There is so much more that we can learn about nutrition. More studies and data on what we put in our bodies and how it affects us comes out everyday. With this comes a lot of confusion. In light of this I feel the best thing to do is to eat with common sense. Eat foods that you can find in nature and avoid foods that seem to be manufactured in a factory. Drink water and avoid beverages that contain a lot of sugar or sweetener. It sounds easy but the “do” part is not so easy.
In order to change your current nutritional habits you need to take small steps, and have a simple guide to follow. This guide will provide you with a strong base to work off of to improve your eating habits. Start by picking one of these five rules for a period of time and watch your health and well being improve.
1. Start by eliminating all the processed food, grains, sugar and industrial oils
Let’s first start your journey to improve your health by getting rid of the “poison” that saturates our human food chain. Take a look at the list below to get a jump-start on fat loss, improved energy, and health.
- Ditch grains: refined grains, whole grains, bread, pasta, muffins, biscuits, bagels, cereal, baked goods, pancakes and anything made from flour..
- Ditch Sugar: white sugar, candy, cake, cookies, pastries, milk chocolate bars, high fructose corn syrup, soda, milkshakes. If it is from a bakery, a factory, or a restaurant and is sweet, just avoid it.
- Ditch vegetable oils and trans fats: corn oil, soybean oil, canola, sunflower/safflower, margarine, and shortening, anything with “partially hydrogenated” in the ingredients list.
- Ditch all other junk foods, most of which encompass the previous three “food” categories: potato chips, crackers, “crisps,” Cheez-its.
- Ditch fast food: Taco Bell, McDonald’s, Burger King, etc. Don’t eat McDonald’s and think just because you removed the bun that it’s all good. Just say no to fast food. If you are in a jam and have to pick something, pick a grilled protein source like chicken, a salad with oil and vinegar, vegetables, and fruit. Most places are now offering these items.
The foods listed above are not meant to be in the human diet. Yes, there will be some times where these foods will be available and irresistible. Go ahead and indulge if you wish ONCE IN A WHILE. Just keep in mind how it will affect your body and your health goals. If you did just what I listed above, you are already on your way to a healthier lifestyle!
2. Choose water as your beverage the majority of the time
This nutritional habit may even be harder than the rule above. Just walk into a gas station or supermarket. There are more beverage choices than anything else! The sugary and toxic beverages that taste oh so good make it hard just to drink plain water. The fact of the matter is most beverages besides water is just plain toxic. They provide no nutritional benefit, and don’t belong in the human body. Did you know that if you put diet soda on rust it would start to eat it up? That is some acidic stuff!
Don’t drink your calories: eliminate all calorie-containing beverages. Juice, soda, and other “fake” beverages have no place in a healthy lifestyle. This includes diet sodas, sports drinks, and energy drinks. Some of them may not have any calories, but they are highly acidic, and have nasty artificial sweeteners in them. I would actually choose a regular soda over a diet. Yes, diet is that bad!
Take a look at the list below of acceptable beverages to see what you can drink each day besides plain water.
- Mineral Water: A great high alkaline choice that gives you a break from regular water
- Dilute your juice: Buy a high quality juice such as tart cherry, pomegranate, or raw apple juice, and dilute it to reduce calories from sugar. 1-2 ounces of juice per 12-16 ounces of water is a good rule of thumb to follow.
- Choose wine over beer and liquor: If you like to have an alcoholic beverage on occasion, choose wine (red or white). That way you are at least getting some antioxidants with your alcohol. Limit yourself to 2-6 glasses a week.
- Limit coffee to 3 cups a day: Coffee provides some great benefits such as anti-oxidants, but can be very acidic. Try and chose organic when possible, since coffee beans are one of the crops that are most sprayed with pesticides. Skip the high sugar lattes, and stick with regular coffee. If you wish, add some type of organic milk and a little stevia for flavor.
- Tea is a great choice: There are many great choices for teas out there. Just make sure to brew your own. Don’t buy the one you see at the gas station. It is most likely been depleted of the antioxidants and catachins that make tea healthy. It also probably has added sugar. Stick to a nice brew of green, black, white, or yogi tea just to name a few.
There is no perfect equation to how much water you should drink, but here are some things to think about. Everyone needs at least 64 ounces of clean water each day. This doesn’t include tea and coffee. The more muscle you have, the more you need. The more you workout and sweat, the more you need. If you are really thirsty you are on the verge of slight dehydration and need some water. If your urine is yellow, drink more water. There is such a thing as drinking too much water, but it doesn’t happen often. Your body will probably let you know if you had too much by going to the bathroom every ten minutes.
3. Eat the animals, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds our bodies are adapted to thrive on
Earth didn’t come with fast food, sugary beverages, grains, donuts, and packaged foods. Man made them! We simply go too smart, and figured out a way to make food cheaper and easier. It is now time to go back to our roots. Simple, whole foods that we can find in the wilderness. Hunt, fish, and gather is the name of the game. We now just hunt, fish, and gather at our super markets and farmers markets. Unfortunately those too have the bad stuff. Take a look at what Mother Nature intended us to eat, and what not to eat.
- Eat animals: beef, lamb, bison, pork, poultry (and their eggs). Favor organic, grass-fed and pastured animals, which have better fatty acids and contain more vitamins and minerals (and taste better!).
- Eat animals from the sea: salmon, sardines, trout, mackerel, crab, shrimp, oysters, mussels, clams. Wild-caught fish are best, though farmed shellfish are usually raised exactly like wild shellfish and thus are fine. They provide a great protein punch, as well as valuable omega-3 fatty acids.
- Eat unlimited produce: leafy greens of all kinds, colorful plants, berries, apples, cruciferous vegetables, assorted fruits, roots, and potatoes.
- Eat some nuts and seeds: macadamias, walnuts, cashews, almonds, pecans, Brazil nuts, pistachios, hazelnuts, pumpkin, squash, sunflower seeds, and all of those as nut butters.
- Stock spices and flavor your food up: keep plenty of herbs and spices on hand. Cumin, coriander, thyme, rosemary, sage, chili powder, mint, turmeric, and cayenne are a few of my favorites, but you can use anything else you like. Spices and herbs add flavor to dishes and prevent the breakdown of vital nutrients during cooking so that when you add spices or herbs, your food tastes better and is actually healthier for you.
So – what do you think so far? A “diet” composed of fresh meat, all the veggies you want, plenty of fruit, a few nuts, some delicious fat, some legumes (beans) and a diverse arsenal of spices and herbs. Doesn’t sound so restrictive, does it? Now I know in the first two rules we were cutting out a ton of foods and beverages. I promise we did it for a good reason; none of those are real foods!
4. Eat whole foods found in nature at least 90% of the time
The occasional treat is fine, but if you do eat something like ice cream, get the real stuff! If the label says milk, cream, eggs, and sugar, that’s good ice cream. If it has a bunch of stuff in it that you don’t know what it is, throw it out. If you want pizza, make a huge one loaded with organic meats, cheeses, and veggies. If you order pizza, get the thin crust, and gluten free crust if it is available, and load it with veggies. You can cheat once in a while and see results IF you stick to a whole food diet 90% of the time.
5. Eat LOT”S of healthy fats
Eat at least 4-6 servings of healthy fat a day (1oz. or 1 tablespoon= about 100 calories a serving). Eating fat does not make you fat. Eating healthy fat does not raise cholesterol or clog your arteries. In fact, it actually helps reduce these cardiovascular symptoms. Eating too many calories, or eating too many non-whole foods makes you fat, and increases risk factors for various cardiovascular diseases.
Eating lots of fat also provides energy, and feeds your brain (the human brain is composed of mostly fat). Fat helps maintains healthy blood sugar level (a problem in most people. Think type II diabetes). Fat is also the bodies healing nutrient. It helps lubricate joints, and cushions them for shock absorption and decreases inflammation in all the body’s tissues (think omega-3’s and fish oil)
Not to mention fat tastes great! Grass fed beef, avocadoes, peanut butter, and organic butter just to name a few. Fat satisfies hunger and reduces cravings for sugar.
Start With One
I just gave you a lot of things to change in your diet. This can be overwhelming and also unrealistic. Not to worry because you should not start living by all of these rules right away. Choose one of the 5 rules above and work hard at developing a habit for 2-4 weeks. Once you have incorporated that rule into your daily eating habits, move onto the next one. The snowball effect of developing sound habits by living by these nutritional rules wills payback big time.
About the author:
Justin Grinnell is a strength coach, personal trainer, nutrition enthusiast and owner of State of Fitness in East Lansing, Michigan. You can follow him on Facebook, on Twitter@JustinGrinnell4 or check out his website grinnelltraining.com