I can’t say this enough; the key to healthy nutrition is variety. The way to help your body repair and restore itself is through a full range of healthy foods. The simplest way to think about this concept is by observing the colors of plant-based foods. The colors in fruits and vegetables are caused by a range of phytonutrients, a natural chemical found in plant-based foods that prevents disease and keeps our bodies working properly. These foods also contain antioxidants that inhibit oxidation and can protect our bodies from harmful substances such as free radicals. Since every color provides a different phytonutrient and antioxidant, you will need to consume a variety of colors to reap the benefits of optimal health.
It’s not just color to look for when considering variety in your diet. We also need to incorporate various food groups, as well, which include carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.
Carbohydrates are the preferred source of energy for your body, especially for muscle contraction and brain function, while providing fuel for the central nervous system, aiding in fat metabolism, and preventing protein from being used as energy.
Fat is an essential part of your diet as it provides energy, absorbs certain nutrients and fat-soluble vitamins, and acts as your body’s insulation to maintain core body temperature.
Protein is an important substance found in every cell of the human body and is the body’s main structural component. In fact, it is second runner up to water as being the most abundant element in your body. Protein is used in many vital processes and thus needs constant replenishing.
It is important to have a balanced meal to maximize your health. For instance, in order for your body to absorb important fat-soluble vitamins or certain antioxidants, you’ll need to consume healthy fats such as, avocados, nuts, and seeds. Or combining protein and carbohydrates to control your hunger hormone levels, ghrelin.
Free radicals are a real problem. A free radical is an unstable molecule that latches onto healthy cells making them unstable as well, creating a chain reaction. The number one characteristic of free radicals is their ability to contact our DNA and mutate the strains. As we know, mutated genes can lead to cancer or other chronic diseases, and the chronic inflammation caused by these free radicals is nearly just as bad and also leads to chronic diseases.
The simplest way to help reduce the negative effects of free radicals is by consuming colorful, anti-inflammatory plant-based foods. The colors in fruits and vegetables are caused by a range of phytonutrients, a natural chemical found in plant-based foods that prevents disease and keeps our bodies working properly. The antioxidants in anti-inflammatory fruits, vegetables, herbs, whole grains, and fats can also help reduce the number and effect of free radicals by neutralizing free floating free radical throughout the body. All important reasons as to why you need these foods in your daily meals. So I recommend you eat a combination of both color and anti-inflammatory foods such as avocadoes, blackberries, strawberries, pichuberries, purple potatoes, sweet potatoes, broccoli among other.
Some of the clients I see in my private practice feel overwhelmed by the challenge of incorporating into their daily eating all the fruits and vegetables I recommend. You can imagine what they say, because you might be thinking it yourself: “Oh my goodness, I have to eat all these vegetables? I don’t have time! I can’t cook!” Here’s what I say: We know eating whole fruits and vegetables is best. However, a good and simple way to start incorporating fruits and vegetables is by making healthy smoothies.
A healthy smoothie isn't some sugary drink full of only fruits and added sugars. It instead brings together a colorful variety of fruits and plenty vegetables. A rule of thumb for the fruit is to keep the proportions balanced by limiting them from 1 cup to 1 1/2 cup per serving. You also balance the fruits and vegetables by adding some healthy fats rich in monounsaturated and omega-3, which are known to be anti-inflammatory, such as avocado, chia seeds and flaxseeds, among others. To make it a complete meal, I love to add protein powder. I do recommend that when making your smoothies you vary the colors, so you can benefit from an array of phytochemicals. Phytochemicals are the substances in fruits and vegetables that give them their color, and can protect the human body from disease as well. While there is science behind phytochemicals, there is no single scientific way to make a smoothie. Still, that’s the pleasure of it – as long as you try to balance in the ingredients in the way I suggest, there is lots of room for creativity!
By planning ahead and shopping for your own foods, you will lose weight.
Without healthy food around you, it’s impossible to successfully manage your weight. You may have all the intentions and willingness to make healthy lifestyle changes, but if you don’t shop and have the proper, wholesome foods around you, your goals will fail rapidly. So my recommendations in helping you stay on track is to start thinking about what foods you want to eat for the week; ideally healthy foods that can be easily cooked up in batches so you can do a lot of cooking at once. Once you do go shopping be sure to make a list of necessities such as, lean meats (or vegetarian meats), legumes, rice, vegetables, and fruit; staples you can use throughout the week to keep yourself fueled. Schedule one day a week as your appointment with the grocery store and make it a priority. I know that we’re all busy and appointment food shopping may seem like a daunting task, but with a little forethought and commitment, you’ll find that it’s easier to do than you thought. And hey, if you go to the gym 5x a week, cut one of those days and go to the supermarket. Trust me when I say the cut is worth it when you start to really see results!
If there's one incredible thing you could do for your health it’s to cook your own meals. You can't really get control of your nutrition and your weight until you know exactly what you're putting in your body – and restaurants and packaged foods are all about hiding that information from you. If you are preparing your own food you are in control of your own nutrition. Remember that cooking isn't just about dinner; prepare and pack your breakfast and lunches as well. Once you get in the habit you won't believe you ever did it any other way.
Once you’ve made the decision to take charge of your own food, it’s important to remember that you don't have to be Julia Child every day! Just pack your lunch, bring food to work, snack sensibly, and stop depending on the food industry and restaurants to fuel your life. You don't have to cut eating out completely, and believe me, I really enjoy a great meal out on the town, but I treat it as a special weekend occasion, not an everyday event.
One effective way to boost this healthy habit is by gradually easing into it. Start with a goal of three meals per week; whether it be a breakfast, a lunch for the office, or a meal at dinner time. Mix and match your meals and find some simple recipes to start off with and which entrees best suit your time frame. We will provide guidance on how to accomplish this task through meal planning and recipes ideas.
Our bodies secrete a hormone called ghrelin, which controls our hunger and drives our appetite. If we do not understand, monitor, and control our ghrelin, we can forget about losing weight. Ghrelin is one of our bodily survival tactics -- a hormone secreted in the stomach to ensure that we eat. And once ghrelin is released, we are powerless to avoid eating.
Science tells us that the best way to control ghrelin is to eat small, balanced meals about every three hours or so. That's because ghrelin will spike after about 3-4 hours of fasting, so eating with regularity helps keep this eating trigger at bay. Ghrelin will also spike if we're deprived of carbs, so it's important to give our bodies and brains the carb fuel they need. When we skip meals or avoid carbs, we're inviting ghrelin to spike which increases and makes us feel emotionally hungry.
To be successful in controlling your weight, I recommend embracing your hunger by eating. This will control your ghrelin and give you the fuel you need. In summary, eat breakfast within an hour of waking, do not skip meals, and try to combine carbohydrates, (good ones like sweet potatoes, oatmeal, beans, quinoa, fruits) protein, and healthy fats (like avocado, olive oil, and flaxseed) in every main meal.
In order to de-stress and gain your health and natural rhythm back, you need to catch up on your sleep and think about your breathing. Lack of sleep makes you tired and moody, which can lead to poor food choices. Lack of sleep also increases production of ghrelin, the hormone that creates the sensation of hunger. If you don’t sleep enough (at least six hours!) you will feel hungrier – and you’ll be less able to resist that hunger because you’re fatigued. Your stress starts to feed on itself, and to make you over-feed yourself. Sleep is key to breaking that cycle.
In our focus on calories in/calories out, we've tended not to notice the connection of stress to weight gain and the link between stress hormones like cortisol and fat retention. The reality of modern life is that it is going to be pressured and hurried. That's simply the reality for most of us. But within that framework, we can make choices that will minimize stress, beat back cortisol and other stress hormones, and help maintain a healthy weight. Therefore, breathe to lose weight.
Breathing is great for stress reduction. This may seem obvious -- after all, you have to breathe no matter what, right? But few of us breathe deeply or consciously. Think about it -- when was the last time you took a long, slow, deep breath, and equally slowly let it out again? Deep breaths of that kind take you out of your immersion in momentary stress, they oxygenate your brain and tissues, and they help to reduce stress hormones.
This is where the 80/20 Rule (80 percent nutrition, 20 percent exercise) comes in. This is not a rule that is quantifiable by caloric equation. It’s not a ratio of food intake to energy output. It’s a ratio of your effort toward weight loss. What that means is in today’s media-obsessed society, we’re led to believe we should put 80 percent of our energy toward weight loss into exercise. To make a major shift, you need to dedicate 80 percent of your energy to nutrition if you really hope to lose weight. I still advocate that 20 percent of your efforts go to exercise, but that’s a big change from what you’re used to hearing. It’s a whole new set of priorities, and they involve a time commitment.
Lots of people make time to fit exercise into their busy schedules. They’ll put it on their calendars, make appointments with fitness trainers, give up lunch at work, and take the kids to day care - all just to exercise. They’ll sacrifice for that part of their lives. But when it comes to nutrition, they’ll ignore it almost entirely by eating on the go, buying prepackaged foods, picking up lunch or dinner at drive-through fast-food joints, grabbing snacks at the corner coffee shop, or eating standing up or while walking to a meeting. So what needs to happen is the priority of nutrition.