Living Well: Healthy Eating: Back to Basics
We are in a day and age when we are bombarded by an overwhelming amount of information, which can often be confusing and conflicting… especially when it comes to various health and wellness topics. When it comes to healthy eating, there are a multitude of different effective approaches or “diets”… but my philosophy is to keep it simple and go BACK TO BASICS. What does this mean, exactly?
Eat real food. Is your food in its whole, unprocessed form? For example, eat an orange vs. drinking orange juice, eat a sweet potato vs. potato chips, or eat a chicken breast vs. chicken nuggets. The closer the food is to its natural form, the better off you will be! And when we think about what real foods are… they are vegetables, fruits, proteins like chicken, pork, shrimp and fish, healthy fats like nuts and beans, and whole grains (in their whole form).
Prepare and cook your own foods. When you cook and prepare your own foods, you know not only what is going into it, but you have control over how much and how it is prepared.
Portion control. Bring your awareness to portion sizes. Learn how to measure or visually estimate what one portion size looks like. What is a portion of chicken, rice, or your favorite snack? You can have too much even of a good thing! We have gotten so accustomed to larger portion sizes that our expectations have become distorted, as have our appetites!
Remember eating healthy is a way of life… Diets, for many, imply short term changes to reach a certain goal whether it is weight, body measurements, or changes in one’s blood sugar or cholesterol levels.
Getting Back to Healthy Eating
Here are some additional strategies to help you make longer lasting changes.
- Reading labels is key! We know food marketing is rooted in psychology as is the placement of those foods in the grocery store! I have 2 sons, who are 6 and 9, and of course their attention is often drawn to whatever the food item that is right at their height. We have a few main rules we try to follow for items that come in boxes or bags. Can you pronounce all of the names on the ingredient list? Does it have less than 5 -8 ingredients (not including natural spices/seasonings)? Is high fructose corn syrup not on the list of ingredients? If the answer is NO to any of these… please put it back on the shelf.
- Shop the perimeter of the grocery store. If you stick to the outside of the most grocery stores you are less tempted by the things in bags and boxes like the crackers, chips and cookies. The perimeter around most stores usually starts with the fruits and vegetables, continues to meats/proteins, the seafood counter, and then dairy and frozen food items. Try as much as possible to avoid the aisles!
- If you feel overwhelmed about where to start, take one small step at a time. For example, if you only eat 2-3 servings of fruits and vegetables, start by increasing 1 serving per day for that week. If you drink regular/diet soda or ice tea, substitute one or more of those drinks per day for water. Or if you eat dinner out 2-3 times per week, cut back one of those times and eat at home. You may notice your waistline and your wallet will appreciate it!
- Eat mindfully. It’s not just what you eat… it’s how you eat it. How we eat our food impacts our relationship with food and digestion of the food we eat. Take a seat and enjoy your food rather than eating on the go or while watching TV. Eat with intention. And pay attention to all your senses as you chew and swallow your food – the taste, smell, texture. How do you feel (i.e. after you eat, after you eat something healthy, something not so healthy)? Are you full, satisfied and happy?
- Keep a food log. I often recommend people keep a food log, even if for just a couple of days. Awareness is essential with all healthy behaviors. A food log will help you get an idea of what you are eating… and what you are not eating! When we eat mindlessly, we often have a tendency to overeat and sometimes may not even realize that we’ve snacked here and there all the while adding up to possibly another small meal.
Last, enlist the help of your spouse or partner, family members and/or friends. Getting the people around you on board not only helps you to make sustainable healthy lifestyle changes, but it can help those you love, too.
Keep it simple and take it back to the basics!