Happy New Year to all of you beautiful people out there! How is 2020 going so far for you? Did you make resolutions for the next twelve months? Have you started working on them already? In setting my own intentions for this year I think it is always a worthwhile exercise to look back and see where my strengths and weaknesses were in achieving my goals over the past couple years. My strengths I believe are in my commitment. I have all the desire in the world to be the healthiest version of myself and all the enthusiasm to work as hard as I need to in order to achieve that goal. I think one of my biggest weaknesses, however, is that sometimes I get overly enthusiastic! I tend to set really big, lofty goals and end up making drastic changes to my everyday life in order to achieve said goals as quickly and efficiently as possible. While this may seem like a good idea that is surely laced with all of the best intentions, if I have learned anything over the past couple years it’s that making drastic changes in any part of our lives usually doesn’t set us up for success. I think to truly be successful in making a permanent change, the best way to go about it is by taking baby steps. Make a few small changes at first and then build on those until you reach the end goal and that goal has become your lifestyle.
One of my primary intentions for the new year is to really work on my nutrition. I have come a long way in this department but still feel between fitness/working out and what I am eating, the eating part is where I still need the most improvement. So I wanted to write this post today to remind both myself and maybe some of you out there about some basic nutrition information that could possibly help us in achieving our health goals this year. In no particular order, see below for my top 5 nutrition recommendations:
Eat More Fiber –
Fiber is so important to our overall health, but I feel like sometimes it is overlooked as something we need to make sure we are getting enough of. According to the American Heart Association, we should be getting about 25 grams of fiber per day (based on a 2000 calorie diet). Why is this so important? Well fiber does some amazing stuff for our overall health in addition to what most people think of when they think of fiber…which is moving waste through our digestive tracks and out of our bodies. Fiber also helps to control and even improve blood sugar levels, controls weight, can reduce heart disease, lower cholesterol and even fight some cancers! And again, these are just a few of its benefits. One of my favorite benefits is that it also is very good at reducing inflammation…which for someone with an autoimmune disease that revolves around inflammation is super important! So what are the best sources to hit our 25 grams of fiber a day? See below for some of the best sources of fiber:
- Whole Grains
- Green Peas
- Avocados & Artichokes
- Fruit – especially raspberries, blueberries, pears and grapefruit
Choose the Right Fats – Not all fats are bad!
In fact, our bodies actually need some fats in order to perform at optimal levels. That’s right, we need to eat some fat! Omega-3’s in particular are a great example of a fat that is super healthy for us to consume. They are extremely heart healthy, they help to reduce inflammation, can regulate both blood pressure and cholesterol levels and can even prevent and/or fight some autoimmune diseases…..just to name a few benefits! Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are two more examples of beneficial fats. They both fight high cholesterol by reducing your LDL levels, also known as the bad for you type of cholesterol (for more on cholesterol check out my post, “A little about cholesterol”) as well as helping give our cells energy, regulating our hormones and even helping with the absorption of some nutrients. So where can we get these good fats from? The following foods are great sources of them:
- Olive Oil – the Extra Virgin kind is the best
- Nuts, yep even Peanut Butter!
- Seeds – Think Chia & Flax Seeds, Pumpkin Seeds & Sunflower Seeds and even Sesame Seeds
- Avocado – where my guac lovers?
- Coconut Oil – I use this to cook with pretty regularly. It is great to use to line your pan with when sautéing veggies
- Fish – Very high in Omega- 3’s especially the fatty fishes like salmon, albacore tuna, herring and mackerel
The fats we want to stay away from are the trans fats. These can typically be found in the processed foods that are all over our grocery stores and more specifically in baked goods. These fats are very bad for both heart health and your weight as they contribute to heart disease as well as diabetes. Do yourself and your body a favor and severely limit your intake of these fats if not avoid them at all costs!
Load Up On Veggies –
Seems like a pretty obvious one but if we are honest with ourselves, how often are we actually incorporating this food group into our meals? Hopefully the answer is all the time, but if it’s not here’s why you should make more of an effort to do so this year. Most veggies are:
- Rich in vitamins and antioxidants which fight illness and diseases like cancer and cardiovascular diseases
- Are low in both fat and calorie content
- Help with keeping blood pressure low due to being high in potassium
- Many are full of fiber, which as explained above, is very important for overall health
- High in water content which is another great way to stay hydrated
And these are just a few of the reason’s veggies are our friends! According to the National Institutes of Health, we should be striving to eat 2-3 cups of vegetables a day. And these days there are so many ways to incorporate them into your daily meal plan other than having to eat a salad every single day! I am a really big fan or butternut squash. Throw one in the oven and top it with your favorite sauce and it’s just like eating a really healthy version of your favorite angel hair pasta, only so much better for you! Cauliflower is having a moment now too! This is another really nutritious vegetable that now is being used to make pizza crusts, “chicken” nuggets, cauliflower rice and even cauliflower steaks! I love a good cauliflower crust pizza topped with some extra veggies like peppers and mushrooms and light sprinkling of cheese for dinner. It’s like being able to indulge in your guilty pleasure with none of the guilt!
Protein is not just for building muscle – include it in every meal!
Protein is not just for body builders or people who are in the gym 7 days a week. We all need to be eating enough of it for a variety of health reasons, such as it:
- Supports Immune System
- Keeps Blood Sugar Levels Stable
- Good for your bones
- Helps fight fatigue
- Ok yes, does help build muscles by repairing and rebuilding our cells
Just be careful you are choosing the right kind of protein. A good tip here is to swap out processed meats for lean meats. Think less hot dogs, lunch meats, and even, I’m sorry for all my bacon lovers out there, less bacon. Instead choose items like canned tuna and skinless chicken or turkey. Salmon is also a great goto, just try to choose the wild caught, not farm raised. I personally have even gone one step further and for the most part these days only eat plant-based protein in an effort to lower my cholesterol without the use of prescription drugs. I load up on things like lentils, legumes, protein-rich veggies like broccoli and spinach and of course my favorite the chickpea. There are also a lot of great plant-based meat substitutes that have hit the market recently…just make sure you are including protein in every meal right along with your veggies.
Less Soda, More Water –
Well honestly less sugary drinks period. That includes fruit juices, sugary sports drinks, and yes even those super fancy, super delicious latte macchiatos I was once addicted to and especially love….they gotta go! I was never a soda drinker, and actually do enjoy drinking water which I know sounds kinda weird but I had to make a big effort in reducing the sugary, high-calorie coffee drinks that I really had become addicted to. Whether it be the Frappuccinos, sugary iced-teas, the couple cans of soda a day you find yourself downing or even the couple glasses of fruit juice you drink because it is made with fruit so it has to be healthy…these things are packing on the pounds or at the very least preventing you from losing them. They are filled with sugar which besides the weight gain can also lead to health problems such as:
- Calcium Depletion in your Bones
- Higher Blood Pressure
- Kidney Damage
- Even some cancers
Enough reasons to put done the sugary drinks, I think so! Make your body happy, healthy and running like a well-oiled machine with those 8 glasses of water a day and I promise you not only see but also feel the difference! I would be willing to bet your energy levels will go up, your weight will probably come down a bit and your skin might even start to glow a little brighter! If you want a little more in depth information on why water is so important to our health as well as exactly how much you should be drinking check out my post….”Drink Up! H20 that is…”.
There are obviously a million other things I could bring up when it comes to nutrition but always keep in mind that everyone is different and every body is different. We all may need slightly different things when it comes to our daily intake of vitamins and nutrients, but I think the above list is a good overall reminder of what we should and should not be consuming. I myself am also going to be working on preparing more of my own food at home, having something with me at all times so I never get overly hungry and just enjoying the process of eating. Food should be a friend and ally to us you guys. It can do wonderful things for our bodies and overall health and with just a little bit of thought and planning we can both enjoy what we are eating as well as get the most out of it to maintain optimal health. I heard someone the other day say, “Every time you eat something you are either feeding or starving disease” and I couldn’t agree with that more! Let’s make this year that we value our bodies enough to only feed it good, wholesome ingredients and watch how it responds with all the energy, gratitude and healthy days in return! 😊