Monday, March 21, 2011

Healthy Living: Choose Food Wisely

"Did you ever stop to taste a carrot?  Not just eat it, but taste it?  You can't taste the beauty and energy of the earth in a Twinkie."  ~Astrid Alauda
    
How you choose to fuel your body is crucial to healthy living. It’s easy to fall into a habit of eating whatever is convenient and or tasty and forget the food you choose is fuel for your body. What you put in your mouth is going to impact the level and quality of your energy, emotions, clarity of thought and just generally how you feel on a day to day basis. Those of us in the 1st world countries are blessed with such abundance, variety, and ease of food choices it's easy to get overwhelmed and can be difficult to make good healthy choices.

Unfortunately there is no one right way to eat a healthy diet. Whole grains are generally considered an important part of a balanced diet but if you have a gluten (a protein found in most grains) allergy or intolerance then this does not really apply to you. It might be true that most people do well with 2-3 servings of dairy a day but if you are lactose (a protein found in dairy) intolerant then you are better off to ignore that rule. Every body has different needs and intolerance's. The food pyramid is not as fool proof as we might like it to be.

I believe that the key to having a healthy diet is not to follow some sort of predetermined daily checklist but to simply stay in tune with your body and be aware. Listen to the signals your body is sending you by how comfortable your stomach and intestines feel (cramping, gas etc) and what sort of food cravings you are having. Try to identify if these things could be addressed by a diet adjustment.

I used to have greek yogurt and granola nearly every morning for breakfast, a very healthy choice, good source of calcium, protein and fiber. But after a few weeks I noticed I was having tummy issues. I thought it might be the dairy and decided to try and cut out as much dairy as possible and see what happened. Almost immediately I stopped having issues. I had made the decision to have yogurt for breakfast in an attempt to get a quality protein and a good start to my day, but my body started sending me signals that this was not so good for me when for others this might be a great choice.

Not only might you have different needs from other people but you might have different needs yourself from day to day. I know that when I run a certain number of miles in a week my protein needs go up. I can tell because hamburgers start looking tempting which is usually not the case for me as a vegetarian. I don't necessarily then eat a hamburger but start making a conscious effort to add more plant sources of protein to my diet. My protein needs change from day to day, or week to week depending on where I am at in my training cycle.

It can be difficult to determine what the best food choices are but here are a few thoughts to try move towards a more healthy diet.

Start by educating yourself on your current mindless habits. Keep a food journal and see what you are currently eating. With this awesome free online food journal you can not only track your calories but also the nutritional value of those calories. Try it for a day or a week and see what kind of nutritional gaps you might have in your diet. Then start to make small changes and healthy choices to create a more balanced diet for yourself.

Try not to make any food to much of a mindless habit, even healthy ones. Before you eat something think about how that food would feel sitting in your stomach right now. If something just feels like it won’t sit right there is probably a reason for that. You just might be picking up on a primitive knowledge that you are not fully aware of, trust your gut.

Here are my three big healthy food tips I try to follow when choosing foods
  • Eat whole foods- I try my best to avoid processed foods whenever possible and eat as much wholesome food as I can
  • Eat colorful foods- color is an indicator of vitamins and minerals your body needs 
  • Eat a variety of foods- I try to get as much variety as I can so that I don't get bored and also so I get a wide variety of nutrients

What healthy eating tips do you have to add to the list?

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