Did you know…We have about 3 billion cells in our body, working hard everyday to help us meet the demands of daily living. We might relax and rest, but our cells never do. When they “retire,” or reach their individual life expectancy, they are replaced with new cells.
If we are taking in optimal nutrition, keeping stress levels under control, resting like we should, and exercising regularly, our cells likely won’t retire before their time. Unfortunately, most of us don’t do all we can to stay healthy, and cells die too early. To boot, they are replaced with less-than-optimal new cells. This is where disease begins.
There IS a way to help our cells live longer, and when their time is up, to replace them with the healthiest new cells possible…It’s called NUTRITION. Eating the healthiest food we can, every day.
Counting calories, restricting what we eat, and focusing on weight loss day in/day out, often isn’t the answer for building our healthiest body or keeping our cells in tip-top shape. Optimal nutrition (vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidents, healthy fats and Omega-3’s/6’s, lean protein, fiber, etc) is the path to our healthiest body. And, when we eat the healthiest we can, weight loss is often a happy side-effect (if that is the goal). If you are already at your desired weight, then weight maintenance will be even easier.
To help you reframe how you think about “healthy” foods, I’ll use the blueberry example. Most everyone likes blueberries, but did you know that they are one of the most nutritious fruits on the planet? Blueberries have one of highest antioxident contents of all fruits, vegetables, spices, and seasonings. In fact, Anthocyanins (the colorful antioxidant pigments that give many foods their blue, purple, and red colors) have amazing health-supportive properties. Blueberries have both antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. Research shows the cardiovascular system is strengthened after you eat blueberries, but they also protect the nervous system from oxidative stress, and they reduce neurodegenerative diseases in older adults, as well as younger and middle-aged adults. The antioxidants in blueberries protect the blood sugar regulatory system, and protect the digestive tract and its risk of cancer. They protect the retina from unwanted oxidation and protects the retina from sunlight. Blueberries have been studied for their ability to help prevent breast, colon, esophageal, and intestinal cancers.
All of THAT, in blueberries.
Instead of thinking of healthy foods as bland diet foods (they’re not), think of them as vehicles for delivering optimal nutrition, just like the blueberry. AND, when you eat the healthiest you can, you will FEEL AMAZING! As in, “I’ve never felt this good in all my life”-amazing! You’ll have more energy, sleep better, be more focused and alert. Your workouts will be more productive.
So try this…For one week, eat as many fruits and vegetables as you can each day. Choose lean cuts of meat and fish, or even go meat-free if you’re brave. Eat sprouted grains if you can, or at least go for whole grains. Eat minimally processed, whole foods – organic, if you can. Try staying away from foods in a box or can. Instead, eat fresh foods. Below is a shopping list to help you buy what you need.
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The topic of cereal came up in a recent discussion during a wellness workshop. What kinds to pick, good vs. bad, where to find them, and so on. Below is a link to a great list of the 20 best cereals. Most, if not all, can be found at large grocery stores and health food markets, like Whole Foods. Look for cereals with the fewest ingredients, and lowest amount of sugar. You want to start off the day with energy that lasts, not a sugar roller coaster. Also, note that these brands are low in other additives, like food coloring and artificial flavors. These additives are too abundant in our foods as it is, so if you can avoid them in your cereal, you are better off .
Sometimes hunger pains between meals mean a trip to the vending machine where, let’s face it, the choices aren’t nutrient rich. Getting in the habit of having a few healthy items on hand, stashed in your desk, or wherever, takes the thinking out of it, and can be so much healthier for you.
Here are a few options that I like:
HEALTHY SNACK IDEAS
Hummus with Sliced Veggies
This Middle Eastern chickpea spread is packed with protein, fiber and heart-healthy unsaturated fats. Veggies like carrots, bell peppers and broccoli make great dippers and add good nutrients, including beta-carotene, vitamin C and, of course, more belly-filling fiber. Two tablespoons of plain hummus has 50 calories and 3 grams of fat, so you’re probably better off measuring out two to three tablespoons instead of sitting down with the entire container.
Portion: 3 tablespoons of plain hummus plus 1 cup of sliced veggies
Total calories: 120 calories, 7 grams protein
Almonds, cashews, walnuts, peanuts or pecans are full of healthy fat, fiber and protein. A delicious homemade trail mix is simple: Portion out a handful of nuts and mix in two tablespoons of dried fruit like raisins, cranberries or apricots. To minimize calories, choose nuts that are dry roasted or raw. For a change of pace, throw in whole-wheat pretzels or some of your favorite cereal (I’ve been on a Puffins kick lately). Packing your trail mix in plastic bags or containers makes it easy to grab and go. If you find yourself plowing through your snack mix, try using shelled nuts that will take longer to eat.
Portion: 15 nuts plus 2 tablespoons of dried fruit
Total calories: 170 calories, 7 grams protein
Combine almonds, peanuts, cranberries, dates and chocolate chips in a small bowl.
Nutrition Per serving: 102 calories; 6 g fat (1 g sat, 3 g mono); 0 mg cholesterol; 11 g carbohydrates; 1 g added sugars; 3 g protein; 2 g fiber; 29 mg sodium; 69 mg potassium.Nutrition Bonus: Potassium, magnesium, fiber, vitamins E and C.1 Carbohydrate Serving Exchanges: 1 fruit, 1 fat
I want to start exercising more, but my family commitments don’t leave any time for myself.
I try to eat healthier at work, but my co-workers like to joke about how the lunches I pack are “too healthy.”
I hear comments like these all the time. It is hard enough to initiate change on your own, let alone have little support for your efforts at home, work, and elsewhere.
Here’s the important thing to remember, however. YOU are in charge of YOU. YOU are deciding to make healthier changes for YOUR benefit. Whether your husband, kids, co-workers, or Aunt Sally are on board with this is their problem, not yours.Instead of trying to change their beliefs and attitudes about a healthier lifestyle, recruit support from friends and family who are in your change lane. Trying to convince your non-supporters that healthier food and more exercise are important is futile. All you need to remember, and remind them if you must, is that healthier food and more exercise is important to YOU. And, when you set the healthier example, stick to your guns, and don’t back down in the face of naysayer. When you stand up for yourself, you are, in effect, demonstrating strength, commitment, self-confidence, and leadership.
That’s right – you’re a leader! As a leader, you need to surround yourself with positive influences – people who will hold you up, rather than pull you down.
And the next time your co-workers make fun of your “too healthy” lunch, tell them the joke is on them .