Eating healthy might bring to mind meal plans with lots of restrictions. But all that has changed in recent years. Today, there is a better understanding of a good diet that goes beyond a basic food pyramid, and there are a lot more delicious recipes to choose from!
A nutrient-enriched, balanced diet is attainable. More importantly, it can be easy to sustain. Here are a few ways you can up your nutritional game with simple changes:
Did you know that your body is composed of more than 75% water? That’s why it’s vital to continuously hydrate your body through water consumption. We recommend drinking 1/2 your body weight in ounces as a general rule of thumb. And of course, you should increase your water intake on warmer days, when you are stressed, or after a workout.
If you want a little more taste than just plain water, we recommend infusing fruit or cucumbers, or adding a small amount of organic fruit juice (such as lime or lemon) to your water to give it more flavor. This is a delicious replacement for beverages such as soda, fruit drinks, or alcoholic drinks, which contain a high number of refined carbohydrates.
Quick Tip – While it is okay to indulge in a high-carb beverage occasionally, keep in mind that certain beverages, such as coffee and alcoholic beverages can dehydrate you further. Whenever you are drinking a high-carb beverage, be sure to have a glass of water nearby. This way, you can continue to properly hydrate at the same time.
Smaller, More Frequent Meals
Although it might sound counterintuitive, eating five small meals each day, rather than three larger ones, can help your body in several ways. Smaller meals equate to smaller insulin response. By keeping your blood sugar level, you are guaranteed fewer cravings to fend off, making it easier to lose weight. Eating in smaller quantities also puts less stress on your digestive system. And you’ll be less likely to become ravenous while waiting for mealtime, which can prompt you to overeat or grab a quick and unhealthy meal, such as frozen food or takeout.
When eating smaller meals, sometimes snack options between meals work the best. Here are a few healthy snack options:
Greek yogurt with berries
Celery sticks and hummus
Guacamole with baby carrots
A small amount of dark chocolate with almonds is a tasty and diet-friendly snack too!
Protein, Fats, and Carbohydrates
Because proteins are digested slower than carbohydrates, including them with each meal is ideal. A healthy practice is to eat 2-4 ounces of protein per meal. When eating protein with carbohydrates, you will slow down the absorption of carbs into your bloodstream. This leads to lower insulin production, and less insulin lowers the odds of having carbohydrates stored as fat in the body.
Meal Planning Tips for a Protein Enriched Diet: Good protein choices include meat (e.g. turkey, chicken), fish, dairy, beans, legumes, and eggs. Keep in mind that overcooked meat has lower nutritional value.
Although fats are sometimes portrayed as the bad guys, your diet should include fats. Similar to protein, it is digested at a slower rate than carbs. Also, fats do not jumpstart the pancreas insulin secretion. But as you may already know, there are ‘good’ fats and ‘bad’ fats. Let’s look a little deeper into them.
When you think of ‘good’ fats, think of olive oil, real butter, avocadoes, and some nuts and seeds. Avoid margarine, which contains hydrogenated oil, which is not good for you; it upsets the balance between your good and bad cholesterol levels. In turn, this can lead to many different serious diseases. One of the other benefits of fat is that it sends a chemical message to the brain that helps you feel full and satiated faster and longer.
Trans fats are considered ‘bad’ fats and have been shown to be potentially harmful. They raise bad (LDL) cholesterol and can lead to heart disease. Most of the foods that contain this type of fat can be found in processed and fast foods.
Like fats, there are plenty of good carbs. Favorable carbohydrates include asparagus, green beans, broccoli, mushrooms, spinach, and squash. They are most nutritious if eaten as close to their natural state as possible. Beans and 100% whole grains (like brown rice or quinoa) are also healthy carbohydrates.
There are also fruits that fall in the favorable category: apples, berries, oranges, peaches, and pears should be eaten sparingly since they are high in sugars AND starch.
For pasta and bread lovers, apologies in advance. We suggest clients stay away from white (and other processed) bread, muffins, cookies, white rice, rice crackers, and pasta. Although they taste good, since they are processed, they are very easily digested, and the carbohydrates are broken down and absorbed quickly. Once carbs are digested, simple sugars pour into your bloodstream and are gobbled up by the insulin released by the pancreas. Lastly, they are converted to fat. Unrefined grains or sprouted grains trigger less of a response than processed grains. Of course, you should still eat sparingly.
Cottage cheese and plain yogurt are good sources of fat and protein. Great alternative choices are goat and sheep cheeses. The healthiest dairy products come from grass-fed cows. Their milk is more nutritious and has more beneficial fatty acids and fat-soluble vitamins. Fermented dairy products such as yogurt and kefir are an even better option.
If possible, try to choose organically grown vegetables, and fruits. In addition, choose meat and dairy products from animals raised on organic farms. These are free of chemical fertilizers, insecticide residues, added hormones, and other ‘extras’ that have been shown to be detrimental to your health. They also tend to be higher in nutrients.
Often, we hear that organic means pricier. However, this is not always the case any longer. There are plenty of affordable, organic options available. During the spring, summer and fall, be sure to take advantage of your local farmer’s market. There are many great organic finds, and at good prices.
The Right Choices
Poor diet choices can lead to weight gain, and you can find yourself craving more and more of the same types of unhealthy foods. This is a vicious cycle, but it can be broken. Craving carbs is an indicator of a diet imbalance. Take a minute to think about your daily schedule. Do you find yourself craving a treat mid-afternoon? Eating carbs can set off a domino effect. If you are going to eat carbohydrates, it is better to eat late in the day. Otherwise, you may find yourself fighting the urge all day.
Luckily, it is never too late to start eating healthier. And once you do, look for signs of progress such as decreased cravings. Keep in mind that this is a hard battle to fight. To get you over the hump, nutritional supplements are available. Before starting any supplement or vitamin plan, be sure to check with your doctor(s).
For additional meal tips, please schedule a free consultation. Weekly meal planning is also available. A healthy eating plan that is affordable, simple, and time-friendly is possible. Let’s talk today.