catch my drift. You see, when we consume ourselves with trying to be "perfect" with our health, we become so absorbed, that we actually become too distracted and lose focus on what is really important in life, like enjoying a carefree day with your children or your spouse. I've been there, and it is not a happy place.
2.) Remember, that when we are at the store, we must LOOK for the really good foods. Most foods that pop out at us at eye level are the ones we should NOT get! Steer clear of packaged foods as much as possible. These foods contain more bad than good, most of them have an ingredient list a mile long. You will find that these foods are preserved with chemicals that have been also used as flame retardants, or rust removers (I'm not making this up....yuck!) Occasionally, you can allow yourself boxed pastas, bagged rice and beans, and whole grain cereals that do not contain some kind of unpronounceable preservative (BHT for example). You see, what happens when we consume these kinds of foods consistently is that our bodies see the fake ingredients as toxins. Our bodies then begin to work extra hard at trying to remove these toxins, while spending it's energy doing so. You may notice a sluggish digestive system or feeling tired. This is because your body is using up it's energy trying so hard to stay healthy! In addition, many of these extra preservatives in foods are stored in your body, both in your tissues and fat cells. Yup, you guessed it, they are stored as fat. So, when you see a "low fat" version of cookies, don't think it is a healthier version....it is just a few extra doses of sugar and more preservatives to help you keep the weight ON! Not what we want. Rest assured though, we DO have healthy foods in the store! Sometimes they are in special "Natural foods" sections. Sometimes, they are located on the top shelves of the stores. Give yourself a few extra minutes at the store to do some looking. Trust me, you will feel like Dora the Explorer, but it will be worth it!
3.) Beware of store bought animal products. I usually don't like being so blunt about this topic because many people assume I am pushing veganism on them. I am only educating though, and the topic of animal products these days is hot! If you are making a choice to purchase animal products (yes, even dairy and eggs), be wary of the words "natural" and "grain fed." Often, the word "natural" is so vague that is really means nothing! Of course the animal that you are eating is natural! It is not a robot, right? This is a sales pitch. As for "grain fed," this is usually done with genetically modified corn or soy. When it comes to cows, eating corn disrupts their digestive system, creating infections. These infections then require antibiotics. People, in turn, eat the meat of an antibiotic-fed cow. And yes, you are digesting the antibiotics too. They don't just go away. (And too many antibiotics are NOT a good thing, by the way. That's a topic for another article!) Also, the grain fed animals usually contain a higher amount of Omega 6 fats in their meat. Many Omega 6 fats contribute to inflammation in our bodies. Meat that is pasture raised and grass fed is best. Eggs and chicken that are also grass fed and fed organic feed are the wiser choices. As for milk, organic milk or milk labeled, "no antibiotics or hormones" is what to choose. What goes into these animals' bodies goes into ours. Plain and simple. When our bodies ingest these gross substances, hormonal imbalances and digestive disruptions take place. Our hormones are so sensitive, that even the slightest disturbance creates problems. Our digestive system is our main leader for our immunity, so we need to keep it in tip top shape. For ways to find locally raised animals where farmer's usually follow a more healthy feeding procedure, visit www.localharvest.org .
4.) Know your dirty produce! No, this isn't smut you're reading either! In order to grow produce at a good rate without having to deal with the bugs and diseases that plants get naturally, large companies rely heavily on pesticides and herbicides. It's all about the money! So, what does that mean for us, well, in short, we eat the stuff too! Yuck! Too many people believe that if they "wash the vegetables," then they get rid of all of the poison. Well, truth is, it is absorbed. There are only three solutions here: buy organic, grow your own, or know the "Dirty Dozen" list. The Dirty Dozen list can be found on my Facebooks' Notes page: http://www.facebook.com/notes/eat-well-to-live-well/dirty-dozen/166235533422054. Top offenders include strawberries, spinach, and celery! Copy the list and study it!
If you keep these four tips in mind, you should end up with healthier foods in your grocery cart. When you get home to enjoy your stash of goodies, you should remember the following when preparing a meal:
- Focus on vegetables as a main course. Yes, you read that right! This isn't about the biggest steak. Vegetables should take up 1/2 of your plate! Vegetables should be vibrant in color, like green, red, and orange (white cauliflower is on my "good" list too). Keep in mind that peas, corn, and white potatoes do not count in this category (I will get to that in a minute). With these yummy vegetables, you can steam them, lightly sauté them, or eat them raw. They should never be overcooked. They will lose their nutritional value this way.
- 1/4 of your plate should be a protein. Keep in mind that I'm not pushing meat either. I actually encourage several meatless meals a week. So, what kind of protein? Think legumes, like beans, lentils, and peas. Several whole grains also contain protein and do well when mixed with the legumes. Quinoa is a great whole grain that is a complete protein (contains all amino acids). Nuts and seeds can be added to your dish for protein too. Animal protein should be organic or grass fed, and again, taking up only 1/4 of your plate. Humans can only absorb about 25 grams of protein at a meal. This is usually only about 4 ounces of meat. That's not a whole lot! All of the extra is stored as fat!
- 1/4 of your plate can be a starch, such as a potato (sweet potatoes are best), non-GMO corn, or whole grain, like brown rice. Notice I said that 1/4 of your plate "can" be this. It is not always necessary to fill your plate this way. The important factors in each meal are your vegetables and some protein. (Remember, vegetables contain the necessary fiber and carbohydrates needed. They are not "bad" carbs that many people fear. They are your medicine).
Enjoy your food and eat for good health. Remember these tips and keep a good perspective on how you approach this knowledge. Don't become overwhelmed by all of the food corruption out there. Be proactive about your health and the foods you eat. Your body will thank you!