One of the many lessons I have learned in my journey to find ways to make my life better is that food is very important. In fact, understanding health and nutrition can be key to achieving your health goals. Yes, cooking at home can sometimes be a chore, but it can also be a way to take care of yourself, express creativity and help yourself.
But there are tricks to make the job easier. The more you use these tips, the easier meal planning and health success will be.
Break Bad Habits
For many people, like me, this is much harder to do than it sounds. But there are plenty of tools available to help you either break bad habits or to make new ones. I recommend you take it one step at a time. Making lots of changes all at once rarely works. Fortunately, the kinds of changes we need to make are not that difficult.
One bad habit you can start with right away is to stop bringing any junk food into your home in the first place. After all, if it’s not immediately available you are less likely to go looking for it. So, pass those cookies, chips or sweets by in the grocery aisles.
Keep It Simple
Avoid popular diets. Just follow what you were taught as a kid, a balanced eating plan with foods from all the basic food groups. Eat real food that emphasizes lots of plants with lots of color and variety. Follow the government’s “My Plate” example for what needs to be on your plate at almost every meal.
Now we all know what’s healthy and what’s not. And we all know you can’t always eat right for any number of reasons at the time. But we still need to strive to eat better. Fully half of what you eat every day should be made up of fruits AND vegetables. Only a quarter should be reserved for protein like meat. Another quarter should be grains and starch. Dairy and sweets should be limited to small amounts. By making half of what you eat vegetables and fruits, not only will you get the benefit from those foods, but the fiber your body needs to operate properly. Most processed foods have had the fiber removed as part of the process. Balance that with high-quality proteins like lean meat, fish, tofu and beans. Next, you want complex carbohydrates like brown rice, potatoes or quinoa.
Eat More Fat
It sounds crazy but it’s all about the quality of the dietary fat we eat. There are good fats and bad fats. Healthy fats include nuts, seeds, avocados, and olive oil. Studies have shown that people who snack on healthy fats, like a handful of almonds, eat fewer calories over the course of the day because they felt more satisfied. Fat will help you feel full for longer.
Avocados contain a lot of fat, but it’s good fat, polyunsaturated, which lowers bad cholesterol in your blood. You can use avocado in place of mayonnaise, butter or cream cheese. As the demand for these little green fruits grows, they are becoming more available all year round.
Eggs are also high in fat, but they also have a lot of protein, vitamin B and other nutrients that your body needs. If you’re thinking this means egg whites, you’d be wrong. Whole eggs have much more nutrition as well as a better taste. Fat is flavor.
Olive oil is something we’ve been hearing about as a good fat for some time. Extra virgin olive oil has been found to be the best, with lots of antioxidants and cholesterol-fighting agents. But even regular olive oil is a better cooking fat than any animal fat. It’s also great for salad dressings. Studies have shown that eating more olive oil will reduce the chance of having a stroke.
Nuts like almonds, walnuts and pistachios have a lot of good fat in them and are great for snacking or as an addition to many dishes. Studies have shown that nut eaters generally have fewer weight problems, lower blood sugar and reduced risk of heart disease. Peanuts should really be grouped with the beans, but they have less good fat and usually more salt.
Nut butters usually have the same benefits as the whole nuts, but beware of added sugar. Almond butter is probably one of the most popular after peanut butter. Cashew butter is also good. Try to buy nut butter that has the fewest number of ingredients and the lowest salt content.
Fatty fish may not sound good, but the American Heart Association recommends eating oily fish like salmon, sardines, tuna and mackerel at least twice a week. These types of fish have lots of protein without all the bad fat in red meat. They are full of what are called “omega-3 fatty acids” which have been found to reduce cholesterol levels and reduce the development of plaques in your arteries.
Get Ahead Of The Issue
Like the idea of not bringing any junk food into your house, you need to plan ahead to avoid temptation. That does not mean you should be inflexible. But if you can do things like ensuring you have breakfast every morning, and making your lunch the night before are good steps. You have enough to do in the morning, and if you put it off until then, you won’t do it.
A great way to get ahead is to make sure you have a good breakfast every day. It doesn’t have to be a full breakfast. But you need some fruit and some protein and carbohydrates to fuel your day and get your body’s metabolism going. If you are really good, you can make breakfast burritos ahead of time and pack them in the freezer so you just have to heat them up in the microwave. But if you’re not that good, you can still make a quick breakfast burrito in the morning. Just put a flour tortilla in a bowl and crack an egg into the middle of the tortilla. Add toppings like chilies, cheese, leftover veggies, or a little onion and microwave for 90 seconds or until the egg is cooked. Top with a bit of salsa and breakfast is ready.
Carrying a water bottle everywhere will help you stay healthy. Experts say you should have at least eight glasses of water a day. If you work out, you need to replace the water you sweat away in addition to your regular consumption of fluids.
Stick to just water most of the time and don’t count coffee, tea or soda as part of your eight-glasses-a-day program. If water gets a bit boring, and it often does, add a little flavor. A slice of lemon, orange or lime will add a bit of flavor to your water. You can also buy water enhancers but they often contain sugar or chemicals you don’t need, so use sparingly. You can also use other flavorings that won’t add calories to your water.
Try to keep your water cold by using a thermal mug or glass. Also, use a straw so you have minimal contact with the water, which would warm it. Find a container you like that can have a straw and keep liquids cold that you can carry around with you. Keep track of how much water you drink so you can be sure you are getting enough. Make it into a game where you see how many days in a row you can meet your water quota.
Keep A Schedule
Getting enough sleep is very important to your health. It’s time your body needs to rest and repair. Studies show people who get a regular, full night’s sleep tend to make better choices and are less likely to get fat.
We eat three meals a day because we need that amount of fuel to maintain our body temperature and remain active. Also, eating throughout the day rather than just one large meal a day is more likely to cause weight loss. We ignore our body’s hunger cues at our own peril because being hungry will cause us to overeat and eat the wrong things.
There is some controversy now about this idea of grazing throughout the day. More and more people are getting benefits from intermittent fasting. There are a few different styles of this type of eating plan. One is an alternating day fasting where you eat normally one day and the next day you eat nothing but a light snack. Another would allow you to eat whatever you want for six to eight hours a day and then nothing for the rest of the day. The theory is that this forces your body to go into “starvation mode” in which it burns more of the stored fuel in your body, such as your fat or your liver. Some practitioners believe this was how our ancient ancestors ate, the way humans were designed to work. But many medical professionals are skeptical. They point to numerous side effects such as headaches, digestive problems, irritability, fatigue, bad breath and sleeplessness. Apparently, it depends on the individual. Doctors warn that people with underlying health problems, such as heart disease or diabetes, use intermittent fasting with great caution.
These are just a few tips for better living in The Bachelor’s Kitchen and working for a healthier you. But there are more tips for better shopping and better cooking. Watch this space for more.