How To Start Eating Healthy
Where to Start?
My dad asked me a simple question the other day: What are some ways I can start eating healthy?
Seems simple enough, but instantly years of reading health studies, books, and working on a healthy diet came flooding back to me and it seemed like such an insurmountable wall that I wondered where even to start.
Disclaimer: The information included on this hub is for educational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. The reader should always consult his or her healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation or if they have any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment plan.
Now that THAT's out of the way, here's how I responded to him.
Hydrate or Die
This is the mantra of many athletes--the one I knew was a long distance biker. Hydrate or die, he'd say, and since our bodies are 60% water I'd say that's important.
So Rule #1: Drink at least 8 glasses of water a day.
If you REALLY need me to get into the reasons you need at least this much leave a comment, otherwise I'll take it you understand.
Eat Your Fruits and Veggies
Rule #2: Eat minimum of 5 fruits and vegetables a day.
Five being a combination of both--not 5 veggies and 5 fruits.
Throw berries in your cereal/yogurt for breakfast, eat a piece of fruit for a snack, have a fruit or veggie in your lunch and a couple with dinner.
When you set your mind to it you make ways to get them in.
Cut the Bad Stuff
Rule #3: Cut out all partially hydrogenated oils and corn syrup.
This was one of the first steps my hubby and I took when we were first married. Corn syrup is in everything from ice cream to ketchup to crackers. Read every list of ingredients.
For example: 3 Tablespoons of the Coffeemate creamers (the hazelnut or french vanilla stuff) is the equivalent in trans fat as a basket of french fries.
Shocker, huh? That includes "fat free" creamer...they just put the serving size so low they don't have to report the amount of fat.
We got this info from the book The Abs Diet. You may be wary of "diet" books but really this is a lot fo common sense with facts to back it up. This book changed the way both of us eat.
Rule #4: Eat more beans and legumes (lentils, black beans, etc.) for your protein and less red meat.
Maybe try one meatless dinner a week. It
gives your digestive system a break, and it helps your budget too. Read my hub Frugal Fine Dining for more info on eating one vegetarian meal a week. Legumes also pack more fiber than a steak does, helping keep things nice and regular.
Be Picky About Your Dairy
Rule #5: Try to eat dairy products and meat from cows not treated with hormones or rbST.
concerned about that than "organic," but sometimes that DOES mean
buying organic. From someone who has hormone-related migraines, this simple switch has made a tremendous difference in the intensity of my headaches.
For more info on why this is beneficial to you, read Organic Milk--Is It Worth Your Money?
If Grandma Wouldn't Recognize It...
Rule #6: If your Grandma wouldn't recognize an ingredient in what you're eating, don't eat it.
Other Useful Tips
Those are some basic guidelines we try to follow. We also try not to have a lot of snacks lying around, and those we do are healthy like Pirate's Booty, baked tortilla chips, and low fat pita chips.
PORTION control is a huge thing though...baked tortilla chips aren't good for you when you eat half the bag. Look at the serving size, portion them out in a bowl and THEN go to the couch.
Eat slowly, paying attention to each bite...not mindlessly.
TRY new things.
Have the courage to buy one thing that scares you a week. I call it my "challenge ingredient."
Like chickpeas...I had no idea what to do with a can of chickpeas sitting in my cupboard forever. Then I researched it on foodnetwork.com and voila! I could make hummus! And rutabagas...I had NO idea what they were going to taste like, but I found I really like them in a stew or casserole or even just mashed. If you don't like it then yeah, you wasted a few bucks. So what. If you do like it, you've got another weapon in your culinary aresnal.
When cooking, try to bulk up your meal with veggies and legumes rather than meat and fat. For example, in a taco, add equal amounts of black beans and meat, plus your salsa/veggie toppings and go light on the cheese--you'll still get full, get great flavor but the meat will last longer and you'll be eating less fat.
One dish we have a few times a week is just sauteed veggies. Throw some olive oil in a pan on med-high heat, wash and chop whatever veggies you like. Most often we use zucchini, squash, and mushrooms but I'm trying to branch out and eat with the seasons more. Salt and pepper the veggies, throw them in the pan and give it 5 min or so and you've got a delicious side dish that can count for 3 of your fruits/veggies for the day.
Stir fry is another way we eat healthy. Branch out and try something different than what you've been doing for 10 years. Use FRESH ginger, try interesting sauces like Mirin and Oyster sauce and sesame oil and Chinese black bean sauce.Follow a recipe with good reviews until you're familiar with the flavors you're cooking with, then try your own. I hardly open a recipe anymore with stir fry--we toss in some soy sauce, sesame oil, fresh ginger, a dollop of rice vinegar and give it a sniff. Chop some cashews to throw in, and eat it over brown rice.
Yum. I want stir fry tonight.
Both men and women should take a multivitamin and fish oil. If you have a history of heart disease you should probably take Garlic and Coenzyme Q10 as well for your heart. Women are usually deficient in calcium and should take a fiber supplement as well.
Food Network has an amazing aresnal of recipes at your disposal. There are a number of ways to refine your search, and I've never tried a really bad recipe from there.
Also, Fit Day is a free website that allows you to track your calories, activities, weight, and body measurements for free. When I briefly tried Weight Watchers I found that their limit for my caloric intake (1,000 calories/day) was simply not enough for an active girl like me. WIth Fit Day I'm able to keep track of how many calories I burn doing menial things like cooking dinner or cleaning the house. In just a couple of weeks keeping track I've lost 5 pounds and 8 inches overall because I know how much I'm eating vs. burning.