Healthier Fuel: Changing Your Diet
What you feed your body is the biggest factor in the health of your whole self. Not just your physical self, but also your emotional, social, mental and spiritual self. How the body uses food effects every part of our being so dramatically that if you only take great care in fueling your body with the most appropriate nutrients and avoid all those unnecessary ‘filler’ foods then you’ll achieve an excellent level of health without putting much effort into exercising. That being said, you’ll also have a hard time avoiding activity when your body is running on high-quality fuel!
You pretty much have to be living under a rock to avoid being regularly bombarded by advertising and association recommendations regarding many foods that are supposedly ‘healthy’ for you. Truth is, the claim of a healthy status shouldn’t be taken as a definite benefit to your body. You need to get the facts from unbiased sources to be sure you’re getting the most accurate information and advice about what truly is the right combination of nutrients and macronutrients (the protein, fat, and carbohydrates) to supply the optimum performance fuel for your body.
Food is not for your emotional pleasure, but a source of fuel to provide your body the needed energy to function properly.
A high-performance car needs high-performance fuel that contains only essentials needed for the functioning of the engine. In relation, if your body was to run on high-performance food and not have to process food with little or no nutritional value that merely staves off hunger, then you would discover a whole new body that has every system running so efficiently you would have the overwhelming feeling of being able to achieve anything. Don’t worry though, the novelty of a high-functioning body does wear off and you’ll know your limitations within the human body, and you’ll do just fine settling for a human body that is at the peak of its ability.
Changing eating habits isn’t easy though, so to make changes that stick you’ll want to use these tidbits of advice to cement your new way of fueling your body into place.
Keep a record of the food you eat and what you drink for at least a week.
This will help you constructively judge your eating habits and identify areas for change, as well as make you accountable for your food choices. Studies have shown this to be one of the vital components to successful diet changes and weight loss. Eat slowly so that you can allow your body the time to signal that you’re full and to be much more satisfied by the flavor of the food.
No need to count calories and measure portion sizes.
Be more concerned with making food choices that are in their most natural state (vegetable, fruits, grains, pulses, unprocessed meats and much more), and including a wide range of color and variety. It’s good to have a long-term plan of how you’d like to be feeding your body, but you’ll be most successful if you make small changes over time. For example, if you would like to be consuming more vegetables, start by preparing an array of raw vegetables that you have on hand to snack on and make this your main goal for the week. Then the following week, you may want to start creating some dinner recipes that are focused on more healthy ingredients. Little by little you will be building new habits that will stick.
Drink water regularly throughout the day.
Not only does water flush toxins and waste products out of the body, but it also helps you feel more energetic, gets you thinking more clearly, improves the appearance of your skin and helps you to feel less hungry. If you’re not drinking around 2 liters of water a day, make this one of your first diet changes to implement. Moderation is the key to any diet so don’t feel like you can never enjoy your favorite sugar-laden treat or enjoy the convenience of fast food. Just don’t make it your regular routine. As well, use the concept of moderation and balance with portion sizes.
Don’t fill your plate with a high-carb portion of pasta and only include a small serving of low-carb vegetables. Although carbohydrates are an important part of a healthy diet, they are often over consumed and not conducive to your body’s optimum performance or in managing a healthy weight.
Try not to be eating anything within 4 hours of going to sleep.
Studies suggest that this simple dietary change is beneficial for the digestive system and in avoiding the high fat/high calorie snacking that often occurs after the last meal of the day.
Learn to like the good sources of fat.
Fat tends to get a bad reputation for being the main instigator of weight gain, but it’s really over-consumption (mainly over-consumption of high carbohydrate foods) that cause weight gain and sluggish body processes. Get well educated on the good sources of fat that are so vital to the nourishment of your body. Just a couple of excellent options are nuts & seeds, plant oils, avocados, fish, peanut butter (with just peanuts) and tofu.
Protein is an energy-packed element of a balanced diet.
It’s integral to the building of muscle and gives the body a great energy kick along with other healthful benefits, but there also seems to be a tad too much emphasis on the protein portion of the meal on the average plate, specifically when it comes to meat protein. It’s not the protein part of the meat that’s the problem though it’s what comes along with the protein, which means you should limit red meats and avoid all processed meats. No need to think about taking meat right out of your diet, especially if you enjoy it, but get familiar with consuming a healthy portion and eating the leanest cuts of unprocessed meat.
Limit sugar and salt and recognize all the hidden sources of these health threats.
Although it can be a given that consuming too much sugar and salt isn’t ideal, the biggest hurdle is being informed enough to realize all the places these veiled ingredients are hiding.
For the most part, your food sources are going to start becoming more and more natural but there will still be opportunities for the sugar and salt to sneak their way into your meals without you even realizing it. Keep in mind that salt is commonly used to cure meats and to preserve canned foods and commonly referred to as sodium. The table below reveals some of the alternate terms for sugar:
- Maltodextrin (dextrin)
- Brown rice syrup
- Cane sugar
- Corn sweetener
- Corn syrup
- Cane juice
- Fruit juice concentrates
- Barley malt
- Ethyl maltol
Note: Ingredients that contain any of the above words in them can be considered a sugar product as well.
The Serious Solution to Sinful Snacking
The best way to fuel your body is to be consuming good nutrients throughout the day. With meals generally spaced 4-6 hours apart snacking is a pretty major part of your eating life. Many people, especially adults with busy schedules, will either avoid snacking altogether or snack on the highly-processed, high-sugar, and low-nutrient-content food out of convenience and simply not knowing any better, or just not taking into account the major drawbacks of poor snacking habits. The best solution to body-damaging snacking – in a nutshell – is to…prepare ahead of time!
Follow these guidelines for energy boosting, body-building and mood enhancing snacks that will be a positive influence for you and everyone else in your life:
1. Only buy packaged snacks after you have looked at the ingredient list and determined that there are no added preservatives, sugar, artificial flavors or any long ingredient names that you can’t pronounce or aren’t familiar with. It a general rule that anything with more than 5 ingredients is not likely to be a great choice either
2. Eat raw and fresh produce whenever possible. Consuming mostly organic is a good rule as well, but since the price is certainly a factor for some, try to at least get the organic fruits and vegetables on the list below that are most affected by pesticides.
Avoid Chemical Laden Produce & Buy the Organic Option of:
- Bell Peppers
- Imported grapes
3. Get creative with your snacking. Cook up some healthy recipes and separate into snack size servings so they are ready to munch on at a moment’s notice or grab on the way out the door.
4. Are you a chip fanatic? Resist the conventional potato chips that are high in salt and deep fried. You’ll be amazed at how tasty and crunchy your own homemade potato chips are! Thinly slice one simple potato (best done with a slicing blade in a hand slicer or food processor to make appropriately thin) and place a batch in between 2 pieces of parchment paper in the microwave. Season with a sprinkle of salt or other herbs and cook for 5-7 minutes, until they are lightly browned.
5. Fancy up your fruits and vegetables with savory dips and tangy sauces. This will provide lots of variety along with a treat for your sweet tooth. Make your own so you can control what’s in them. Peanut butter (with just peanuts), slightly heated is a tasty treat with various fruits and vegetables.
6. Keep a supply of natural raw nuts around you all the time. Don’t worry about the fat content in nuts, it’s the good fat your body soaks up and uses to your benefit. You can be more concerned about consuming high-carb foods like wheat products, potatoes, and rice. Plus, nuts are packed with protein, antioxidants and the body friendly fat: omega-3 fatty acids!
7. Dedicate your snacking to fruits and vegetables. Many people find it difficult to consume the required amount of fruits and vegetables the body craves to function at its peak performance. Make one of your goals to only snack on fruit and vegetable-based snacks.
The Healthy Art of Juicing
Another snacking wonder is extracting the juice from those so important fruits and vegetables. Juicing is an optimum way to be sure to get a healthy dose of your recommended daily intake. Although juicing doesn’t provide the fiber that eating the whole food would do, you are getting a concentrated form of the vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients that are better absorbed directly into your system. Don’t cut out eating whole produce altogether, but use juicing as a power-packed snack that ups your intake of the right foods and allows you to have a nutrient-filled drink in an efficient manner.
A common reason that juicing is so popular is the ability to consume vegetables and fruits that aren’t quite so enjoyable eating otherwise. Mix those undesirable with some of the more appealing tastes and you’ll hardly even notice the spinach and kale sliding down with the apples and carrots.
Raw is always the best.
Although you can still feel good about adding some cooked vegetables with your meal, a cooked vegetable will always have a lower amount of those vital and sensitive micronutrients when the food is heated. With the simple process of juicing you get high-nutrient drink custom made to your liking.
A note of caution about juicing fruits: Along with the high-quality nutrients comes a high sugar content, so limit fruit in your juice mixes so you’re not spiking your insulin levels.
Keeping yourself informed of the good, the bad, and the ugly of food and drink will keep you one step ahead of any diet blunders. You will save yourself from the additional risk of developing a wide range of diseases and disorders by gathering lots of information about the specific foods that will provide the optimum fuel for you to get your body operating at peak performance. The more you know the better life will go, and your body will be an excellent example of your knowledge in action.