Sometimes when we experience major changes or stressful events in our life, it seems the first thing to go is healthy eating.
We ditch the habits we’ve carefully cultivated, the ones that keep our bodies healthy, promote longevity and give us the energy to do what we want to do in life. We instead turn to foods that are readily available (via drive thru or convenience stores) or that taste so good that they make us happy. Sometimes these periods of relaxed eating standards last a few days or weeks. Sometimes they last for months. But eventually, hopefully, we get to the point where we’ve settled in, managed to reduce our stress or resolve our issues, and we’re ready to get back on the road to healthier eating. If it seems like you’ve forgotten what “healthy eating” even looks like, here’s a refresher:
“A diet of minimally processed foods close to nature, predominantly plants, is decisively associated with health promotion and disease prevention.”¹
Close to nature means that when you look at a product in the supermarket, you can visualize where it came from. Vegetables, fruits, eggs, fish, some meats, nuts, seeds and legumes fit this bill.
“Focus on variety, nutrient density, and amount. To meet nutrient needs within calorie limits, choose a variety of nutrient-dense foods across and within all food groups in recommended amounts.”²
Variety is important. Superfoods like blueberries, while high in fiber, Vitamin C and Vitamin, are low in Vitamin A; and kale, while high in Vitamins A, C, K, and fiber, can cause complications if eaten in large quantities³ (more info on kale here). They are an important part of your healthy diet, but shouldn’t be the only part.
Make sure you eat many different types of vegetables and fruits, grains and protein sources to ensure you meet all of your nutrition needs.
Cut back on added sugars.
The American Heart Association (AHA) suggests an added-sugar limit of no more than 100 calories per day (about 6 teaspoons or 24 grams of sugar) for most women and no more than 150 calories per day (about 9 teaspoons or 36 grams of sugar) for most men. 4
For me personally, completely cutting out sugar is unrealistic. I am not going to forego the barbecue sauce on my burger because one tablespoon has 8 grams of sugar (by my math I still have 92g left – thanks AHA!). I am going to try to limit my intake of sweets to special occasions (I admit that sometimes “because it’s Tuesday” makes it a special occasion.) The goal is to reduce as much as we can.
Start taking note of how far your diet has drifted from the ideal.
Gathering the facts is the first thing we need to do in order to formulate our plan for better eating. What specifically has changed in our diet that we need to fix? Is it:
- eating out too much
- keeping too many snack foods in the house
- is everyday a special occasion that requires a sweet or salty or alcoholic celebration
- eating larger portions
Once we figure out the problem, it’s time to start coming up with solutions. I’ll cover that in my next post!
(Incorrectly cited) References:
¹ Science Compared Every Diet and the Winner is Real Food, The Atlantic, James Hamblin, March 24, 2014 read article here
² Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020 read them here https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/resources/DGA_Executive-Summary.pdf
³ Kale: Good Nutrition for You, Just Don’t Overdo. The Washington Post Carolyn Butler September 25, 2012 http://health.heraldtribune.com/2012/09/25/kale-good-nutrition-for-you-just-dont-overdo/ click here to read
4 https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/carbohydrates/added-sugar-in-the-diet/ read more here