Sometimes it’s the little things in life that counts and adds up to make a difference. Or another way to look at it, baby steps people! I’m referring to making small subtle changes to your daily diet to get you started to eating healthier. It’s how I started many years, and what I suggest to those who inquire how I reached my healthy eating levels of today.
Below are 15 simply changes you can do to your diet today that matter and will make a positive difference with your health and well-being.
#1. Eat within one hour of waking up in the mornings. While sleeping, your metabolism slows down, your body temp lowers, and your blood sugar level drops to conserve energy. To restart your engine and lower your risk for weight gain and obesity, eat a balance meal of lean proteins, complex carbs, and healthy fats within an hour of waking.
#2. Chew your food 30-50 times per mouthful. Chewing food thoroughly has several benefits, such as improving your digestion, eliminating bad breath, preventing excessive gas, and strengthening the immune system. It also takes up to 20 minutes for your brain to get the signal that your stomach is full. So between bites, place your utensil down and savor the moment.
#3. Avoid the whites: flour, sugar, salt, rice, potatoes and mayonnaise. Yes, don’t pass the salt, skip the sugar, and avoid white flour and mayonnaise. Yes, this means white pasta, white bread, and baked goodies made with white substances. All of these foods are absorbed quickly and cause a rapid spike in your blood sugar, which can result in weight gain plus is linked to an increased risk of diabetes and heart disease.
#4. Eat protein with every meal. Protein satisfies hunger and boosts metabolism. If you don’t eat enough, your body breakdowns and burns muscle to compensate which you want to avoid. For each meal, consume enough protein fitting the size of your palm; a total daily intake of ~46g for women and ~56g for men depending on your age, situation, and activity level.
#5. Stop eating processed food. Skip the convenience and forget the delish taste. Eating processed food is not worth you ingesting, doing more harm than good, loaded with preservatives, unnecessary carbohydrates, trans fats, extremely high levels of sodium, and often high fructose. Processed meats come full of synthetic chemicals, many of which are potentially carcinogenic. Need more be said?
#6. Pack your lunch. Not only will it save on your wallet, but your body will thank you. If you typically grab fast food or sit down at a restaurant with coworkers or clients, you are most likely eating more fat and calories than you need or realize. Instead, pack your lunch and know exactly what you are eating. It may take extra time in the mornings, but it’s well worth it in the long run.
#7. Don’t eat lunchmeat or hot dogs. Sorry ballpark hot dog fans, this is one treat to avoid. Any meat that is salted, cured, smoked, or preserved with nitrate is considered processed. This includes bacon and sausage. As mentioned in tip #5 above, they are full of synthetic chemicals and are possibly carcinogenic. They are also usually high in fats and salt, which means they are not heart-friendly, either.
#8. Carry and drink fresh H2O. Pass on the sodas and fruit drinks. Instead swig half your body water in water in ounces of water everyday. Not only is water is one of the best tools for weight loss, it flushes out toxins and waste products, reduces the risk of a heart attack and colon cancer in addition to keeping you hydrated, nourishes your skin, and facilitates your athletic activities among other numerous benefits.
#9. Pass on unhealthy trans fats. These are the bad guys, primarily found in foods containing margarine or vegetable shortening, such as fried foods, baked goods, packaged snacks, fast foods, full-fat cheeses, and lard. These man-made fats raise LDL cholesterol levels while lowering HDL cholesterol, increasing your risk of a heart attack, stroke, and possibly type two diabetes. Instead, choose foods with monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats, including olive and canola oils, almonds and other nuts, seeds, avocados, and fatty fish, such as salmon.
#10. Eliminate red meat, now. Numerous studies year after year show a direct line with red meat consumption to diabetes, heart disease, cancer and other life-threatening conditions. This includes beef, pork, and lamb meats, which are all high in saturated fat and cholesterol. Most are filled with nitrates and have dangerous chemicals when cooked at high temps. Substitute your servings with fish and poultry.
#11. Eat every couple hours. Your body is like a clock. Eating every 2-3 hours will keep your metabolism high and your insulin levels stable, which in return keeps your energy up and your hunger under control. Going long periods without food can result in a breakdown and loss of muscle tissue, resulting in a slower metabolism, and a gorge out on your next meal.
#12. Pack a snack. Ever find yourself hungry when on the go? When this happens and you have nothing on hand, making a quick stop to grab a healthy snack can be challenging as you drive by fast food eateries or are tempted by the aroma of sweet treats when in a shopping mall. So before heading out, take along your favorite protein bar, a small bag of nuts, or grab an apple, pear, or banana to keep your metabolism going and ward off hunger.
#13. Eat fish 3 or more times per week or take a daily fish oil supplement. Protein packed, vitamin rich and low in saturated fat, fish is also great brain food. Most fish, such as salmon, tuna, and trout, contain omega-3 fatty acids, which keep arteries free of blockage, lower blood pressure, reduce inflammation, and aid in brain development and memory. The omega-3s will also decrease your risk of heart disease, stroke, arthritis, diabetes, and cancer.
#14. When your hunger stops, stop eating. No, you do not have to finish all the food on your plate and not after that feel so full you could burst feeling. Goodness knows that many restaurants today super-size their servings. Once your hunger is satisfied, it’s time to put down the fork and ask for a container to take the balance home.
#15. Don’t eat past 7:00 pm. A good rule of thumb to follow is to stop eating 3-4 hours before retiring to bed. After eating, it takes about 6-8 hours or more for food to pass through your stomach and small intestine, depending upon the type. Only a couple of hours after dinner, your body naturally begins preparing for sleep with a reduced metabolism and storage of fat recently consumed. The only calories you body needs are the basics to keep your heart beating, your lungs breathing, and your eyes moving in REM sleep overnight.
I can easily give you another 15 changes to make to your diet, but let’s start with these. Add in daily exercise to the above and you are off to a good starting plan you can follow and build on for the rest of your life.
Be Fit. Be Strong. Be Well.