Contrary to some people’s belief, food can taste good and be healthy. In the past, there’s been food offered that was loaded with vitamins and processed to include plenty of protein and other nutrients. Those products often tasted like vitamin soaked cardboard, giving healthy food a bad reputation. Seriously, there’s no reason to eat “processed” healthy food when Mother Nature provides it right on the vine, also providing herbs that add a gourmet taste and healthy nutrients to the mix.
You need to start with healthy ingredients.
Scour your fresh fruits and vegetable section for the healthiest foods. Even if a bag of kale chips or a power bar are described as healthy on the package, you can do far better! I love the vegetable noodles made with those spiralizers. One simple salad I enjoy making uses sautéed or fresh zucchini noodles, chopped Black Krimm tomatoes—an heirloom variety—(the black varieties of tomatoes have more antioxidants), colorful sweet peppers, cucumber, celery and onions. Sometimes, I toss in some feta cheese, mozzarella or air baked chicken pieces. I toss it all with a homemade vinaigrette that includes herbs and spices. It’s super quick and easy, plus very healthy.
Add lots of Omega-3 to your cooking.
I love wild salmon and it’s an exceptionally good way to boost your omega-3 fatty acids, something the average American diet is far lower in than it should be. It’s easy to make, just drizzle some olive oil, salt, pepper sprinkle fresh herbs and create a foil packet to bake it at 400 degrees for ten minutes. If you don’t want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen you can grill it.
Make your salads healthier and yummier.
Green salad may sound boring, but it doesn’t have to be. Use a spring mix with some spinach added for a colorful, nutrient loaded salad. Add some berries, onions, walnuts or pecans and/or tomatoes. Sometimes I add grilled vegetables to mine. Parmesan cheese is a great topper. Those berries give it zing and some sweetness. For the dressing, I use a variety of healthy homemade vinaigrettes or a Greek yogurt ranch that’s particularly tasty. .
- If you include beef or chicken in your meal, choose organic grass-fed beef and free range chicken to boost the health benefits.
- When the weather turns chilly, a robust homemade soup is always welcome. If you have fresh vegetables left over or even cooked ones, everything can go in the soup and taste delicious.
- One of my favorite treats is grilled asparagus with lemon. Toss the asparagus in olive oil, grill or pan fry until tender and drizzle with butter and lemon. The butter should come from grass fed cows. Salt and pepper to taste. You can even sprinkle a little Parmesan.
- Introduce your family to spaghetti squash. It’s so simple to make and hundreds of ways to serve it. Cut in half, clean out the seeds and lightly coat with olive oil. Roast for approximately 40 minutes and serve with tomato sauce, roasted broccoli, mozzarella and some fresh basil for a delicious and healthy taste.
I’ve watched clients roll their eyes when I suggest adding meal planning and preparation to their fitness program. While meal planning doesn’t necessarily mean you prepare all your meals on the weekend, it’s the way most people with who work outside the home do it. It’s a great way to have your meals and snacks prepared ahead of time so there’s no excuse for take-out or a quick microwave meal. It means the meals will be easy to make in a few minutes, because in most cases, all you have to do is warm them.
Creating menus for the week and having all the ingredients is the key.
If you’re like most people, including myself, at the end of a long day at work, preparing a meal or even thinking about what you want to eat is a bit more than you can sometimes handle. When you plan your meals ahead, during a quiet, restful time, you can plan to include healthy foods that are packed with nutrition and lower in calories. You can also include ways to use all the food you buy so none goes to waste.
Spending one day making meals can save hours of cooking during the week.
Preparing your meals all in one day saves a lot of time. While some foods are cooking, you can chop and prepare others, like fresh vegetables, to add to the food later. For instance, if you bake a chicken, you can use some parts to eat as a main course one day, with some left over to create a salad for dinner. Having plenty of vegetables cut into serving sizes makes meal preparation easier. Some can be snacks, while others only require minimal preparation to add to main dishes. You can even double the recipes you make and store some in the freezer for another week, freeing time later.
When you plan and prep meals ahead, you’ll have the optimal serving sizes.
When the food is in front of you and you’re starved, it’s not the time to decide how much you should eat. Being hungry also isn’t the time to shop. You can solve both problems by making these decisions ahead of time and having the food already in portions. It also means you’ll plan for leftovers, so there’s not going to be questions about those dishes left in the back of the refrigerator that are either green meat, brown vegetables or your child’s science project.
- Meal planning means planning around sales and coupons. Add that to the use of leftovers and you have a savings at every meal.
- When you plan and prepare meals ahead of time, you’ll also save on takeout and junk food. If you’re not shopping when you’re hungry, you’ll be less likely to grab snacks off the shelf.
- If you find you still have leftover vegetables that you won’t be using during the week, don’t fret. Make soup instead. Soup not only uses up those extras, it’s an easy way to create nutritious meals by adding a salad and/or a side.
- When you plan ahead, you’ll reduce the stress that comes from not knowing what you’re going to eat next or the hassle of preparing it. It can make meal time something to look forward to rather than dread.
If you’re like many of my Florida clients, you probably never considered food journals as a technique to shed weight. It’s worth a try because it not only helps you stick with a diet program, it tells a lot about what’s causing the weight gain. The catch is that it takes some time, but you can make it easier. With Smartphones today, there’s a lot of help. Making a recording of everything you eat is one way, sending yourself a text or just using the notes area to jot down what you eat and transferring that information to the official list at the end of the day can make it a lot easier.
It’s more than just for weight loss, it’s also for health.
There’s so many different chemicals in food and changes to the actually food itself—like hybridization—that often people find they get sick after eating with no idea why. Keeping a food journal with information on how you felt after a meal can help you track down the actual food that is the culprit. There are more people today suffering from gluten intolerance and one of the reasons may be the change in the grain. Almost all the wheat that exists today comes from a hybrid that was created in the 1960s, which contains more gluten than previous varieties of wheat. Identifying what makes you sick and avoiding it can help you live a fuller, healthier life.
You’ll learn about portion size if you’re going to journal.
Portion size is important. Knowing that a portion of meat is about the size of a deck of cards. When you consider the serving size is 8 ounces or more, about twice the 3 to 4 ounce serving size, you can understand how portion control is important. Sure, according to the menu it’s one portion, but not according the actual portion size you should eat. Knowing portion size helps you evaluate just how much you’ve eaten. Learning it can help food journaling and you, by aiding in weight loss efforts.
You’ll be amazed at what you learn about your eating habits.
You’ll get a lot of information from journaling, whether it’s what circumstances cause you to eat, the foods that make you feel bad or how much you actually eat. If you’re adding things like how you felt right before you ate a food or right after, it also helps. You can learn your triggers for unhealthy foods and what makes you turn to comfort foods. Some people stress eat. Recognizing it is the first step to conquering it.
- You’ll also identify the foods you fail to eat. If you think you’re getting adequate vegetables or more than enough green leafy ones, you might be surprised when you keep a food journal.
- Just tracking your food makes you more aware of what you eat. In fact, some people find that when they keep a food journal, they start questioning whether they’re really hungry before eating a snack they have to record.
- You’ll learn a lot about your dietary habits and even may find it isn’t your metabolism to blame for your weight. It may be small handfuls of snacks you eat without thinking. One study shows that people who kept a journal were more likely to lose weight even if they didn’t diet.
- Don’t forget to track what you drink, too. A serving of soft drink can add 100 calories. If you drink several in a day, it can add up to a weight gain in a week or two.
You hear a lot about calorie/carb calculating apps and may wonder if they’re at all useful. The easy answer, yes! Of course, I believe the best kind of app is one that actually plans the meals for you without the need for you to constantly input information. Those types help you plan your meals and learn how to develop healthy eating habits. It’s why I use that type as part of my training program. However, using an app can help anyone that wants to shed some pounds by lowering their calorie or carb intake.
Most people have their phone with them 24/7.
One of the huge benefits of these apps is that they’re always with you. Most people would rather leave their house without their shoes than to leave without their phone. That’s why an app for the phone is so good. You normally have it with you 24/7 anyway, so you’re not carrying anything extra. While some people still have an appointment book they carry, most people use their phones. After all, many appointments are now scheduled online, so it’s an easier way to do things. Using an app means you’ll always have your tracker with you, so there are no excuses.
It sure beats carrying a book or looking up the information online.
If you have to record calories or carbs every time you eat, going to an online calorie or carb counter or looking it up in a book adds extra work and it could be enough extra work to make you want to skip it, or at least skip a few entries. That can cause the entire tracking to go down the drain because it puts the person right back into trying to remember everything they throughout the day. Eventually, that dedication to remember is lost.
Some apps have other functions.
Some of the apps to count calories or carbs include other functions, such as setting goals or reminding you to eat if you’re on a Keto diet. The app we use to help clients actually plans the meals, besides providing grocery lists, food scanner, fitbit synchronization and recipes, plus so much more. It’s like having a trainer available by just looking at your phone.
- No matter how good the app is, you still need to track your food intake or follow its advice. It’s a tool, not a guarantee, because you must use that information for it to be beneficial.
- Some apps, like the ones we use, combine the caloric intake with the caloric output by tracking calories burned during exercise.
- With an app, you’ll get a good look at not only how many calories or carbs you’ve already eaten throughout the day so you can adjust your meals later in the day. If you’re going out for the evening and expect to eat more, you can eat lighter during the day to ensure you have extra or the evening.
- Apps make losing weight more interesting and by doing that, easier. Gadgets are fun, especially when they make things easier to do. That describes these apps perfectly.
Every time I decide to walk to the store, rather than drive, I pass loads of bakeries filled to the brim with seductive sweets. It’s no different in other areas of the country than it is in Florida, sweets are popular. The sweet taste doesn’t mean it’s sweet to your body. In fact, sugar is ruining your health, if you eat a lot of it. There’s a theory that man has a taste for sweet foods, since in the early times, when plants were sweet, it meant they were safe to eat. Today, sugar is in everything and even worse, types of altered natural sugar, like high fructose corn syrup, create even more health issues.
So if it’s natural, it’s healthy?
Okay, that’s sounds like it should be right, but it isn’t. You’ll hear a lot of hoopla about high fructose corn syrup being a natural sugar from corn. Too much sugar increases your risk of heart disease, contributes to the rising statistics for obesity, increases your risk of diabetes, impairs your immune system, causes tooth decay and accelerates aging. To say it’s healthy because it’s natural is like saying tobacco is healthy because it’s natural.
It’s even worse if it’s HFCS—high fructose corn syrup.
High fructose corn syrup is found in about everything on the shelf at the grocery. It’s taken from corn stalks and released via a chemical process to create a product that’s not chemically at all like sugar and even worse than regular sugar. They’re different chemically and how they react in your body. Fructose causes all the same problems as regular sugar, but also adds more. It goes into the blood stream rapidly, can cause fatty liver, spikes insulin and creates metabolic problems. It boosts your appetite, increasing the risk of weight gain. It increases the risk of heart disease, dementia and can even cause damage to the stomach lining.
It’s sugar, not fat, that’s really the villain in heart disease.
Back in the 1950s the sugar industry paid Harvard scientists to run a mega study and conveniently omit studies that found sugar was a major player in heart disease. Instead, they were to use those that showed that fat was. That set the precedent for fat being the enemy at the table. Even healthy fat was suspect. Today, we know differently, but some doctors still haven’t changed their recommendations. Trans fats do cause heart problems, but food with healthy fat like coconut oil, avocado and nuts improve your health.
- When you eat sugar, it affects the same receptors in the brain as cocaine. In fact, some scientists believe it may be as addictive as the real drugs. It also alters our sense of taste, so what we normally would find sweet isn’t sweet enough.
- HFCS actually makes you hungrier. It increases leptin resistance. Leptin tells our body when we’re full. Just like insulin resistance, leptin resistance dulls the feeling of fullness.
- Sugar plays a big role in high blood pressure. It may be as bad as salt when it comes to making your numbers rise.
- Often food manufacturers break up sugar into several different types so it doesn’t appear at the top position on ingredients. It might be sugar, fructose, corn syrup, dextrose or other synonyms.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re going for a title in body building, hoping to boost your energy or trying to lose weight, to achieve the most, you need to set SMART goals. SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-Bound. Those words are the outline for the most successful goal setting. First, start with a specific goal. It’s not enough to say you want to get fitter, you need to identify what that means. It could mean you want to lose weight, build strength or improve your endurance. Decide exactly what you want.
Make a goal you can measure.
You need to be able to measure and identify the goal. “I’ll know it when I feel better,” is not measurable, but “I want to lose 25 pounds,” is. If your goal is to build your endurance, you can use number of reps as your guide or distance run if you’re a runner. For strength, that’s simple, it’s the amount of weight you want to be able to lift.
Is your goal achievable?
Losing ten pounds a month is achievable. Losing ten pounds a week for a month isn’t, at least not in a healthy manner. Is your desire something that’s possible? While you might have a LOT of weight to lose, you won’t do it all at once, it takes time and your goal should reflect it. That’s why people often set a big ultimate goal and break it down to smaller mini goals they can achieve quicker.
How relevant is your goal?
One of the problems I find people often struggle with is that they start a workout program for someone else. Maybe a spouse suggested they needed to lose weight or a friend. If working out is to improve your health because you want to see your children grow to adulthood, that’s really a goal for you, even though it involves your children. You must be vested in the goal and excited to achieve it. That excitement is motivation to keep you going when the going gets tough.
- You need a time frame to achieve your goals. If you don’t set a specific time to achieve the goal, it never occurs. You can use a longer time frame for bigger goals and break it down to smaller ones. A big goal may take a year, but your smaller ones could be as little as a week to a month at a time.
- Changing your goals isn’t bad. Maybe you started out just wanting to lose a few pounds, but you were so successful, you now want to compete in bodybuilding. That’s not only okay, it’s great!
- Find out what’s stopping you from achieving your goals and set some supplemental goals. You might not know how to cook healthy, so eating healthy foods for weight loss is tough. Set a goal to learn something new each week.
- Make sure you enjoy what you do. There are a lot of ways to achieve fitness goals, why not include things you enjoy. Hiking, swimming and dancing will build muscle tissue and burn calories, too.
You might think you have a strange set of symptoms that don’t quite go together. That adolescent acne may be back, even though you have a few wrinkles beside those pimples. You may have thinning hair, constipation and weight gain or simply just feel exhausted. These are all signs that you may need to reset your hormones because of an imbalance. Of course, always check with your doctor first, but you can start on these steps until you get into see him or her. They’re natural and can help your overall health even if you don’t have a hormonal problem.
It should all start with healthy eating.
Check out what you consume every day. If you’re like a lot of people, there’s a large amount of sugar in your diet. You may not even realize it if you’re eating a lot of processed foods. HFCS—high fructose corn syrup—is hidden in everything from ketchup to boxed mac n’ cheese. Cut out starches, too. They add to the problem. The best way to see if this helps is to cut out all sweets, starches and processed foods for a week or two. You’ll definitely find fruit tastes far sweeter and may even have more energy.
Get gut healthy.
If you want to keep your digestive system running smoothly, while also helping your hormones, fermented food and probiotics can give you a boost, plus improve your immune system. There are trillions of microbes in your digestive system and if they’re an imbalance with too little good bacteria with more harmful ones, it can affect your entire body. It affects the nutritional absorption, digestion, elimination and even can affect mental health. Dysbiosis, the name for too many bad microbes, can make your hormonal balance go out of whack. Eating fermented foods and live bacteria yogurt can help.
There are a lot of different types of hormones, from insulin to serotonin. There are of course the male and female hormones we normally think of when the word hormone is mentioned. When you workout, it affects several different types of hormones. It boosts the release of serotonin that can help you sleep better at night, but also improves your digestion, mood and sexual functioning. It increases dopamine that makes you more relaxed, too. It also boosts testosterone in men and estrogen levels, to keep you younger looking longer and take the edge off menopause.
- While you need to cut out colas and soft drinks for their high sugar content, cutting them out to eliminate the caffeine is also important. You should also cut out coffee, energy drinks, too much tea and chocolate for the same reason.
- Switch to a healthier way to clean. The chemicals in your cleaning products can put toxins into your environment that exacerbate hormonal imbalance. So do personal-care products and cosmetics. Go to a more natural option, like white vinegar for cleaning. It disinfects as it cleans, too.
- When you’re resetting your hormones, carbs, like legumes, grains and sweet fruit like mangoes should be limited. Eating too many of these can cause insulin resistance.
- Make sure you have healthy fats in your diet and balance the Omega-6 to the Omega-3 ratio to an ideal 4 to 1 (with Omega-6 being the 4). America’s diet has a very unhealthy ratio of between 12 to 1 and 25 to 1.
Is dairy bad or is it super healthy? That’s a hotly debated question. You’ll get a lot of different views on having dairy in your diet and some, more non-conventional views that identify the type of dairy like raw milk. One thing is certain, not everyone can tolerate dairy. Some people even have allergies to it. For both those groups of people, dairy can create horrendous reactions that range from gas and bloating to far more severe effects. Dairy should definitely be part of their diet.
What type of dairy is the best and which is the worst?
It’s true that not all dairy is equally good or bad for you. Some types of dairy, such as butter or milk from grass fed cows, provide more Omega-3 fatty acids and conjugated linoleic acid. Those are heart healthy. More recent scientific studies show that full fat milk may actually help you lose weight, while lowering the risk for diabetes! Another group advocates using raw milk and raw milk products, rather than their pasteurized counterparts that can be lower in nutrients. The USDA says that increases the potential for diseases like Listeria that has a high mortality rate.
Milk and milk products have high nutritional value.
Milk contains a plethora of nutrients that are essential to the body. In fact, of the 22 essential nutrients, it has 18 of them. It’s loaded with potassium, magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, zinc and protein. It also contains vitamins A, E, K, B-12, B-6, niacin, folate, riboflavin, iron, thiamine and selenium. While many studies, particularly those from the National Dairy Association, say milk helps make strong bones, the Nurses Health Study shows it actually may increase the potential for bone fractures up to 50 percent. Backing that conclusion is the fact that countries that drink less milk also have the lowest incidence of osteoporosis. Many studies show it helps build strong teeth in growing children, while other studies showed that milk might reduce the plaque build up on older people.
How is it possible that low fat milk is worse for weight that whole milk?
The potential for whole milk to be the most diet friendly is that satiety factor. Fat leaves you feeling fuller and satisfied longer. Milk also contains a high amount of protein that also leaves you feeling full, which is why it can help you lose weight and be less tempted to grab a candy bar or sugary treat. However, both milk and cheese have been linked to serious conditions, like prostate cancer where going dairy free can slow its progress.
- People also report issues with milk like mucous build up and studies show it can lead to skin conditions like acne or eczema, especially low or no fat milk.
- While the jury is still out, there’s enough evidence to encourage choosing organic milk that comes from hormone and antibiotic-free cows.
- Some studies show that milk may be beneficial, even necessary for growing children but when they become adults, far less healthy.
- Not all the calcium in milk may be available for the body. It contains certain proteins that actually may leach the calcium from the bone.
If you grew up knowing just what to eat based on the food pyramid, you might have some rethinking to do. While the old food pyramid is out of the door, the new one created by the USDA is far more relevant in light of what is known today. There’s no longer the base of grains with a smaller section divided into fruits and vegetables and an even smaller section divided between milk and protein sources, ending in the tiny top containing healthy fat, oils and sugar treats. That’s no longer considered healthy eating.
The new food pyramid still may not be accurate, although it’s far more flexible than the old.
The old food pyramid simply looks different and doesn’t allow for flexibility, but that doesn’t mean either is right. In fact, some people say the food pyramid may be one of the reasons there’s such an epidemic of obesity. For instance, after the emphasis on the food pyramid and keeping fat lower, there was a huge increase in low fat products, which we now know actually causes people to gain weight. Think about it. It’s highly processed and a healthy diet means a diet that’s far less process.
Should grain be your primary source of calories?
There’s always lobbying groups or special interest groups that affect all the information we get on good health. Those lobbying for grain producers actually affected the amount of cereal and grain products found in the food group. Long ago, a group of Harvard scientists were paid to link fat to heart disease, by the sugar industry, which is why fat of all types is still considered unhealthy by many. Even the type of grain encouraged came from refined highly processed grain products.
The MyPlate model is better, but still not perfect.
My plate emphasizes the types of carbs that are healthier, with fruits and vegetables taking up half the plate, starches and carbs one fourth the area and lean protein the last fourth. There’s also a side of milk products shown. Check the entire MyPlate graphic and you won’t find any healthy fat! A better option is the Harvard Healthy Eating Plate. It not only shows the division of food and includes all types of food, it identifies the healthy ones to eat. Consider how many unhealthy choices you can make when picking protein, such as hot dogs or processed meat. Look at the difference in options between refined flour products and whole grain. The Healthy Eating Plate directs you to the healthy options.
- The MyPlate model and the food pyramid emphasize drinking milk and dairy. It’s been found to be far less healthy than once thought.
- The food pyramid includes starchy vegetables like potatoes, with green or other healthy vegetables. A plate of potatoes does not provide all the nutrients you need, even if they do contain chives.
- There should be more focus on healthy fat like Omega-3 fatty acids, rather than reducing the amount of fat in the diet. Your body needs fat and it helps to keep you feeling full, so you eat less.
- Learning to eat healthier is the best way to achieve a healthy weight and good health. There are too many things that the MyPlate model or Food Pyramid don’t address or leave to potentially unhealthy discretion.
If you’ve been working out for a while and are firmly grounded in eating healthy, you might want to extend that great feeling to those you love and help develop better habits for the whole family. Even if you’re new to the healthier lifestyle, it can also be part of your goal. You’ll be leading by example, for starters, but there’s other ways you can get your spouse, children and maybe even friends on the fitness bandwagon without saying a word.
Be a true leader and a role model.
While your family may not want to go to the gym, or it might not be appropriate for them if they’re younger, you don’t have to drag them to an exercise class to get results. Instead, start looking for ways to make their day more active, while still having fun. Consider family bicycling or going for hikes or nature walks on the weekend. Join the kids in play and keep it active. Consider skating, rollerblading or if the budget is tight, go for family hula hoops and have a blast! It creates both fond memories, fun and a love of activity. It also can burn off some of that energy the kids have bottled up inside them.
Make every opportunity count.
If you take the kids to the grocery with you, park further from the door and if possible, when you go back to the car, have each child carry a bag. The extra walk is worth the effort and carrying bags appropriate to their strength builds muscle tissue. Do you drive the kids a few blocks to school? Don’t. Walk them there instead. You might actually save time, especially if the drop-off line is long. Add extra time by leaving earlier. You still have the walk home.
Make eating healthy an adventure, but not a big deal.
Too often parents reward their child with a sweet treat if they ate their healthy food. That gives the healthy food a reputation for being something you have to tolerate to get to the good stuff. That’s just not right and sets in motion a poor attitude for healthy eating. Instead, find creative ways to introduce healthy eating, like making a favorite dish healthier. Use zucchini noodles for lasagna and spaghetti squash for spaghetti. Let the kids see how the spaghetti is made. It’s fascinating for people of all ages that such yummy pasta-tasting noodles come from a plant. Have healthy snacks, like nuts, veggies and dips already prepared and in the refrigerator or individual bags.
- If you’re planning a vacation or a trip to an amusement park like Disney, get the family ready for the trip. Whether it’s Dad, Mom or the kids, everyone will enjoy it more if they’re in shape for all the walking.
- Limit computer time and technology, especially for children. There are studies that show that it can lead to changes in the brain in developing minds that bring on depression in adulthood.
- Does your family consist of furbabies only or are they part of your family? Playing with them can provide an extra workout for both the furry family member and the non-furry one. Walking, playing catch and a ball and string for kitty will get both moving.
- Don’t emphasize the healthy part when you’re creating snacks and meals. Remember, it’s just GOOD food. Your kids will grow up identifying it as that and be more likely to eat healthy as adults.