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One of the main questions in any workshop I teach or article I write regarding health, revolves around tips to get healthy, lose weight, boost metabolism and/or have more energy. One thing that became engrained in me while working at an integrative medicine clinic is that we are all unique, down to our biochemical level. What works for some, does not work for others.
Although, there is a reality to making healthful choices and with a background in holistic nutrition, I do look at health through balance of mind, body and soul. Below are some tips that have helped me stay on the track I want for my health and meet my health goals. I hope you find some tips below that can work for you, and help you reach optimum health!
1.) Focus on one meal at a time. Look at each meal/snack as a new opportunity to focus on health. Don’t think about having to eat salads the rest of your life and never getting to eat chocolate cake again. And if you get off track, look at your next meal as a new opportunity.
Pictured above: Kale and Cranberry Quinoa Salad
2.) Avoid chemicals that are present in our environment at toxic levels to contribute to obesity. Studies show (see full Oxford Journal article here) that certain chemicals such as heavy metals, solvents, polychlorinated biphenols, organophosphates, phthalates, and bisphenol A (BPA), actually appear to cause weight gain by impeding components of our weight control system (ie: hormone disruptors, neurotransmitter sensitivity, changed behavior of the nervous system, etc.)
3.) Stay away from fast food. Really. It’s hard in our fast paced world, but the quality of fast food makes it extremely challenging to eat well on the run. GMOs (genetically modified organisms), pesticides, artificial colors and preservatives, amount of unhealthy fats and sodium and other chemicals (see #2) contribute to the lack of quality ingredients.
4.) Always carry a snack and water with you (also helps with #3). I like to make sure it has some sort of protein and/or healthy fat, and some element of a craving satisfaction (ie: savory or sweet), such as almonds or almonds and some chocolate chips (because if it isn't clear by now how much I love chocolate). Other options are a nutrient dense cookie or granola bar such as Boosted Chocolate Chip Cookie (recipe here) or Goody Goody Granola Bars (recipe here). Plus, sometimes when we think we are hungry, we are simply thirsty.
Pictured above: Goody Goody Granola Bars
5.) Eat nutrient dense foods. Although, many of the recipes you see on The Nourished Seedling are geared toward kids, I made them this way for a reason. It is twofold:
- If I’m going to eat a brownie (and I know I’ll eat more than one), I’m filling up on black beans and avocado with my chocolate (Black Bean & Avocado Brownies). To me, it tastes just as good (almost better) knowing I’m not going to feel icky later and helps me move toward healthier choices for my next meal.
Pictured above: Gluten Free Vegan Chickpea Brownies
- I end up snacking on whatever they are eating, so if they are having a sweet potato blueberry muffin, well, so am I. Bonus for me, I get the benefits of fiber, vitamins A and C, as well as a dose of healthy fats from coconut oil.
6.) Look at your thoughts. Seriously. You might be thinking, “what the heck does this have to do with what I eat and meeting my fitness goal?” We tend to eat more under stress, eat more impulsively when feeling intense emotions, and not digest our foods as efficiently when under duress or our body is tense.
7.) Sit down when you eat. Breathe, and notice what is going into your mouth, whether it’s a stalk of celery or a decadent piece of pie. By standing, your body is ready to go, ‘fight or flight’ is on, and the digestive system is off. Additionally, sitting allows you to pay attention to your food/body (ie: when you’re full) at least a few seconds more than if you were on the go.
8.) Retrain your taste buds. Part of your commitment to your health involves eating new foods. I used to greatly dislike yogurt, and I decided to add it into my daily lunch to help satisfy my sweet craving. Within a few weeks, it had become a part of my lunch. (An ounce of dark chocolate was for dessert, but the yogurt took the place of a less healthy option).
9.) Eat fat. Just make sure it’s the good kind. Fats help the body absorb vitamins, keep your brain healthy and satiate your appetite, among many other benefits. (Read more about healthy fats here).
10.) Add one element of fitness a day. There is no need to run a marathon, yet make sure you make room for movement in your day. Take a walk around the block with the kids, take the stairs instead of the elevator, do 5 stretches right when you wake up, try a new yoga pose. You get the point. A week will go by, and you'll be 7 days into a new routine than if you had never started.
11.) Ditch the scale and go by how you feel. I haven’t looked at a scale since each time I was pregnant and those were doctor initiated weigh-ins. Numbers can make us go on a roller coaster of emotions, swinging one way if the numbers roll in our favor, and swinging down completely if not. We don’t need the extra stress.
12.) Do a little prep work ahead of time to help when you are on the go. Grinding seeds and storing in the fridge to add a nutrient boost to muffins or oatmeal, is a quick way to add extra fiber, vitamins and minerals (Super Seeds recipe here) or blending high nutrient greens and freezing in ice cube trays allows for quick additions to boost smoothies (Greens in a Cube recipe here). Washing lettuce and store ready for immediate use makes eating a salad just as easy as grabbing a cookie. Set yourself up for success.
Pictured above: Super Seed Mix
13.) Don’t deprive yourself, and when you do indulge eat “unjunked” and quality versions of the foods you love. Can’t resist a classic potato chip? There are plenty of great brands on the market that have been verified not to contain GMOs by the Non-GMO project, and that don’t contain any artificial ingredients. Is chocolate your downfall? Dark chocolate actually has some important health benefits such as magnesium and antioxidants to help your body fight disease. Additionally, making something forbidden never lasts, and only leads to over-consumption from feelings of deprivation. Life is meant to enjoy!
14.) Consider a digestive enzyme. With aging, the body loses its natural ability to digest food. Enzymes help break down the foods consumed and helps assimilate them into the body by taking in all of the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients to benefit the body. Supplementing enzymes can help ease the bloat, aches and overall digestive discomfort. Without this common discomfort, you can feel GOOD and have the energy needed to reach desired health goals and stay on track. I often use Bragg's Organic Raw Apple Cider Vinegar to help with digestion and metabolism as well.
15.) Lastly, and probably most important, listen to your body. Gluten free, fat free, vegan, vegetarian, paleo, high-protein, no carb, macrobiotic and raw - all of these are diets have their benefits, but if it’s not in line with your body’s biochemical needs, it won’t help to jump on someone else’s bandwagon. Pay attention to how you feel after certain foods, and stick to those, and avoid the ones that leave you not feeling so well.
Some family favorite healthy recipes:
Double Chocolate Zucchini and Avocado Muffins
Strawberry and Beet Tropical Smoothie
Creamy Portobello Mushroom and Kale Pasta
*Updated July 23, 2016. This post was originally published June 19, 2015.