10 Ways to Instantly Improve Your Nutrition
With all the diet fads today, how are you supposed to know what to choose, who to believe, and what will benefit you long-term?
Let’s first ask a different question: look at the way you’re eating right now – maybe you’re following one of these diet fads – and ask yourself, “how is this actually working for me?”
Are you any closer to your goal that you started with? Are you further away? Does eating just feel like this giant burden? Are you completely wrapped up in counting everything and trying not to “cheat?”
My goal is to give you simple ways to make improvements to your diet that you can start implementing right away. The good news about these is the more of them you do, the healthier you’ll be and you’ll finally reach the goals you’ve always wanted to reach. A great way to start will be to pick one and do it! Then when you got that down, pick another, and so on.
Here we go!
1.Eat more carbohydrates…in the form of WHOLE, PLANT foods.
One the BIGGEST myths in the nutrition world today is that “carbohydrates are bad and will make you fat.”
This is false, and here’s why:
Your body is designed to run on carbohydrates. Carbs are the most efficient fuel that your body can use for energy.
What typically comes to mind when people think of carbs are things like muffins, cookies, chips, and bread. These actually have a ton of fat in them, which impedes your body’s ability to use carbohydrates.
Carbohydrates are not bad in and of themselves. Processed carbs are a problem. During processing, most of the nutrients are stripped from the food, and they are significantly less healthy.
Whole, plant foods, like fruits, veggies, whole grains, and legumes (beans, peas, lentils, etc.) have a lot of carbohydrates in them, and they are the healthiest foods on the planet. And the best part? The more of them you eat, the healthier you are!
2. Cut back on animal foods.
Animal foods are high in saturated fat and cholesterol, the type of protein they contain (animal protein vs plant protein) is actually detrimental to human health long-term, they have a significant amount of hormones and antibiotics in them, and they have no fiber at all.
With that, animal protein actually causes your body to dump more insulin into your system than carbohydrates do. Insulin in an of itself is a good thing, necessary for life. It first and foremost allows carbohydrates to get into your cells so they can use them for energy.
If though, you’re avoiding carbohydrates because you’ve read they’ll make you fat, insulin will act to get fat into your cells so that they can use that for energy, which is very inefficient.
Long-term, this fat-buildup in your cells can lead to something called insulin resistance, which is the reason Type-II Diabetes occurs.
High-cholesterol ultimately puts you at risk for developing heart disease, and the hormones and chemicals in the foods can cause abnormal cell growth, leading to other diseases.
Ultimately, in the long-term, the health risks outweigh any potential benefit.
3. Pass on processed foods.
Processed foods have the majority of their nutrients stripped from them and are pumped full of salt, refined sugar, oil, and chemicals to make them taste a certain way and to make them heavier (so manufacturers can charge more).
There’s usually a whole food that is more health-promoting than the processed version, but if you are going to pick a processed food, look at the label.
If the ingredients list looks like a small essay with lots of large, confusing words, then put the item back on the shelf.
Look for items that have only a handful of ingredients, and if you can, choose ones that have no added salt, sugar, or oils.
Manufacturers can make a processed food overwhelm your senses with how sweet or rich or salty they can be. When you start eating whole foods for the first time, they might not taste as good as what you’re used to eating. Give your senses a little time to come back down to normal. You’ll find that the processed foods you used to eat often will become actually too sweet, rich, or salty to you!
4. Give up the oil.
Two helpful concepts are Calorie Density and Nutrient Density.
Calorie Density is a measure of how many calories are in a food relative to its weight or volume. For example, if we choose the common denominator of 1 pound:
1 Pound of Veggies is about 100-200 calories.
1 Pound of Fruit is about 300 calories.
1 Pound of Whole Grains is about 500 calories.
1 Pound of Legumes is about 500 calories.
1 Pound of Oil is about 4000 calories.
Nutrient Density is similar. It’s a measure of how many nutrients are in a food relative to its weight or volume.
Oil is extremely high in calories and pure fat. Instead of using oil when you cook, try water or vegetable broth. You can also cook onions and mushrooms in a pan first and sauté them a little – the juices will coat the pan and effectively work like an oil!
Fruits, veggies, whole grains, and legumes are the most nutrient dense foods there are in addition to being lower in calories relative to other foods. This means you can eat more of them, and at the same time, the more you eat the healthier you are.
5. Keep it simple.
Obsessing over calories, macros, and points misses the point of actually eating so that you’re healthier.
There’s really no need to worry about all those things. What’s great about having your eating pattern centered around plants is that you can eat as much as you want until you’re satisfied, and you’ll get the nutrients your body needs.
You don’t have to count calories because fruits, veggies, whole grains, and legumes are lower in calories relative to other foods and you’ll feel full and satisfied long before you overconsume calories.
You don’t have to count macros because every plant you eat has the proper proportion of carbs, fats, and proteins that your body needs.
Eat enough, eat a variety, and you’ll be well on your way to better health.
6. Focus on fiber.
Fiber is crucial to optimal health, and you need to make sure you’re getting enough. The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for fiber is 25-30 grams per day. 97% of Americans don’t reach that amount.
Fiber allows for regular bowel movements, which helps rid toxins from your body, makes you feel fuller, reduces your risk for certain diseases including colon cancer, and generally makes you feel much better.
Plant foods are the only ones that contain fiber – one more reason it’s important to eat plenty of fruits, veggies, whole grains, and legumes rather than just taking a fiber supplement (which doesn’t work the same way as eating actual food).
The question has typically been “where do you get your protein?” Though, as a culture we regularly get double the RDA for protein (and some people even triple or quadruple it!).
The question needs to shift to “where do you get your fiber?” We will feel better, be healthier, and live longer.
7. Understand the type of hunger you’re feeling.
Are you hungry?
Or are you sad, angry, or lonely, or because it’s 9 o’clock?
Actual, physical hunger will make absolutely everything sound like the most delicious food on the planet. This is your body telling you, “I NEED FOOD!” Don’t ignore it – EAT!
Just make the choice that will get you closer to your goals while making you feel better and have more energy whilecontributing to your long-term health.
Emotional hunger is very specific. Usually you’re feeling a certain way or it’s a specific time of day and you want a very specific food. Bad day at work? Ice cream. Nighttime? Cookies. At night I always wanted ice cream. One brand. One flavor.
Take advantage of it and choose the healthy option:
Want something sweet? Grab fruit!
The more you eat, the healthier you are.
I replaced my ice cream with a bowl of frozen blueberries and cherries (and sometimes mango and banana!) and that is more satisfying. Why? Because I know that in addition to me getting to have this “treat,” I’m much healthier and feel much better.
8. Drink water.
Water is necessary for pretty much every process that happens in your body. It hydrates you so that you can run, jump, play, focus, and think! It also helps to flush toxins from your body. It’s also been shown to helps reduce the risk of developing certain diseases.
Making sure you’re properly hydrated will help you feel stronger, more energetic, and more focused. Drinking water before and with meals will lead you to feel more satisfied and fuller too.
An easy way to help yourself drink more water is to have a favorite water bottle – one that you love drinking out of – and just keep it with you wherever you go. Add a little lemon for some flavor if you’d like!
Shoot to drink at least 40oz of water per day. Beyond having 0 calories, it is the absolute best beverage you can drink that will support you for the long run.
9. Change the focus of your meals.
The longest living populations on the planet – the Blue Zones – have plants as the star of the show. If they include an animal food, it’s a very small portion that’s used to flavor a dish.
We’ve flipped this completely around and have put meat as the main course with (maybe) a side of veggies or a grain. Flipping this around, making your meal plant-based, and maybe adding a small portion of an animal food if you want it, can be helpful if you’re not wanting to go all the way plant-based. This will increase the amount of health-promoting foods that you’re getting and decrease the foods that are shown long-term to be detrimental.
There are plenty of whole-foods, plant-based resources out there with ideas DELICIOUS meals that are both exciting and extremely health-promoting.
10. Have fun and go for the long-term.
One of the most important things to change is your mindset when it comes to food.
When we’re about to go through change (or going through it already), we tend to focus more on what we aren’t “allowed” to have instead of choosing to see all that we get!
Chances are, you have a few meals that you rotate regularly, and that’s what you’ve been eating for the past however long. You’re used to it, you’ve become really good at making those things, and you like them!
When it comes to changing your diet, choose to see this as a little adventure.
Learn new recipes!
Try new foods!
Explore all that’s out there!
Find things you enjoy and make those.
If you find something you didn’t particularly like, find something else.
It takes a bit of time (like any new skill) to get better at it, but it soon becomes second-nature just like cooking was before.
Ultimately, long-term this is the best way to eat.
Your body will thank you.
10 Ways to Instantly Improve Your Nutrition
Science shows that a whole-foods, plant-based diet not only works for weight-loss, but WORKS for improving your health for the rest of your life, keeping you as strong and as healthy as you possibly can be.
Get excited and have fun!
Eat more carbohydrates…in the form of WHOLE, PLANT foods.
Cut back on animal foods.
Pass on processed foods.
Give up the oil.
Keep it simple.
Focus on fiber.
Understand the type of hunger you’re feeling.
Change the focus of your meals.
Have fun and go for the long-term.