With the start of a new year, many people have started a new “diet” in hopes of losing weight or “getting healthy”. Low fat, low carb, keto, paleo, Atkins, intermittent fasting – the list of “healthy diets” goes on and on with new “must try” eating plans popping up almost daily. Each plan or diet will have many people who will lose weight, gain energy and reduce health risks as long as they stay on course and follow the guidelines. Once they go back to their “normal” lifestyle, many will also go back to their previous ailments and problems. Why is this? In many cases, these so-called diets are too restrictive, too controlling and too overwhelming for most people. In fact, it might not be the actual diet itself that produced the initial results at all. In most likelihood, it was just making better choices and eating real food.
If you are looking for a better, long-term solution start eating real food!! Don’t obsess over the amount of fat, carbs or protein a portion of food has, just ask yourself is it real food or made from only real ingredients? If the answer is yes, eat it, if not, don’t!! Real foods are those items that are in their most natural state (whole) and contain a single ingredient. These foods are unprocessed, free of chemical additives and rich in nutrients.
This is easy when it comes to an apple for instance, but what about almond milk or hummus? They may be a single “ingredient” in a recipe, but do they just contain one single ingredient? If not, are all the components whole and real?? To make your own almond milk you need whole, raw almonds and water. You can also add some natural sweetener (i.e. honey, agave, maple syrup) and flavoring (i.e. pure vanilla extract). Contrast that to the variety found in the refrigerated section of the grocery store. Of course, it will contain almonds and water, but many other additives such as sunflower lecithin, locust bean gum, gellan gum and ascorbic acid. These may sound “natural”, but all come from some type of processing and may be sabotaging your health goals.
So, instead of jumping on every new “diet” bandwagon, just focus on using only whole foods. This does require more from scratch cooking and making many of the items you have assumed are “real” (like that almond milk!). At first, it will be more time consuming, but as you create habits and streamline the process, it will be almost as quick and easy as what you are doing now.
How do you start on this new whole food way of life? One food or recipe at a time!! The biggest mistake people make when trying to change is doing it all at once. Not only is this overwhelming, but it is a recipe for failure. Pick one thing to change, make it a habit then move to the next thing. Before you know it, you will have made significant progress toward your goals!!
Need more incentive to start cooking with whole foods? Here are 21 benefits to eating real food (courtesy of healthline.com). The best part, most of the benefits are felt immediately! Today is THE DAY to start being your best self! What are you waiting for???
- Loaded with important nutrients – whole foods are full of essential vitamins, minerals and fiber; components that are stripped out when the item is processed
- Low in sugar – sugar is the devil these days, and most of what we consume is added to our food during processing or added in to make up for something else (carbs, fat) that has been removed. Yes, there is sugar in whole foods like fruit, but there is also ample water and fiber to slow down the digestion of these natural sugars.
- Heart Healthy – vitamins and minerals found in whole foods help maintain proper blood flow and reduce overall inflammation in the body
- Environmentally friendly – a large expenditure of energy and creation of non-biodegradable waste (i.e. plastic) is generated from the packing and production of processed foods.
- High in fiber – many times fiber is the first thing stripped during processing
- Helps control blood sugar – the natural balance of fiber, carbs and protein in whole foods helps maintain steady energy and blood sugar levels
- Good for your skin – real food nourishes and helps protect your skin
- Helps lower triglycerides — elevated triglyceride levels are associated with high intake of sugar and refined carbs
- Provides variety – there are HUNDREDS of whole foods available
- Costs less in the long run – sure, the actual cost of the food may be slightly higher, but this is more than offset by the savings of not having a chronic lifestyle disease such as diabetes, cancer or high blood pressure.
- High in healthy fats – fat is NECESSARY, but it needs to be the right kind.
- May reduce disease risk – healthy eating patterns have been linked to lower incidence of many major diseases
- Contain Antioxidants – these antioxidants help fight off free radicals in our bodies
- Good for your Gut – whole foods contain pre and probiotics necessary for a healthy microbiome
- May help prevent overeating – the fiber and lack of additives in whole foods help you feel fuller and more satisfied
- Promotes dental health – reducing the amount of sugar and refined carbs in our diets help keep plaque and gingivitis at bay
- May help reduce sugar cravings – the more sugar you eat, the more you crave. By reducing your sugar intact, your cravings for it will eventually diminish
- Sets a good example – Leading by example can encourage your friends, family and children to adopt better eating habits.
- Gets the focus off dieting – weight loss is a natural side effect of a better diet.
- Helps support local farmers – since fresh is best when it comes to whole foods, the shorter the distance they need to be transported, the better.
- Delicious – the flavor of fresh, whole food is amazing!