Sometimes just making it through the day feels like a marathon – we’ve got work and family commitments keeping us busy. Here are some ways to fuel our body with whole foods to get the nutrients we need to stay strong.
What is whole food nutrition?
Just like any well-oiled machine, our body needs the right kind of fuel to stay healthy and strong. We have a daily need for nutrients, which a diet rich in whole foods readily provides.
The USDA maps out pretty extensive dietary guidelines for a wholesome diet, including advice like loading up on fruits and vegetables, healthy fats and protein, and eating whole grains, rather than their processed counterparts. Essentially: we need a diet rich in whole foods, not packaged ones to get the right nutrients. But often adhering to these standards is easier said than done.
The good news is that more and more people are aware of the need for a balanced and healthy diet. Many TV shows, cartoons, or even social media influencers share great ideas encouraging viewers to make healthy choices. But they sometimes have stiff competition from the quick and easy convenience of processed foods.
The convenience factor
As much as we might all aspire to a healthy diet with whole foods, it’s a lot easier to rely on prepackaged foods. What takes more effort: preparing a nutritious meal and washing all the dishes, or ordering a pizza that you could eat out of the box?
In the whirlwind of daily life, sometimes we just want a break, so healthy eating habits fly out the window! Plus, many food engineers design packaged items to pack in extra salt and sugar so we crave them more and more. Who can eat just one potato chip? Definitely not me!
We often to forget to look at the ingredients list of our favorite pre-packaged items. So we might miss extra trans fats, additives, dyes, or other ingredients that aren’t ideal for the human body.
We like instant gratification; we like processed foods, and sometimes foods with the lowest nutrition content are the cheapest. But are we actually paying higher health costs long-term by skimping on nutrient-dense foods?
The high cost of a bad diet
Over the long term, a poor diet causes deficiencies in vitamins, and micro- and macro-nutrients. This influences everything: our performance, behavior, state of mind and physical activities. In addition, a diet too high in sugar and unhealthy fats and too low in nutrients promotes chronic diseases, like Type II Diabetes, due to high blood sugar and cholesterol levels. Or perhaps cardiovascular diseases due to elevated blood pressure?
Hidden sugars and empty calories
Unfortunately, sometimes we might think we’re eating a nutritious food, but we’re just getting empty calories. Extra sugars occur in many foods we wouldn’t think of, like ketchup or pasta sauce. Just one liter of ketchup contains about 90 sugar cubes!
Even if a glass of apple juice could contain the same sugar as a piece of cake. But if you opt for an apple instead, you’ll get valuable vitamin C and digestive fibers.
The problem with refined sugar is that it contains no usable nutrients. For our body it is only empty calories that also quickly increase and decrease our blood sugar level.
White flour also doesn’t do our bodies any favors. The refining process breaks down its nutritionally valuable components by separating the skin and polishing the grain. So stick with whole grain products. Since they haven’t undergone the same level of refining, they’ll fill you up longer.
Tips for eating more whole foods
Take baby steps when starting a healthy diet, especially if you’ve been a regular consumer of the Standard American Diet (S.A.D.) Here are a few basic tips to get you started:
- Drink enough water and unsweetened teas instead of soft drinks.
- Choose whole grains, including cereal products and potatoes, instead of simpler sugary carbs.
- Vegetables and fruit are your friends! Load up on these phytonutrients.
- Don’t forget protein and healthy fats from organic animal products, nuts, and healthy oils.
- Read the labels on your grocery items. Not all packaged foods are created equal! Some actually contain loads of nutrients, so be on the lookout for nutritious foods that are also easy-to-prepare.
- Prepare the food gently, so you can preserve many nutrients and vitamins.
- Go easy on the sugar and salt.
Take your time eating and enjoy it. Chew your food thoroughly and don’t eat while you’re distracted so you can better digest your food. Meal times are also quality time for the family. At the dinner table you can talk about the day, make plans or discuss problems.
How to kick off a whole food nutrition plan
You want to start changing your diet? Start with something easy, like staying hydrated. Sometimes when we’re thirsty, our body tricks us to thinking we’re hungry. Drinking water helps avoid this confusion and extra calories.
Next, try replacing your refined flour and sugar products with whole grain alternatives, and go from there. Improving your eating habits isn’t an easy task, and a study from the University of Illinois indicates that social accountability is key to weight loss and improved lifestyle changes.
So find some friends or family members to help you on your healthy journey! Exchange ideas with your family and friends in the FamilyApp. You can do it!