It’s interesting yet unfortunate how confused the average American is about nutrition and living a healthy lifestyle. Being “healthy” has become this sort of fad that you either go all into or completely resent because, well, nutrition is too darn confusing! I blame most of this disparity on the media and the way they represent nutrition, food, and health information in general. Heck yeah, they make it seem confusing, even to me whose a nutrition student, culinary arts graduate, food guru, and someone whose made healthy living a habit. Of course I love this millennial explosion of health awareness and of course I’m pro health, but I feel as if America has “overrated” (I use this term very lightly) nutrition and instead of normalizing it, we have glorified it into this superior category. In doing this, we have discouraged a lot of people, segregated a lot of people, and in the shuffle of it all many of us have gotten lost in all the madness.
For example, I see many women diving into the realm of nutrition and healthy lifestyle, and although some men have followed suit, many men have this mindset that nutrition has no room for them at the party. However, this is completely false, but the reality is, people really feel this way. People feel segregated from the healthy living world and instead act as if they enjoy residing in their unhealthy rut. For many years these people might be happy living their unhealthy lifestyle, because they know nothing else. But when chronic health conditions become a problem, those folks may start to think twice.
Let’s face it, everyone likes to look and feel good. At the end of the day, feeling good is what health and nutrition is all about. NO hocus pocus, no confusion, no fad, just living a clean, healthy lifestyle that makes YOU feel good. And HEY, guess what? It’s A LOT simpler than you think. In this post I’m going to list the most important things you should be focusing on in terms of nutrition. Many of these things you have seen before, and really there’s reason for that! Nutrition really is that simple if you just let it be.
Drink more Water
Less caffeinated beverages, less sugary beverages, less juices, and more more more WATER! I know people who literally run on coffee and drink maybe a glass or two of water a day and then end up in the hospital for dehydration. Yes, they make me bang my head against the wall. I’ve said it before in my How to: LOVE H20 article, invest in a water bottle that you love and will carry around everywhere. If anyone knows me personally, they know anytime I go anywhere I have my huge purple 40 ounce Hydroflask bottle with me, because I literally love her, and she carries a lot of precious water around for me to drink all day long!
More WHOLE FOODS
I’m a huge proponent of eating a whole foods diet. As an aspiring dietician I know all foods can fit and everything from dairy to meat to vegetables are essential for health and nutrition. Keeping it simple IS my moto. If you can keep things simple including the foods you’re eating, you’re a lot more likely to develop your own healthy eating habits without the confusion. These habits will turn into a lifestyle that you’ll be able to sustain over a life span – ultimately this is good nutrition! The Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics has a wonderful website with the best nutrition information out there. The academy firmly believes and supports a whole foods diet for optimal health and wellness. Check them out at, www.eatright.org.
Eat more Vegetables
Yep you hear this one all the time. But seriously you’re probably not getting enough vegetables in your diet and it’s costing you your health! Vegetables are very low in calories but pack a big punch in providing the body with vitamins and minerals. Vegetables also contain a lot of fiber that fills you up and keeps you fuller longer; which helps you to avoid feeling hungry and eating high calorie snacks! The best vegetables to eat are fresh veggies, preferably in season vegetables, frozen is okay, and canned comes last on the preferred list. If you think this one is hard, start by just making it a point to eat at least one extra veggie a day, that you normally wouldn’t. Maybe that means just peeling a carrot before work and eating it as a snack later on in the day.
Eat more Fruits
Again, you hear this one all the time too, so stop rolling your eyes and get out there and start loving your fruits! Yes, fruits are higher in sugar, and sugars are supposed to be bad according to all the hearsay, but fresh, whole fruits have a lot more fiber that helps slow digestion so you don’t get that insulin spike you’d get from a candy bar per say. I give you full permission to love your fruits; you’re body will thank you. Again, if you find this one hard, use the same method I mentioned above with the vegetables. Just pack one extra fruit a day and fit it into your day!
Eat more Lean Meats, Fish, Nuts, and Seeds
Meats like chicken, turkey, and pork are really healthy meats. Red meats of course fit as well, but should be limited in the diet because of the high amount of saturated fats. Fish is an even better protein source, especially fatty fish like salmon, tuna, or trout. Wild caught is best in terms of fish. Nuts and seeds are awesome to encorporate into the diet especially for snacks when you’re feeling hungry. Grab a hand full of unsalted nuts – I promise they are satisfying! Again, whole food protein sources mean less processed meats like deli meat or cured meats which are very high in sodium content.
Less Fried Food
This comes as no shocker. But for those of you who think fried tempura vegetables are healthy because they are vegetables, you’re sadly mistaken. No cheating!
Less Sugar, Saturated fat, and Sodium
Simply put, these are the things you want to limit in your diet. Yes, they can be apart of a healthy diet in moderation.
Zero Trans Fats
Simply put, avoid these in every way shape or form as much as possible. Anything hydrogenated say no to!
It’s no shocker I put exercise on here, and yes you’ve heard this one a thousand times too. I was never huge on exercise until recently, within the past couple of years. I lived in a household where everyone lived a pretty sedentary life. No one in my house exercised, well actually they walked to their cars and called that exercise, but no I’m talking about sweating your butt off, panting like a dying animals, and feeling the burn baby – exercise. I tell everyone, if you really don’t know where to start just go walking. Its fairly easy to do without panting like a dying animals like I mentioned above, it’s relaxing, and you can do it just about anywhere. Go to the nearest high school, they will most likely have a track you’re more than welcomed to use. If you want to do a little more than just walking, never be afraid to sign up at your local gym. No, no one is going to jump out and bite you or hard core judge you. And no not everyone at the gym is a bikini model with a perfect body, there are all types at the gym. I’ve seen people walking around in canes that go to the gym, people well over the age of 80 at the gym, those with debilitating muscular diseases, and those who are morbidly obese getting out there and making an effort to just move! Just the simple initiative of getting out there and wanting to workout and get healthier is something other people notice and you’ll always gain a lot of respect by doing so.
Less Bad Snacking
Processed snacks are loaded with sugar, sodium, and/or fat and empty calories that serve the body very little purpose. Night time snacks should definitely be limited even though they are the most tempting! I know it’s hard trust me. Being a girl who used to put away an ENTIRE bag of Lay’s Salt and Vinegar potato chips before bed, trust me I know the struggle. The easiest thing for many people starting out is to simply not have unhealthy snacks laying around the house. Until you can control your cravings, if you can’t get your hands on that bag of chips or bucket of ice cream, you won’t be eating it. Snacking in between meals can in fact be healthy if you eat the rights snacks. My favorite snacks are raw nuts like almonds, pepitas, or cashews. Fruits like banana’s can be a wonderful snack as well. For more healthy snacking ideas see my post, Healthy Snacking 101.
Keep a Food Diary
Keeping a food diary even just for a few days can really help with keeping things simple and staying on track. Being able to look back on what you’ve changed or what you can change moving forward can help everyone hone in on their own personal nutrition. I’m not one for counting calories, but I recently downloaded the myfitnesspal app and I absolutely love keeping track of my daily meals! What I love about this app, is it lets you customize your goals whether it be to gain, lose, or maintain weight and tells you exactly how much of everything you should be getting in your diet! From pie charts of your daily macros (protein, fat, carbohydrates) to how much iron or calcium you consumed in any given day, this app gives you a big peace of mind. If you haven’t tried this app, I would highly recommend it!
Ignore Advice from Under-qualified Individuals
Everyone thinks they know everything about nutrition. But unless they have some sort of background or credentials in the subject, you should take everything they say with a grain of salt and do your own research before jumping onto their band wagon. Under-qualified individuals will most likely confuse you more about nutrition and overall they’re not a reliable source that you can count on. I caution in particular when reading articles on the web to know who the author of the article is, see if they have any credentials or background in health and nutrition. There is a lot of information on the web but a lot of it is crap; focusing your energy and time on articles that are recent, contain science-based approaches, and are written by those in the actual field of interest, will serve as a much better use of your time and energy. If you’re interested in a more specialized topic look for articles written by specialists in that field. They’re called specialists for a reason and trust me, they know a lot more than your friend at work.