Whether you are a size 2 or a size 24, if you come to me for wellness and/or fitness coaching, my starting advice is the same. The following list is my basics for everyone who wants to get healthier:
1. Keep a food Journal
2. Cut out artificial sweeteners.
Reading food labels is an absolute must. Not at home. At the grocery store. If it has any of these, it goes back on the shelf:
Just say no. Some of these, like Mannitol and Xylitol, can even be found in over-the-counter vitamins. So never assume a product is okay until you read the label. Take it from America’s favorite doctor, Dr. Oz:
Replacing sugar with artificial sweeteners may be doing your body more harm than good. Recent studies show that these chemically modified sweeteners can damage the way your body naturally processes sugar, making you much more susceptible to overeating.
And if you’d rather read the studies yourself, go ahead and geek out on artificial sweetener studies on PubMed.
3.Eat the right oils.
Not all oils are created equal. Make sure you’re getting the right ones.
The bad oils are chemically unstable polyunsaturated fat, and are prone to oxidation. Oxidation means that one molecule gives an electron to another molecule, creating free radicals that are dangerous to our bodies. They take a toll on everything from cell membranes to blood vessels, and increase our risk of cancer, heart disease, stroke, and other life-threatening illnesses.
The high Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio in vegetable oils poses an additional danger. The healthy ration is 1:1, whereas some oils are as high as 15:1. The imbalance can lead to heart disease, cancer, inflammatory disease and autoimmune disorders.
Once again, reading food labels is a must. The front label may say, “Made with Olive Oil,” while the ingredients list shows the product is mostly made of vegetable oils. For example, Newman’s Own Olive Oil & Vinegar Dressing also contains soybean and/or canola oil. And Hellmann’s Mayonnaise Dressing with Olive Oil boasts cage-free eggs and non-GMO sourced ingredients, yet the first ingredient after water is soybean oil.
I actually went down the entire salad dressing aisle at my local grocery store, and could not find one dressing made exclusively with olive oil.
Tips to up your intake of healthy oils:
4. Avoid products with a long list of Ingredients and be cautious of those you Can’t Pronounce.
Anytime you read a label and it has this long list of ingredients the item goes back on the shelf. If you do choose to buy processed and packaged foods, find those with whole food ingredients, and no sugar, added sodium.
Recognizable spices get a thumbs’ up.
For practice, the following block of words is the ingredients list of a product marketed as a healthy snack:
Soy Protein Nuggets (Soy Protein Isolate, Tapioca Starch, Salt), Roasted Cashews (Cashews, Peanut Oil, Salt), Yogurt Chips (Dried Cane Syrup, Fractionated Palm Kernel Oil, Nonfat Milk, Nonfat Yogurt Powder [Cultured Nonfat Milk], Soy Lecithin, Lactic Acid Powder [Modified Corn Starch, Lactic Acid], Natural Flavor), Pretzels (Enriched Wheat Flour, [Wheat Starch, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamin Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid], Salt, Corn Syrup, Yeast), Corn Syrup, Fructose Syrup, Caramel (Corn Syrup, Nonfat Milk, Sugar, Palm Kernel Oil, Glycerine, Milk Protein Isolate, Cream, Natural Flavor, Salt, Soy Lecithin, Disodium Phosphate), Soy Protein Isolate, Brown Rice Syrup, Peanut Flour, Peanut Butter, Fructose. Less than 2% of the Following: Glycerine, High Oleic Safflower Oil, Natural Flavors, Calcium Phosphate, Xanthan Gum, and Vitamin & Mineral Blend (Calcium Phosphate, Ascorbic Acid [Vit. C], Magnesium Oxide, dl-Alpha-Tocopheryl Acetate [Vit. E], Niacinamide [Vit. B3], Zinc Oxide, Calcium Pantothenate [Vit. B5], Ferrous Fumarate [Iron], Pyridoxine Hydrochloride [Vit. B6], Vitamin A Palmitate, Riboflavin [Vit. B2], Thiamine Mononitrate [Vit. B1], Folic Acid [Vit. B9], Chromium Chloride, Biotin [Vit. B7], Sodium Selenite, Sodium Molybdate, Cyanocobalamin [Vit. B12])
And here is the product. Maybe not so perfect, after all.
5. Practice Mindfulness.
Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention to what happens to you from moment to moment. As it increases your awareness of the present, you can start to make better choices.
Most of us could use a little mindfulness when we eat. Mindfulness in eating goes beyond the necessary rules—like those listed above—to change our attitude towards eating and improve how we enjoy food.
First, understand that food is your medicine and fuel. Food is what keeps your brain functioning sharply and it can make your immune system like a fortress. Emphasis on can. Because it’s up to you to choose the right foods. Does what you put in your mouth harm or help your body?
Try and repeat this exercise--
Put your utensil down while chewing a bite of food. Don’t pick up that fork until you’ve swallowed what’s in your mouth. Enjoy the food. Close your eyes for a second. Taste your food. Is it savory? Sour? What spices can you recognize? Notice the temperature and the texture.
If you’re eating alone and reading, read one page, then put the book or computer screen down while you eat a few bits. Savor the taste, then read another page
6. Eat Macronutrients Together at Each Meal.
Macronutrients are protein, fat and carbohydrates. A balanced meal includes all three. Take it from Dr. Barry Sears:
With the right balance of protein, carbohydrates and fats, you can control three major hormones generated by the human diet – insulin, glucagon and eicosanoids.
Insulin – A storage hormone. Excess insulin makes you fat and keeps you fat. It also accelerates silent inflammation.
Glucagon – A mobilization hormone that tells the body to release stored carbohydrates at a steady rate, leading to stabilized blood sugar levels. This is key for optimal mental and physical performance.
Eicosanoids – These are the hormones that ultimately control silent inflammation. They are also master hormones that indirectly orchestrate a vast array of other hormonal systems in your body.
As a guideline for how much of each macronutrient to eat, you can eyeball it with measuring tools you already have on you— your hand and plate. Since needs and lifestyle differ, if you find this guide gives you too much or too little fuel, adjust as needed.
Final Rule of Thumb
I’m not going to tell you that you can only eat grass-fed beef or all organic produce. It would be nice if we could. Some people say that if you don't fork over the cash to eat that way, you will just pay for it later in medical bills. I’m not sure about that. Just do the best you can.
I do want to bring up sugar again. Sugar from fruit is fine. But watch out for hidden sugar in canned, jarred, and packaged foods. Remember that 4 grams of sugar equals 1 teaspoon of sugar. The American Heart Association recommends men limit added sugar to 36 grams, or 9 teaspoons, per day. Women should limit added sugar to 24 grams, or 6 teaspoons, each day. These limits only pertain to added sugars, not sugars that occur naturally in some foods, such as fruits.
No matter what size you are or what level of health you have, if you adopt these changes, your body will thank you. You’ll experience a stronger immune system and higher energy. Cravings will diminish and you’ll more easily return to a healthy weight.
Be your own experiment! Try my guideline for just 30 days and see what happens.
**I’m not a doctor and I strongly encourage every person to do their own research on nutrition and fitness.
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