Whenever there is discussion of weight loss methods, “eat healthy!” is always a suggestion. My opinion is no exception. I’ve devoted several recent blog posts to discussions about weight loss and the importance of implementing healthy eating habits in order to achieve it. The key word is “habit” and the key concept is knowing that it means “every day”. Healthy eating habits don’t come in the form of an occasional bottle of V8, a once-in-a-while banana, diet Coke instead of regular, or gorging out on 100 calorie snack packs of cookies and chips.
Eating healthy means regularly consuming a significant amount of fruits, vegetables, lean meats, seeds, and nuts- organic is best. Pragmatically, that means when you’re at the grocery store, you should be spending most of your time in the produce section. Here’s a litmus test- when you’re unpacking your groceries, are you putting away raw staples or are you filling the pantry and freezer with boxed, bagged, processed, and packaged stuff? Don’t get me wrong, there are some great food companies that do make some great offerings. However, if you’re mostly relying on the frozen food aisle and it’s toxic partnership with your microwave for your dietary needs… there’s a good chance your diet has room to improve.
Are you eating Jimmy Dean sausage sandwiches, or something similar, for breakfast? I understand the commercials have a homey, country-morning feel and the packaging is nice and they come with that special apparatus that’s supposed to mask the subpar cooking ability of a microwave and they require little effort but… check out the nutritional label and ingredients list on that thing. Does it all sound natural? Is a frozen, processed sausage, processed cheese, biscuit sandwich the nutritional cornerstone you should start your day with? Is it loaded with all the vitamins, nutrients, enzymes, and body system activators you need to be at your best… or is it just a food pellet? The same question can be asked of most cereal products, breakfast pastries, and just about everything on every drive through menu.
Instead, start the day with fruit. Blackberries in the morning are awesome, so are strawberries. Bananas are conveniently packaged, naturally! Smoothies and fresh juice are fantastic ways to easily consume fruits and vegetables and they’re really effective ways to work in some of the nutrient-dense, power foods, like kale or chia seeds, that maybe aren’t as palatable by themselves. Raw nuts are a great source of protein and healthy fats and a handful will go a long way in satiating your appetite. Ready to make a commitment? Put your money where your mouth is and invest in a juicer and blender to facilitate new habits.
I’ve known a lot of people with busy jobs who go out to eat almost every day of the week. Now, there’s nothing inherently wrong with going out to eat every day. If you can afford it, there are plenty of restaurants that serve high quality food in responsible portions and remove the raw-material purchasing burden from your shoulders. However, a consistent problem I’ve noticed is that most folks don’t go to the best restaurants and don’t always order the best options. One fast food sandwich turns into one more. The benefits of a spinach salad are negated by a pound of croutons and quart of creamy dressing. “I’ll have a water” turns into having a 32oz soft drink instead. Avoiding the optional bag of chips quickly mutates to deciding which artificial flavor of chips to get.
Instead, get organized, plan ahead, and bring your lunch. Many vegetables are great raw: carrots, celery, peppers, cherry tomatoes, broccoli, and cauliflower are just a few. Another piece of fruit, additional nuts or seeds are other great options. Even a homemade turkey and avocado sandwich on whole grain bread is great compared to most of the $5 fast food options out there. Imagine what your figure, and wallet, would look like after just one month if you planned ahead and brought simple, nutritionally-sound lunches every day. Open your mind to new ideas about food. If you have a low-activity desk job, do you need a huge steak sandwich and curly fries for lunch? You might be surprised to understand (by doing) how far a couple handfuls of nuts or dried fruit will really go in terms of satisfying your appetite.
Life doesn’t exist in a vacuum of controlled variables and environments. It’s dynamic. Plans change, we run late, friends come over, priorities are shuffled, and sometimes the scenic route presents itself… and sometimes we should take it. What does this mean with regard to the foods you eat? It means the occasional brunch with friends is a good thing. It means accepting an invite with a new acquaintance to try a new restaurant has beneficial factors beyond fat gram content. It means having a dessert on your birthday. The infrequency of those exceptions are what make them special and they’re also made possible by having solid dietary habits the other 90% of the time- the less interesting times. I don’t know about you, but my Tuesday mornings are usually not that exciting and don’t warrant a sugary, fatty treat from Starbucks.
Formulate a plan (your grocery shopping list) and attack your daily-nutritional habits on purpose. If you’re not doing this already, I guarantee it can be one of the most empowering habits you can implement. If you are doing this, please weigh in and leave a comment below. Let us know how getting a handle on things has impacted your life.
Dinner is another ball of yarn that includes greater opportunities to be creative, to cook, and to enjoy fellowship of family and friends. We’ll talk more about that later.
-Dr. Edward F. Group III, DC, ND, DACBN, DABFM