It is so easy now of days to fall wounded in the great fight against compromising your health with constantly indulging in over processed, simple foods that are so readily available to us. From the classic vending machines and fast food restaurants, to food trucks, delicious, heavy and sometimes not so healthy diet choices are always encompassing us.
Sometimes it feels like the more we try to stay on the ‘health nut’ clean eating band wagon, the harder we fall. Yet why does this keep happening? Is it the amount of time we find slipping away from us towards the end of each day? Perhaps it is due to the cost inefficiency? Maybe, sometimes we are just tired of the taste, or lack thereof, and texture of the healthy foods we are partaking in?
I believe a big reason for the demise of our efforts is due to the fact that we jump on this wagon way too fast and furious, giving up our previous lifestyle choices like it is the plague (ponder this, is poor nutrition affecting the masses and becoming this century’s ‘plague’?). Choosing SMART (specific, measureable, attainable, relevant and timely) goals and making wise choices will only serve to set you up for success in the long run. You do not have to fully immerse yourself into fad diets and products to ‘feel’ healthy.
First start by reviewing what your diet consists of on an average day. Enter any items that could be over-processed and or lack high nutritional value in one column, enter items that are highly nutrient dense and promote a healthy lifestyle in another. Anything you are unsure of, leave aside and revisit it. Do not overwhelm yourself.
There are several ways to incorporate healthy, flavourful and natural items into your diet. These little tips and tricks can be used to reduce the intake of empty calorie items, boost nutritional values, in turn promoting and paving the way to a healthier lifestyle change.
1.) Contest Condiments: Instead of sopping your whole value foods with sugary, sodium packed condiments, try swapping it for natural flavor enhancers that react with your body to promote healthy functions2. Enhancers such as fresh or dried herbs and spices (garlic, ginger, mint, cinnamon, etc.) vinegars, and natural fruit juices (lemon, lime, grapefruit, etc.) pack a ton of flavour and can be used to create dressings and season water for rice or quinoa. These ingredients can also be used as an approach to start reducing the amount of salt we add to each meal.
2.) Combat Simple Carbohydrates: This does not mean completely cutting carbohydrates out of your diet. We need carbohydrates, as it is our body’s main fuel source1. Again, this simply suggests a review of what simple carbohydrates you consume and thinking how you can get more bang for your buck. Complex carbohydrates leave you feeling fuller, longer, as well, they are much easier on the digestive system and have a higher level of nutritional value1. Try slowly transitioning step by step; from regular bagels to thin multigrain bagels, from white bread to multigrain bread, multigrain bread to whole wheat pita or wraps. From this point, get creative, try using a leaf of lettuce (sometimes referred to as a “boat”) as bread, or even a plain rice cake.
3.) Snack Shack: Time to revamp the sweet and salty snacks we are used to; out with the old, in with the new. A brilliant way to change your snacking habits is to try baked and or dehydrated fruits (i.e.: apples), vegetables (i.e.: kale) and legumes (i.e.: chickpeas). Season with the flavor enhancers mentioned above and you are golden. Again, do not be afraid of getting creative and exploring with what you may like. And if you cannot resist popcorn, an old time favourite, invest in an air-popcorn maker, instead of opting for the store bought bags.
4.) Hydration Station: It is a common known theme that individuals who consume a lot of coffee and tea or juice and pop have a hard time reaching the recommended amount of 2.2L- 3.7L of water per day1. The main complaint being, “I hate the taste”. A couple ways to enhance your water can be to add fresh or frozen, whole or muddled fruits, herbs such as mint, and using fresh squeezed citrus juices. If you are strongly addicted to juice, slowly cut back by challenging yourself to add 8 oz.- 10 oz. of water to every 1 oz. of juice you drink (by way of dilution). It is critical to maintain an appropriate amount of fluid daily, as it helps with many critical bodily functions; maintaining healthy blood volume levels, aids in dissolving and transporting many substances within the body as well as stabilizing our body’s temperature1.
5.) Trickery is Key: Instead of working on specific food group portion control, try working on the whole. We love filling our oversized dinner plates with heaping portions of delicious food to the cusp potential breakage. Take a step back, evaluate. Try dedicating a week to using a smaller ‘lunch type’ sized plate. Work on this for a week, then dive into the specific portion sizes of the individual items we eat.
It is understandable, old habits die hard. As have previously stated, start slow. Make goals, reach those goals, and make more goals. Eventually you will find yourself crossing the finish line, looking at your beautiful long-term end goal right in the eyes.
By: Amber Schneider
1 Thompson J., Manore M., Sheeshka J. (2012). Nutrition: a functional approach. Third Canadian edition.
2 Craig, W. J. (1999). Health-promoting properties of common herbs. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 70(3), 491s-499s.