1) Recognize refined sugars and flours as infrequent treats and remove them from your daily plate: Sugar and refined, white flour (even gluten-free refined flours) stress and wear down the body. They are an anti-nutrient; they supply the body with carbohydrate and calories, yet ‘cost’ more than they give through the process of digestion, depleting the body of essential vitamins and minerals and stressing the endocrine system with excessive blood sugar spikes. Limit these foods to infrequent consumption (less than 3 meals a week) and pair them with protein and veg to minimize the blood sugar spike when you do have them. Athletes and others with very high caloric needs can get away with more frequent consumption, but should still pair such foods with more nutrient-dense choices.
2) Make non-starchy, fibrous vegetables cover half of your plate: The opposite of #1, produce is our most nutrient dense food. While organic varieties do contain more antioxidants the most important thing is to get vegetables, and a variety of them, on your plate at each meal – organic or not. Add bell peppers and spinach to your eggs, have a salad or vegetable soup with lunch and grilled veggies with dinner. What are ‘non-starchy, fibrous’ vegetables? Those which are mostly water and fiber; green veggies, peppers, onions, mushrooms, summer squashes, tomatoes and the like. Starchy vegetables are ones that are more starch and less water – corn, potatoes, yams, chestnuts, and winter squashes like pumpkin and acorn squash.
3) Give processed foods a kick to the curb: The more packaging and the longer the ingredients list, the less likely it is to truly nourish your body. While not a foolproof rule, if there are ingredients your grade-schoolers can’t pronounce and your grandmother wouldn’t recognize, it may be best to leave it on the shelf. The more processing a food has undergone the more nutrients have been destroyed and the more preservatives and additives have likely been added to boost shelf life and palatability. Here’s another way of thinking about it; the longer its shelf life, the shorter yours will be (the exception being dried fruits, beans, and whole grains).
4) Be wary of skipping meals: skipping meals creates a stress situation in the body and causes your physiology to take over – amping up cravings and driving good intentions and the best of plans out the window. While intermittent fasting is excellent for some, it is not a panacea for all. Listen to your body and how it responds; for some, the cortisol spike from skipping a meal is excessive and problematic. Addressing stress, hormones, and blood sugar is necessary to successful I.F. if it’s an aspiration your body is not ready for.
5 Become a food snob and choose quality over quantity: this is one thing many clients of VIBRANCE learn at the onset. If chocolate is a challenge you struggle with, or giving yourself a food treat means a lot, then choose a very high quality version of it. Too often people go back for handful after handful of Hershey kisses throughout the day, but a square or two of very decadent, rich fair-trade chocolate – a bar expensive enough it feels decadent and naughty – will give you far more emotional satisfaction than a whole bag of Hershey kisses, as well as a richer dose of theobromine and magnesium, two compounds that chocolate cravers are often after. With higher quality treats, you eat less and get more bang per bite. Don’t get a fast food cheeseburger at the end of the week, get a hand-formed 100% angus beef patty with grilled onions, mushrooms and greyere. You see what I mean? Now THAT is a treat. If you are going to have a treat, OWN YOUR TREAT.
6) Make ample use of your spice cabinet: a spice cabinet is the original medicine cabinet. Our great grandmothers and their mothers and the village healers before them used many of the spices we have in our medicine cabinet to treat illness. Spices add infinite variety to our food, allowing the common chicken breast to suddenly be of Moroccan, Mexican, Italian, or even Greek descent. Many common herbs and spices are anti-inflammatory, immune boosting, and even mood enhancing. You can read more about the magic in your spice cabinet here, and if you want to grow your own indoors, click here to learn how.
7) Have a balanced breakfast: a balanced breakfast allows us to put some kindling on that metabolic fire AND helps prevent cravings, fatigue, and excessive hunger later in the day. A balanced breakfast includes protein, a healthy whole carbohydrate (like potato, whole grain, or fruit), and a small amount of fat to stay satisfied. Examples: an avocado kale scramble with salsa and fresh fruit or a smoothie with protein powder or greek yogurt, berries, and cashew butter. Many of my clients discover a punch of protein in the morning takes care of cravings in the afternoon.
8) Use a helping hand to determine your portions: Look down at your hands. What you have in front of you is an excellent resource for portion control. A serving of nuts fits in the palm of your hand, and a woman’s clenched fist is about the same size as a cup to 1 1/3 cup of fruit, vegetable, or grain.
9) Consume broth based soups and other liquids often: these foods fill the stomach with high volume, nutrient rich nourishment. They can aid weight management because they fill the stomach and minimize hunger before a main meal and are also great for those with digestive challenges as a way to coax the digestive process with an easy to assimilate, light meal. I am a BIG fan of bone broths – they provide loads of minerals and accessory nutrients that are often lacking in the modern diet. Here is a great turkey stock recipe. A rotisserie chicken carcass or two can easily be substituted.
10)‘Should’ is a dirty word that has no place in a clean diet: “Shoulding” on yourself is as nasty as it sounds. Aim for progress – not perfection. When slip ups and mistakes happen (and they will), what they REALLY provide is an opportunity to learn and adjust, not a reason for self-flagellation. Punishing yourself for lack of perfection creates a nasty feedback loop that often ends in a stalemate (where evolving past it becomes horribly difficult) or the “What-the-Hell effect” of throwing in the towel completely. By choosing compassion, giving yourself the benefit of the doubt and remembering that you always do the best you can with what you have to work with in any given moment, you can let a lapse or slip-up – no matter how grand or tiny – be an isolated incident and not a slippery slope into choices that will derail you from your goals. A clean attitude is just as important as a clean diet. Leave the ‘should’ outside.
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