My Top “First Steps” That You Can Take To Embark On Your Journey Towards An Overall Healthier Lifestyle a.k.a. Baby-Step-Mentality-FTW!
Hi my loves!
OKAY, so this one has been a long time coming. I know.
Ever since I embarked on my journey towards a healthier lifestyle, I get questions from you guys every now & then about small changes or swaps that you can make in your lives in order to embark on that same journey!
I know, it’s not easy & it can be somewhat overwhelming when all these health tips & tricks are thrown at you on a daily basis & you simply aren’t sure where to start.
I’VE BEEN THERE!
That’s why I compiled this list for you guys, in hopes that it will give you some guidance & encourage you to start taking small steps towards achieving an overall healthier lifestyle, WHATEVER THAT MEANS FOR YOU! 🙂
Remember, we are all different & our bodies are all built & function differently. Keep this in mind. What I consider healthy might not be the same thing that you consider healthy & vice versa, so as always, take my tips with a grain of salt (preferably, sea salt) & adapt them to fit YOUR LIFE!
In line with that, DO YOUR OWN RESEARCH! Watch documentaries about food & nutrition, read books, speak to fitness experts or trainers, read articles from trusted sources on the Internet. GET YOUR BRAIN WORKING & STIMULATED. LEARN ABOUT THE CHANGES YOU WANT TO MAKE & THEY WILL BECOME NATURAL & EASIER TO MAKE BECAUSE YOU’LL KNOW & UNDERSTAND WHY YOU ARE MAKING THEM.
Without further ado, THIS IS A LONG ONE, so let’s get right into it!
(1) LEMON WATER WITH HIMALAYAN PINK SALT/SEA SALT/CELTIC SEA SALT FIRST THING EVERY MORNING!
As you guys know, I wake up every morning & start my day with a glass of lukewarm lemon water with some Himalayan pink salt or sea salt. I started doing this months ago & I seriously cannot go a day without it! (I even went out of my way to get my lemon water when I was on a weekend getaway! Guilty as charged). What’s great about this lifestyle change is that it’s simple, quick, easy, SUPER-DUPER BENEFICIAL & is the perfect jumpstart to your journey towards developing a routine & ultimately, a healthy lifestyle!
In a nutshell, lemon water:
- kick starts your digestive system.
- provides you with a boost of energy & helps boost immunity & metabolism,.
- wakes up all your bodily functions & organs.
- helps clear & brighten your skin.
- is filled with antioxidants, vitamin C, potassium.
- allows your body to better absorb nutrients.
- flushes out toxins.
- detoxifies the blood.
- stimulates collagen production!
Adding the Himalayan salt/sea salt/Celtic sea salt provides EVEN MORE health benefits!
You can read all about the benefits of my morning cocktail & what it can do for YOU on my full blog post: Lemon Water a.k.a. The-Only-&-Healthy-&-Best-&-Yummy-Way-To-Start-Oops-I-Mean-Detox-Your-Day-Right.
(2) STAY HYDRATED & REDUCE CONSUMPTION OF REGULAR/DIET SODAS & SWEETENED FRUIT JUICES!
Sodas are FULL OF CHEMICALS that are known to cause cancer & increase the risk of developing illnesses, such as diabetes & heart disease. They’re basically sugar water.
Diet sodas are no better. While they contain zero calories, they also contain ZERO nutritional value.
While they offer a little more nutrition-wise, fruit juices can also get a little dangerous if consumption is exaggerated due to their high sugar content.
You can improve your health by slowly decreasing the amount of these drinks every week (until you realize you no longer want or crave them) & replacing them with unsweetened beverages or teas, Kombucha & BEST OF ALL, WATER! Doing this will limit your body’s exposure to toxins, chemicals, refined sugars, aspartame, artificial sweeteners & all that bad stuff.
Making a conscious effort to stay hydrated throughout the day & to do so with WATER will help in so many ways:
- carry nutrients to your cells;
- reduce fatigue;
- improve endurance;
- lower maximum heart rate;
- improve post-workout muscle soreness;
- help with healthy weight maintenance;
- boost mood & brainpower and focus;
- prevent headaches (water deprivation is a very common cause of headache & for some, dehydration can even trigger migraines!);
- flush out toxins & bacteria from your body;
- give you clearer, brighter, better skin;
- & help your body function at its optimal level.
P.S. If you’re someone who finds it hard to drink THAT much throughout the day, eating water-rich foods can also help you stay hydrated, such as salads, fruits & veggies!
Lastly, the amount of water you need to drink depends on a large array of factors, including age, gender, activity etc. It’s different for everyone, but many have stated that women should drink at least 2.2L per day & men should drink about 3L. Obviously, water intake should be increased as activity level is increased, as well as in hotter temperatures. LISTEN TO YOUR BODY. DRINK WHEN YOU’RE THIRSTY & don’t let yourself get to the point of feeling quenched, because that probably means you’re getting dehydrated or already are!
(3) EAT FREQUENTLY!
“Eat smaller portions, but eat more frequently throughout the day”. I bet you guys have heard this saying TONS & TONS of times. And trust me, I have too. I never really understood the interest or logic behind that until I really began implementing it when I started recovery. My meal plan was based on this principle in order to ease my mind & body into the re-feeding process & to avoid any emotional/mental or physical shock. Keep in mind that I was coming from a place where yes, I was eating at specific times, but I was barely eating enough to sustain my body, I forced myself to stop eating by certain times & my meals did not contain the right balance of all the essential macronutrients (carbs, fats & protein).
ANYWHO, all this to say, after implementing this mentality & eating this way for the past eight months, it really has become a way of life for me. Rather than having three huge meals a day, feeling bloated after each one, then getting hunger pains & cravings in between, I really see the value in eating smaller portions every few hours.
- keep me full throughout the day;
- eliminates cravings;
- allows me to eat intuitively;
- stabilizes my sugar levels;
- keep me energized & in a great mood;
- stops me from eating at erratic times or skipping meals
- AND LASTLY, has really been the stepping stone that allowed me to FIND BALANCE & DEVELOP A HEALTHY RELATIONSHIP WITH FOOD.
P.S. In line with this, I think that it’s crucial to make breakfast your biggest meal of the day! READ WHY HERE: The Reason I Get So Excited For Breaky (Almost) Every Morning? THIS Greek Yogurt Parfait Over Everything!
(4) INCORPORATE MORE PLANT-BASED PROTEIN INTO YOUR DIET
Whether you’re vegan, on a gluten-free diet, vegetarian or a meat lover AF trying to move towards a healthier lifestyle, incorporating more plant-based proteins into your diet is the key to a HEALTHY, WELL-BALANCED DIET!
Not only are foods high in protein crucial to building muscle & losing fat, but proteins that come from plants are naturally low in fat & cholesterol, high-fiber & higher in nutrients, not to mention, better for the environment than animal-based proteins. Basically, the more plant-based protein you eat, the less you’ll need to find your protein from animal products & you’ll therefore decrease your consumption of saturated fats & boost your intake of fiber & antioxidants found in plant foods!
Need suggestions? I got you!
- Veggies & starchy veggies, such as: broccoli, spinach, peas & sweet potatoes!
- Legumes, such as: soybeans, edamame, tofu, tempeh lentils, garbanzo beans, pinto, and kidney & black beans!
- Nuts, such as cashews, peanuts, walnuts, pistachios & almonds!
- Seeds, such as sesame, hemp, flax, pumpkin, chia & sunflower!
- Nut/seed milks, like almond, cashew, macadamia, hemp etc.
- Grains, such as quinoa, amaranth, bulgur, brown rice & oat bran!
- Other foods, such as spirulana & nutritional yeast!
(5) SWITCH FROM TABLE SALT TO SEA SALT, CELTIC SEA SALT OR HIMALAYAN SALT
As you all know, all salt was originally sea salt. HOWEVER, the issue lies in the way table salt has been refined. Basically, it is dried at temperatures over 1000 degrees, which causes all kinds of chemical distortions that removes so many of the minerals contained in the sea salt, such as magnesium, calcium, potassium & other trace minerals.
Moreover, the NATURAL iodine is destroyed during the refining process, so potassium iodine is added. What’s worse is that to keep the refined salt dry & reduce clumping & caking, tons of additives are included, such as aluminum compounds, dextrose (a type of sugar used as a stabilizer but that also affects color) & often, bleaching agents to give the desired white color. All of this is UNNATURAL & this is what makes table salt hard on the body. Table salt causes the body to RETAIN FLUID & may contribute to high blood pressure, risk of stroke, heart failure, bone &/or kidney disease & eczema.
On the other hand, unrefined sea salt is harvested NATURALLY by evaporating seawater. It’s dried in the sun, which means that ALL OF ITS TRACE MINERALS & MICRO-NUTRIENTS REMAIN. It contains loads of trace minerals, including iron, magnesium, calcium, manganese, potassium & zinc, as well as a wide array of electrolytes. Contrary to table salt, it also provides us with NATURAL iodine. All of these nutrients are vital for a variety of bodily functions, especially enzyme production, immunity, adrenal health & thyroid function.
Not only is sea salt packed with all these trace minerals & the most NATURAL form of salt out there, but it packs tons of other benefits for your health! It’s great for digestion & for breaking down starches into sugar, lowers blood pressure & decreases water retention (contrary to table salt, which actually increases it), allows the liver, kidney & adrenal glands to work more efficiently & can help boost the immune system.
Himalayan pink salt & Celtic sea salt are also amazing alternatives to table salt!
(6) CUT OUT ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS & REFINED SUGARS
If you’ve read my post about The Nitty-Gritty on Healthy Sugar Alternatives & Substitutes a.k.a. Nobody-Said-You-Couldn’t-Curb-Them-Sugar-Cravings-Just-Curb-‘Em-Wisely!, this one will be a little repetitive!
First things first, you guys NEED to know is that regular sugar is genetically modified & usually comes from GMO beets & corn. This makes it COMPLETELY UNNATURAL & HIGHLY TOXIC to the body. Refined sugar has tons of side effects, including but not limited to diabetes, tooth decay, obesity, heart disease, certain types of cancer & even poor cognitive functioning.
BTW, regular table sugar ranks at a score of 100 on the glycemic index, whereas the alternatives & substitutes I refer to in my post linked above, score around 50, which is already HALF the amount of regular sugar. QUICK FACT: When a food is lower on the glycemic index, it means that it affects your body in a lesser way & is less likely to cause sudden drops in energy levels &/or increases or spikes in insulin levels, thus increasing the risk for diabetes.
ALSO, I know it’s hard because
a lot of (most) packaged & processed foods contain artificial sweeteners in order to be able to market themselves as “low sugar” or “sugar-free”, BUT it’s important to make a conscious effort to avoid artificial sweeteners at all costs (I’m talking: aspartame, sucralose & saccharin). While the FDA has deemed these sweeteners “safe”, they have NUMEROUS SIDE EFFECTS, ranging from headaches & migraines, to impairment of liver & kidney function, mood disorders & stomach discomfort & bloating. IMO, they are simply a bad excuse for “food” with no calories, BUT ALSO NO NUTRIENTS.
ALL THIS TO SAY: READ YOUR LABELS & dig deeper, if you have to! A lot of the time, these artificial sweeteners will find their way into packaged foods & companies will find ways to conceal them as much as possible so as not to scare consumers away from ingredients’ lists that go on for days or that contain chemicals/products that can hardly be pronounced. (Ingredients to look out for on your labels include: hydrogenated oils, sucralose, aspartame, saccharin, artificial colours & flavours, high fructose corn syrup, bleached flours etc).
LASTLY, living healthy doesn’t mean you have to give up sweets entirely; it just means you should replace unhealthy refined sugars & artificial sweeteners with these natural sweeteners WHENEVER POSSIBLE!
OPT FOR SUBSTITUTES, such as: coconut sugar, dates, pure organic maple syrup, raw stevia & raw organic unpasteurized (& local if possible) honey! These are by no-means “low-calorie” or zero calorie sugar alternatives. They still are &/or contain sugar & carbs, but they’re easier on the body to digest & process, they pack a heck of a lot of health benefits (a main one being ANTIOXIDANTS!) & they’re not processed or refined! (To read more about why you should switch to all these substitutes & alternatives & about all the benefits that they can bring to your life, click here!).
(7) PLAN AHEAD. SNACK SMART. & HOMEMADE WHEN YOU CAN!
MEAL PREP. MEAL PREP. MEAL PREP. I cannot stress enough how much this has helped me stay on track with my healthy eating habits. Trust me. It will change your life!
Take a day or half a day (if you have a sous-chef with you in the kitch) of your weekend to prep some food for the week. I generally like to prepare some protein bites, baked goods (healthy cookies &/or cake), cauliflower rice, roasted, steamed & sautéed veggies, chicken breast, ground chicken or ground turkey & some dressings/sauces/spreads! YOU HAVE NO IDEA HOW EASY THIS WILL MAKE YOUR LIFE. Meals will take you less time to prepare & you will have more time to do & focus on all the other things that keep you busy during the week!
Snacking is a great way to hold you over until your next meal, BUT, when you are HANGRY & STARVING, odds are your snacking decisions won’t be as smart as they would be if you still felt relatively satisfied, but just wanted to have a little something to tide you over until your next meal.
Once again, PLAN AHEAD & BE PREPARED! Keep smart & portable choices with you, especially if you’re on-the-go, such as: fruit, almonds or other nuts, a small portioned Greek yogurt, protein balls/energy bites (you can find TONS of recipes for those on my blog!), a healthy granola bar filled with protein, healthy fats & on the lower end in terms of sugar quantity, crunchy fruits & veggies with some hummus or some other homemade dip or spread! These snacks will provide you with antioxidants, fibre, calcium, protein & healthy fats!
BUT, this is not to say that you can never INDULGE on your snack. Sometimes, YOU JUST WANT TO & YOU HAVE TO (Ladies, I’m hinting at that Time Of The Month… WE ALL GET IT & there comes a point where WE ALL WANT TO SCARF DOWN THE ENTIRE PANTRY, let’s be honest!). If you gotta indulge, aim for something that is still relatively healthy: keep your pantry stocked with some healthy pretzels, cookies, tortilla chips, popcorn, vegan cheese & some dark chocolate. AND, most importantly: be mindful of your intake & portions!! Don’t overdo it.
TRY TO EAT A CERTAIN AMOUNT OF MEALS PER WEEK AT HOME & TRY TO BRING YOUR LUNCH WITH YOU TO WORK AS OFTEN AS POSSIBLE!
Those of you who know me know that cooking has always been something I loved to do. I grew up with it. My mom was probably one of the best hosts (& no, I’m not biased) & I would spend nights upon nights with her in the kitchen prepping for dinner parties & holidays. Safe to say, I learned
a few things everything from her!
ANYWHO, all this to say, even though I always loved to cook, I only really started seeing the value in HOMEMADE FOOD when I embarked on my journey towards recovery and found myself cooking basically all my meals & snacks. Throughout this process, I learned so much about food, nutrition, health, label-investigating, ingredients & pantry staples. And, since I was having so much fun experimenting with all this newness, I began making homemade EVERYTHING: cookies, cakes, dips, sauces, marinades, spreads, crackers, granola, dressings, vinaigrettes, jam, almond butter, nut milks. THE LIST NEVER ENDS. And trust me, there’s a lot more where all of that came from.
SO WHAT’S THE VALUE IN IT?
- You know exactly what is going into your food & therefore, into your body.
- Your food is as clean as it can be.
- YOU choose what YOU want, what you’re in the mood for, what your body is asking you for & what you’re craving! THE SAME CANNOT BE SAID ABOUT RESTAURANTS. You have no idea what’s going into your food & therefore, into your body (Obviously, this depends where you’re eating & how picky you are with the waiters, but you catch my drift).
- Not to mention, home cooking is also FUN! You get to experiment with tons of ingredients that you may have never thought you’d try & you literally live & learn (some things won’t turn out, some will burn, but in the end, you’ll do it better the next time!).
The problem is that in today’s fast-paced society, fast-food is EASY. After long, busy & exhausting days, it’s VERY TEMPTING to just head to the McDonald’s Drive-Thru & pick up 10 or 20 McNuggets & why not throw a McChicken in there too? BUT NO.
This is where:
1) the value in meal-prep comes in (especially when it comes to prepping your lunch for work in the morning as opposed to looking at your watch at 3PM after a HUGE morning & afternoon at work, which made you FORGET to eat & now you’re starving & running to Burger King!!);
2) where you decide that you are not going to be lazy & skimp on your health because it’s not worth it! (Yes, it’s fine if you do take-out every now & then and it’s important to go out to restaurants, enjoy life & socialize, but try to do this in a way where you make a conscious effort to be HEALTHY-ISH. A cheat meal here or there is FINE, BUT THIS SHOULD NOT BECOME A HABIT, because y’all know how us humans react when things are too easy… WE GET COMFORTABLE & WE MAKE NO EFFORT!
All this to say: Eat out when you have to, when you want to, when you crave it, when you have a social event & when that’s what life dictates in that moment, but WHEN YOU DO, try to make healthier choices!
- Ask for your dressing on the side.
- Skimp on the sauces packed with MSG & sodium.
- Go for lean protein & healthy fats.
- Share the appetizers & desserts so that you have room for your main meal & so that you don’t scarf down the entire dessert on your own only to realize that it contained more (unhealthy) fat than your entire meal!
BUT ALSO: INDULGE SOMETIMES. Get the pizza. The pasta. The steak. The chocolate mousse. The two scoops of ice cream. ENJOY. THEN SNAP OUT OF IT. & BACK TO ROUTINE!
(8) CUT OUT (AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE) PROCESSED & REFINED FOODS & TRY TO GO ORGANIC (WHENEVER POSSIBLE!)
Choosing natural foods over processed ones is a no-brainer! Lean meats, whole grains & fresh fruits & veggies contain no additives & are non or minimally-processed! By incorporating more of these foods into your diet, you won’t ingest an excessive amount of manmade chemicals, preservatives, sodium, refined sugar & grains.
If (& when you can – because Lord knows, it gets expensive!), go organic! Doing so will ensure that what’s going into your body was cultivated WITHOUT PESTICIDES, which are obviously very harmful to the human diet & have been linked to several types of cancer. Research has also shown that organic foods have higher levels of nutrients & antioxidants. I’ve also come to learn that organic foods are often free of refined sugars, flours & table salt, which are all ESSENTIAL ways to better your health!
Pick & choose what you’re ready & willing to buy organic & what you will settle for that isn’t. Personally, I WISH I could go completely organic, but I’m at a point where I’m just not there yet. It’s very costly & since I do a lot of cooking/baking, I have to pick & choose what is a priority for me, for example: when buying fruits & veggies, if I see that the price difference between the organic & non-organic ones is not too big, I will go for the organic ones (especially if they are part of the Dirty Dozen).
Here’s the 2017 Dirty Dozen list:
- Sweet bell peppers
Here’s the 2017 Clean Fifteen list:
- Sweet corn
- Frozen sweet peas
- Honeydew melon
(9) TAKE A DAILY PROBIOTIC (& ANY THER VITAMINS/SUPPLEMENTS/MINERALS THAT YOUR BODY MAY BE LACKING!
I cannot stress enough how important GUT HEALTH is. Every system in our bodies is connected & at the centre of it is a properly functioning digestive system. When your gut is unhealthy, it can lead to more than just stomach pain, bloating & issues with digestion. Since 60-80% of our health begins in the gut, gut imbalances can actually lead to disease & other chronic health problems.
BASICALLY, your gut is YOUR GATEWAY TO HEALTH.
The first step towards caring for your gut is KNOWING whether or not your gut is healthy. If your stomach just doesn’t feel right, you get sugar cravings often, your weight is fluctuating, you feel anxious, depressed, irritable & have moods wings, have trouble sleeping, get infections often or your skin acts up, these can all be signs of an unhealthy gut!
HEALING YOUR GUT IS ALL ABOUT MAKING SMALL HEALTHY LIFESTYLE CHANGES that will benefit you not only in the SHORT TERM, but also in the LONG RUN.
- First, it is crucial to remove the bad & get rid of the things/foods that are ruining & affecting your gut environment, i.e. inflammatory foods, food toxins & other irritants (caffeine & alcohol). These are different for all, but the most common, which can lead to food sensitivities are gluten, dairy, corn, soy & sugar.
- ONCE YOU REMOVE THE BAD, REPLACE WITH THE GOOD & add essential ingredients for good digestion & absorption. Eat citrus fruit, leafy greens, fermentable fibres (whole grains, cauliflower, apples, beans, figs & pears) & fermented & probiotic-rich foods (Kombucha, yogurt, sauerkraut, miso, garlic, asparagus, onions & kimchi!).
- BUT IT ISN’T ALL ABOUT THE FOOD. If you deem that stress may be contributing to your gut imbalance, find ways to cope with & manage your stress.
- Once you restore the good, YOU HAVE TO RESTORE THE BENEFICIAL BACTERIA TO RE-ESTABLISH A HEALTHY BALANCE OF GOOD BACTERIA! One of the best ways to do this? TAKE A DAILY PROBIOTIC SUPPLEMENT! Tackling unhealthy gut with live bacteria can help address the imbalance in our gut flora & stop the bad bacteria & yeast from accumulating too much in our intestines, which is what ultimately leads to bloating & a host of other symptoms.
So how can taking a probiotic change your life?
- NOT ONLY DO PROBIOTICS PROMOTE A HEALTHY MICRO-BIOME, but they also help balance immune function (80% of our immune system is located in our gut!)
- Enhances nutrient absorption from the food we eat!
- Improves mood!
- Helps maintain healthy body weight – having healthy balance of microflora in your gut helps speed metabolism & can even encourage weight loss.
- Keeps temporary inflammation in check!
- Reduces fatigue (Balanced gut can reinvigorate you because fatigue is often a sign of poor digestion, which occurs as a result of unhealthy gut).
- Helps balance blood sugar.
- Improves the appearance of the skin. Skin is an important reflection of internal health & skin problems can result from nutritional & hormonal imbalances, as well as immune system disruptions, all of which are issues that start in the gut.
P.S. When buying a probiotic supplement, always make sure they contain strains of good microbes: Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus reuteri, and Saccharomyces boulardii.
Lastly, provide your body with the nutrients necessary to help the gut REPAIR ITSELF, such as: zinc, omega-3 fish oils & vitamins A, C & E, either through nutrition, supplements or both!
THE BEST WAY to know what vitamins, minerals & nutrients you may be lacking is to take a blood test (as this will provide EMPIRICAL DATA), but it’s also important to self-assess. Sit down & ask yourself if there are common things you are feeling on a daily basis, or every so often, such as fatigue, weakness, shortness of breath, heart palpitations, racing heart, bloating, inflammation, constipation, indigestion, stomach pains, ulcers, feeling faint or dizzy, lack of energy, lack of motivation, depression, mood swings etc. All of these things could be the result of your body trying to tell you that it’s lacking certain vitamins/minerals or nutrients!
To see my full post on all the vitamins & supplements I take daily & WHY: CLICK HERE).
(10) INCORPORATE HEALTHY FATS & GET RID OF FOODS CONTAINING “LOW FAT”/”LOW CAL” & “LIGHT” LABELS!
Unlike saturated fat, which contributes to clogging arteries, monounsaturated & polyunsaturated fats (referred to as “healthy fats”) help metabolize fat & lower LDL cholesterol (the bad kind), while possibly raising HDL cholesterol (the good kind).
It’s important to incorporate healthy fats into your diet, such as coconut/avocado/olive oil, nuts, nut milks &/or butters, seeds, avocados, salmon, tuna, dark chocolate, tofu, edamame, eggs. Not only will they help keep you full, energized & satisfied but they will provide you with a host of health benefits that you simply cannot compensate for by eating MORE of other lower fat foods.
Our bodies need fat to function – Fats help us absorb vitamins A, D & E & are vital of the nervous system. Research has even shown that a diet filled with healthy monounsaturated fat can lower the risk of heart disease by almost 1/3! So, they’re heart healthy & can also benefit insulin & blood sugar levels, all while decreasing the risk of type 2 diabetes.
P.S. When reading nutrition labels, KEEP YOUR EYES OPEN FOR TRANS FATS!!! Beware of them. They are also called “PARTIALLY hydrogenated oils” & are HORRIBLE for you. They will raise the “bad cholesterol” (LDL cholesterol) & can pose many other harmful threats to your health. Fully hydrogenated oils are “supposedly” better because they become saturated fats & contain no trans far (& the type of saturated fat produced is thought to have no significant effect on heart health), BUT… the problem is that these oils are being used as a supposedly healthier replacement for partially hydrogenated ones & food companies often blend fully hydrogenated ones with liquid vegetable oils & put them through a process called interesterification. This changes the structure of the oil so that it performs like a partially hydrogenated one without the trans fat… BUT… interesterified fats might have their own health consequences. All this to say, BEWARE.
Speaking of labels, at first glance, they seem to be a great way to guide consumers to healthier choices, BUT ARE WE REALLY GETTING MORE NUTRITIONAL BANG FOR OUR BUCK? Or is it just an ILLUSION OF HEALTHIER EATING? Let me explain!
When a label reads “light”, “low fat”, “reduced-calorie”, it means that it must have 25% fewer calories or fat than the products it’s being compared against. BUT, the word “light” can also be used to describe products that are light in colour or taste, as long as these distinctions are clearly indicated on the package.
BUT, when you think about it… a 25% reduction in calories really isn’t THAT MUCH. Research has shown that consumers who eat “light” food will actually end up consuming more than if they had stuck with the regular version.
BUT THE BIGGEST ISUE I HAVE WITH THESE LABELS is what’s being put into the food when calories/fat are taken out… FAT GIVES FLAVOUR. But when the fat is removed from packaged goods, changes are they’re adding in another ingredient to compensate. THE MOST COMMON CULPRITS? SUGAR & SALT! Light products might also contain additional thickeners, artificial flavours or other unwanted ingredients. All of these things are WAY MORE DAMAGING to health than simply sticking with regular, full-fat, or full-calorie versions of foods IN THEIR REALEST FORM!
Put it this way: If the food was truly as healthy, light, clean, or whatever it’s claiming to be, would it need a label to justify it?! ALL THIS TO SAY: Look beyond the front of the package! Read the ingredients & the nutrition labels! Check the serving size! & Always try to rely as less as possible on packages that tell us their contents are healthy. COOK WITH & NOURISH YOUR BODY WITH FRESH, WHOLE, REAL FOODS!!
P.S. This is what certain terms mean on food labels:
- Calorie-free: Less than 5 calories per serving.
- Low in calories: 40 calories or less per serving (120 calories or less per 100 grams if the food is a pre-packaged meal).
- Fat-free: Less than 0.5 grams of fat per serving.
- Low in fat: 3 grams of fat or less per serving.
- Reduced in calories: 25-per-cent less calories than product it’s being compared against.
- Reduced in fat: 25-per-cent less fat than the product it’s being compared against.
- Light/lite: 25-per-cent less calories or fat than the product it’s being compared against.
(11) SATISFY CRAVINGS!
Out of fear of being OVERLY REPETITIVE, read my full post on why I believe it’s CRUCIAL to satisfy your body’s cravings! When A Craving Hits, Listen To Your Body. It’s The Only Way It Can Communicate With You!
In a nutshell:
- Cravings are YOUR BODY’S WAY OF COMMUNICATING WITH YOU & it’s telling you that it’s deficient in certain nutrients & that it needs you to fuel it up so it can function optimally & keep YOU happy & healthy!
- Listening to your body & satisfying those cravings (as opposed to depriving yourself of them) is KEY in that it is your way of giving your body what it REALLY needs.
- Of course, this isn’t me telling you to go to extremes & to devour every cookie, chip & chocolate in sigh. Obviously, cravings (especially for foods that aren’t THAT healthy) should be satisfied in moderation.
- It truly is all about BALANCE. So next time a craving hits, put it into perspective.
- Try to understand why you’re having it (Perhaps you’ve been too restrictive & deprived your body of something it LOVES).
- How you can satisfy it in moderation.
- & If there are healthier alternatives to incorporate into your daily routine to nourish your body & avoid future situations where you want to eat everything in sight.
(12) TRY TO GET MOVING & INCORPORATE SOME SORT OF EXERCISE INTO YOUR LIFE, WHATEVER IT IS!
I know, it isn’t easy! Life has a way of GETTING IN THE WAY & of making it seem impossible to incorporate fitness into our daily routines. We have a tendency to put work, family, friends, social events & yes, sometimes, even REST & DOING NOTHING, before fitness. And, sometimes, that has to be done. Priorities are priorities.
BUT, there truly is enough time in the day to incorporate a workout IF YOU WANT TO. The keyword is “WANT“. YOU CAN MAKE TIME FOR WHATEVER YOU WANT TO MAKE TIME FOR, especially if you want it bad. It’s an innate part of human nature to STRIVE FOR THE THINGS WE WANT UNTIL WE GET THEM.
So, as part of your journey towards a healthy lifestyle, FIND THE TIME. DEVELOP THAT WANT & THAT NEED TO WORK ON YOUR FITNESS GOALS, not only because of the benefits it will bring you physically, but rather because it:
- boosts metabolism;
- gives you energy to start your day & literally wake you (& your mind) up;
- helps you get into a routine & value consistency & self-discipline as a lifestyle;
- increase immunity;
- enhances mood & helps relieve stress, frustration, anger, depression, anxiety & releases tons of endorphins;
- improves focus & mental ability;
- will help you approach your diet / nutrition intake differently throughout the day as you will be proud of yourself for get ing in a workout & you will subconsciously want to continue on the same wavelength throughout the day wit other positive choices by eating healthy;
- makes you feel accomplished;
- allows you to disconnect from all of life’s stressors & focus on one thing & one thing only: getting through the workout!
Your workouts don’t have to be all kinds of intense & crazy, especially in the beginning. You need to start out by doing things that you LOVE. Get your body moving. Go for an outdoor walk or run. Get in some light cardio or strength training. Go to a yoga or Pilates class. MAKE THE TIME FOR YOU. You’ve got a full week of work, school, housekeeping, cooking, taking care of the kids (basically, a whole week of LIFE) ahead of you & these are often the priorities that get in the way. So if you can, MAKE THE TIME FOR YOU TODAY & EVERYDAY. Recognize & acknowledge that you are WORTHY OF THAT TIME & that will help you find balance!
Need motivation?! Follow me on Instagram @kellyinthekitch for my daily fitness MOTIVATIONAL RANTS & check out some of my posts right here on the blog!
To see my weekly workout routine, CLICK HERE!!!
(13) EAT MORE FRUITS & VEGGIES AND MORE FIBRE!
You know how they say that your plate should be a rainbow? WELL GUESS WHAT? IT’S TRUE! Eating a rainbow of fruits & veggies provides tons of benefits, including protection against certain types of cancer & other disease, such as heart diseases, as well as the effects of aging!
You don’t really need to be fixated on a certain amount, just make sure to try to have at least one fruit or veggie with each meal! That could mean adding a banana or peach to your morning cereal, oats or yogurt bowl or adding tomato, lettuce, onion, cucumber or other veggies to your chicken wrap or sandwich! It’s all gotta start somewhere! Soon enough, you will be CRAVING THE FRUIT & VEGGIES. I swear!
Not a huge fan of fruits & veggies? No problem. INCORPORATE THEM INTO SMOOTHIES! YOU WILL HARDLY TASTE THEM. I’ve recently started incorporating cauliflower into my smoothie & it has done wonders at creating the creamiest, smoothest, most velvety smoothies I have ever had (not to mention, YOU CAN’T EVEN TASTE THE CAULIFLOWER!). Check out this recipe for starters: (Undercover) Cauliflower, Berries & Greens Vanilla Protein Smoothie a.k.a. That Whole “Cauli-In-Your-Smoothie” Craze Is WELL WORTH The Hype! I Swear! & then try this one too: Kelly’s Mixed Berry & Cherry Adaptogen Cocoa Vanilla Almond Protein Smoothie a.k.a. Good-For-Your-Skin-Hair-Stress-Muscle-Recovery-&-MAGICALLY-DELICIOUS-&-CREAMY!!
Fruits & vegetables are just ONE easy way to get more fibre into your diet! But there are tons of other ways you can do that, another one of which is to swap out white bread for whole grains! (BTW: The first ingredient on your label should ALWAYS read “whole grain”. Whole grains have three parts,bran, germ & endosperm & they work SYNERGISTICALLY to prevent disease & help promote healthy weight maintenance).
Fibre is a crucial & very beneficial part to our diets in that:
- it helps keep you full!
- it’s great for digestion & keeping things flowing & regulates bowel movements (If you know what I mean);
- it can also help lower the risk of developing certain cancers, diseases & diabetes.;
- helps with the absorption of glucose & fats in the small intestine & actually reduces the glycemic index of a meal;
- provides fuel for the healthy or “good” bacteria in our large intestine, which in turn benefits us by producing B12 & releasing volatile fatty acids from the dietary fibre, which are important for the health of the colon;
- speeds up transit through the intestines to remove waste & toxins (TMI, sorry not sorry!);
Need some suggestions for fibre-rich foods? NO PROBLEM! I got you: Peas, lentils, black beans, fruits & veggies, artichokes, broccoli, brussels sprouts, blackberries, avocados, pears, bran flakes, whole-wheat pasta, barley, oatmeal, flaxseed meal, chia seeds, cauliflower, spinach, carrots, coconut, figs, artichokes, squash, turnips, chickpeas, lima beans, nuts (specifically almonds & walnuts), quinoa & sprouted grains etc.
Still feel like you’re not getting enough fibre? THROW SOME PSYLLIUM HUSK into your oats, cereal, yogurt, smoothies, smoothie bowls or meals for an added dose! Here’s a recipe that’s freaking delicious, that incorporates some of this stuff & you WOULD NEVER KNOW: Vanilla Strawberry & Mango Protein-Packed Smoothie Bowl Topped with Bluebs, Flax & Gluten-Free Muesli a.k.a. Creamy-Luscious-Deliciousness-Oh-&-Did-Somebody-Say-FIBRE?!
(14) SWITCH FROM REFINED GRAINS TO WHOLE &/OR SPROUTED GRAINS!
Whole grains & sprouted grains are the way to go when it comes to grains. POINT FINAL. I could stop here, BUT I WONT. Let me explain why.
First things first, whole grains are grains that have all of the parts of the original kernel: bran, germ, and endosperm in the original proportions. In refined grains, the bran and germ are stripped away.
Whole grains pack a host of benefits, such as:
- high in fibre & keep you full longer;
- help with digestion;
- help lower cholesterol & prevent your body from absorbing “bad cholesterol”;
- lower blood pressure;
- help control weight;
- help regulate blood sugar;
- are a great source of B vitamins;
- deliver essential nutrients, such as iron, magnesium, selenium & zinc;
- may help reduce risk of developing certain cancers!
WANNA GO ONE MORE STEP AHEAD? Go for sprouted whole grains! Trust me when I say that once you go sprouted, YOU NEVER GO BACK (Especially if you’re going sprouted with Ezekiel bread).
But why sprouted in the first place?
- Increased overall vitamin, nutrient & mineral content, including B vitamins, vitamin C, folate, fibre & essential amino acids!
- Easier to digest than refined grains & less allergenic for those with grain / gluten sensitivities! Basically, once the grains are soaked & sprouted, it helps pre-digest the gluten & becomes easier to break down & digest!
- REAL FOOD!
- Nutrients are absorbed immediately into the body & are not lost in the digestive process because the carbs & proteins have already been broken down due to the enzymes released during the sprouting process!
- Refined flours, breads, grains contain PHYTIC ACID, which in simple terms, is a mineral blocker or enzyme inhibitor & it’s what binds to minerals. Basically, when you eat white bread, most of the vitamins are locked in due to the phytic acid & your body can’t digest the wheat. All this to say, if your bread isn’t sprouted, 80% of the iron & magnesium that you would have gotten from the whole grain cannot be digested (This is the same logic behind why almonds & other nuts are soaked because it KILLS off the phytic acid, which essentially unlocks the nutrients to a point where your body is able to absorb the iron, zinc, magnesium, phosphorus & all the other nutrients found in whole grains).
- FIBRE. FIBRE. FIBRE! Sprouted grains are higher in fibre & whole food-based nutrients! Research has even found that when seeds are sprouted, their fibre content increases & becomes more bio-available!
BOTTOM LINE: Sprouted grains are whole grains, and whole grains are clearly a lot healthier (& huge upgrades) than their refined-grain alternatives, like white bread, pasta, and rice. Even though sprouted grains offer some nutrition that is more advantageous over non-sprouted grains, the differences between whole & sprouted grains are minor. If you like the way the sprouted grains taste, they tend to be the cleanest whole grain foods & are a great option to incorporate into your healthier food choices! But, if you can’t find them, if they’re too costly, if you simply do not like the taste, or have no issue whatsoever with gluten or intolerances, similar whole grain products are just as good!
LASTLY: Don’t be fooled by bread that looks healthy because it’s brown. It may just be colored with molasses or brown sugar. READ YOUR LABELS, MY LOVIES!
(15) LET GO OF SCALES, MEASUREMENTS, CALORIE COUNTING & WEIGHING. FOCUS ON HOW YOU FEEL & LISTEN TO YOUR BODY!
As you guys know, this one rings close to home. Preoccupation with numbers, whether these numbers represent food or body weight, calories, fat, sugar or carb content, measurements, ounces, grams, is the most detrimental thing to the mind on this planet.
It will CONSUME your every move. It will stop you from enjoying your food, let alone your life. It will make you a slave. You will reach a point where all you care about is that & where you are simply eating to eat, to say you did, to say you met the “requirements”. That isn’t a life. That isn’t enjoyment. That is suffering, deprivation, imprisonment, guilt, compensation. All of those things should not be part of your relationship with food, let alone your life.
I promise you, that when you let go of the numbers, of the constant need to be counting & to worship a scale, YOU WILL FIND YOUR FREEDOM & YOUR LIFE. You will be able to eat for enjoyment. You will be able to attend social events, without the fear that what you’re eating hasn’t been weighed & might not meet your “requirements”. You will be able to LIVE FREELY, WITHOUT A STUPID MECHANICAL MATERIAL THING DOMINATING YOUR LIFE.
(To read all about how I broke up with my scale & why it was THE BEST DECISION EVER, CLICK HERE: Peace Out Scale, It’s Been Real a.k.a. I-Said-Goodbye-To-My-Scale-&-I’m-Finally-Free)
HAVE A FOOD SCALE? Get rid of it.
HAVE A BODY SCALE? Use it in moderation or not at all (especially if you’re someone who has had issues with eating disorders, body dysmorphia, anxiety or other similar issues in the past or presently). Judge your weight based on HOW YOU FEEL. Our bodies naturally want to reach a state of equilibrium, a state where we are at our optimal weights to sustain our day to day functions & activities. And ultimately, if you develop a healthy relationship with food, the latter will happen naturally.
All this to say:
- Eat for beauty. Eat for benefits.
- PICK QUALITY FOODS OVER QUANTITY.
- Don’t let the numbers consume or preoccupy you. They don’t matter.
- EAT WHEN YOU’RE HUNGRY.
- Eat intuitively. Eat when your body is ASKING YOU FOR FUEL & ENERGY.
- Listen to your body when it communicates with you. Your body doesn’t ask you for fuel based on specific numbers, counts, measurements, weights or calories. Your body simply wants what it needs to SUSTAIN YOU. TO LET YOU LIVE. TO GIVE YOU THE ENERGY TO GO ABOUT YOUR DAY.
Your body is LOOKING OUT FOR YOU, so give back. DO THE SAME.
LOOK OUT FOR YOUR BODY.
(16) Last, but certainly, not least: HAVE AN OPEN MIND & LIVE A LITTLE!!!
In order to adopt a healthier lifestyle & embark on this lifelong commitment, you must make a mental shift. You need to change your perspective & open your mind to new foods, possibilities & healthy alternatives! Don’t tell yourself that you can’t do this or that you won’t try that or that you’re not capable of implementing a certain change.
Those self-invented barriers are useless in the grand scheme of things & will hold you back from any advancement. When I think back on all the things I thought I would never eat or all the workouts I thought I could never get through, I literally laugh because I broke down all those self-invented barriers & I’ve seriously surprised myself & surpassed my expectations. Guess what? With the right mindset, you can too! When you start to try new foods and new workout routines, you will see how easily ou will find something that works for you! I won’t lie & say it will be easy & that it won’t take hard work & dedication, but eventually, as you continue to persevere, you will see that you’ll be doing things you never dreamt you could.
IN THE JOURNEY AND PROCESS OF DOING ALL THOSE THINGS YOU NEVER THOUGHT OR DREAMT YOU COULD, TAKE A BREAK.
- Breathe. Cheat.
- Have fun. Live a little.
- Eat whatever you want.
- Have that extra serving. Ask for seconds.
- Have that chocolate brownie. Eat half a tub of ice cream (with chocolate syrup).
- Skip a workout or two.
- Have that glass of wine. Get wasted (but not white girl/boy wasted).
- Go on a weekend getaway.
- Don’t think about what you’re eating or what’s in it or what it will do to your body.
- WHO CARES. Adopt that “laissez-faire” mentality.
BUT DO IT WITH BALANCE & MODERATION. Find your balance. Figure out what works for you. DON’T LET YOUR HEALTHY LIFESTYLE GET IN THE WAY OF YOU LIVING IN THE FIRST PLACE. One of the main goals in adopting a HEALTHY LIFESTYLE is to NOT FEEL DEPRIVED or STARVED or GUILTY or IMPRISONED.
It’s about developing a routine that ultimately becomes a way of life for you but ALSO about developing the ability to divert from that routine when you feel like it or when necessary because LIFE IS SHORT. We don’t know what tomorrow will bring & unfortunately, that’s something beyond the realm of our control.
ALL THIS TO SAY:
- FIND YOUR BALANCE.
- DEVELOP A ROUTINE.
- BE CONSISTENT.
- BUT LIVE. ENJOY. EAT. DRINK. & BE MERRY (literally), BUT DON’T TAKE IT TOO FAR. Know when it’s time to get RIGHT BACK INTO YOUR ROUTINE & I promise, if you find this balance, YOU WILL BE EXCITED TO GET BACK INTO IT!
And, LASTLY (FOR REAL THIS TIME), as I always preach, it’s important that you don’t rush out & try changing EVERYTHING ALL AT ONCE! Long-term success is best achieved through small baby-steps that eventually become so common & part of your life that they are no longer steps but rather REAL LIFE. Shocking your mind & your body in trying to implement a hundred things at once is not beneficial because you will begin to get discouraged when things aren’t going 100% as planned & ultimately, you will view this lifestyle shift as a burden, something that is difficult & sometimes even impossible to attain. There’s no need to rush into it. You have to let your mind & body EASE into it so that it learns to APPRECIATE & LOVE IT.