By now, I hope you’ve called the doctor and made that appointment for a check-up, and made a couple of changes to your bedtime routine. You’re off to a good start. Next up – food. Remember, you are what you eat.
With the growing epidemic of obesity (nearly half of all adults and 1/3 of all kids are either overweight or obese), our poor diets and sedentary lifestyles are the major contributing factor to high blood pressure, heart attack, diabetes, arthritis, stroke, and many forms of cancer. Unfortunately, we live in a culture where fast, cheap, and tasty food abounds and we are bombarded with messages to seek and eat.
All hope is not lost. You can make changes to your diet that are easy to do, taste great, and are very affordable. The best way to start out is by making one change a day and adding on a new change everyday. Some of you may be more gung-ho and want to do more. That’s great, too. Just don’t set the bar so high that you can’t reach it and then give up.
Here are a list of the greatest diet offenders and solutions:
- Sugar – the average person consumes about 80 pounds of sugar each year! Soda, cookies, cakes, ice cream, pastries; hidden sugars in condiments – look for any word ending in -ose (dextrose, glucose, sucrose, maltose), or anything with the word syrup (high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, rice syrup). Switch: limit sugars to less than 200 calories/day (<15 g sugar on a label); drink water or tea instead of soda; use super-sweet fruit as your sweet-treat; try a piece of high-quality dark chocolate everyday for your sweet-indulgence.
- White Foods – white bread, white rice, white pasta, white crackers, cereal. All of these foods have been highly processed and refined, stripped of their precious fiber, making a terribly negative impact on your blood sugar level and blood fats. Switch: look at the label’s ingredient list and choose foods that list “whole”-grain (wheat, oat, rye, quinoa) as their first ingredient; choose whole grains (brown rice, millet, whole-wheat couscous, quinoa, amaranth, spelt, barley).
- Bad fats – Saturated fats and trans-fats are so incredibly damaging to your heart and waistline. These fats are found primarily in hard fats (butter, margarine, lard, shortening), as well as fried foods and snack foods (fast food, french fries, onion rings, crackers, chips). Switch: choose healthy fats – Monounsaturated fats (olive oil, avocado, almonds, canola oil) and Omega-3 fats (flax-seed, walnuts, wild Alaskan salmon, wild pacific halibut, sardines, mackerel, black cod, trout).
- Lack of produce – did you know that you need 9-11 servings a day of fruits and vegetables? French fries and ketchup do not count! A serving is only 1/2 cup, so it really isn’t that difficult to get in the required amount. Switch: Make sure to get 2 servings (1 cup) of any kind of fresh fruit or vegetable at every meal and snack (6 mini-meals a day), which would get you 12 servings. 1 large apple = 2 servings; 1 cup veggies = 2 servings. Make sure to eat a variety of colors, as well – aim for 4 different colors of the rainbow each day (strawberries, blueberries, mango, kiwi, spinach, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, cucumbers, sugar snap peas, carrots, banana, apricot, etc).
- Going too long between meals- waiting more than 4 hours between meals sends your blood sugar level on a roller-coaster ride. The longer you wait, the hungrier you get. By the time you pull the trigger on eating you want salty, fatty, and/or sugary food to satisfy you. Sound familiar? Switch: Mini Meals. Small, frequent meals spaced every 2-3 hours. Each mini meal has some kind of produce (fruit/veg) and some kind of lean protein (chicken, fish, beans, nuts, yogurt, string cheese, nut butter), and possibly some kind of whole grain. Eating more often keeps your blood sugar on an even keel, your energy level constant, and your calories in check.
- Dehydration – most people do not drink enough water, which affects your energy level and mental performance. Coffee and soda do NOT count toward your water intake. Switch: water, herbal tea, green tea, fruit and vegetables all count toward your water needs. How much do you need? Well, that varies from person to person. The best way to know if you’re hydrated is to check the color of your urine. If it’s clear or very pale yellow, then you’re doing great. Any darker – start chugging!
- Poor protein choices- hamburgers, hot dogs, bacon, sausage, fried chicken, fried fish, cheese, steak – Not good sources of protein because they’re so high in saturated fat. Switch: Lean proteins are everywhere: beans, lentils, soy (tofu, soy beans, soy milk), fish, shellfish, skinless chicken and turkey breast, lean beef (“select” top round, bottom round, eye of round, petite fillet), pork tenderloin, buffalo, ostrich, nonfat Greek yogurt, nonfat cottage cheese, light string cheese, Parmesan cheese, light feta cheese, light goat cheese, nuts (raw, unsalted), nut butters (almond butter, peanut butter, soy nut butter). Have a little at every mini meal (2-3 oz.) to keep you feeling fuller for longer.