How do I start improving my nutrition when I don’t want to follow some strict diet? The good news is IT’S EASY! In this post I’m going to cover some changes you can start to make little by little that will improve your nutrition. As you make small changes and stick with them, they become habits. As you develop new eating habits, you will create a new lifestyle. The problem with diets is that we view them as temporary. When you meet your goals, you go back to your old ways and run the risk of gaining the weight back (sometimes more).
1. Read labels. Note serving size – all the nutrient amounts and values listed relate to the serving size. For example, the serving size for a popular cereal is ¾ cup. So if you eat 1 ½ cup, you have to double the calories, fats, etc. In general, when comparing labels, you want to choose the product with the lower fats, cholesterol and carbohydrates and the one with higher vitamins and minerals. If you are diabetic, pay particular attention to the amount of carbohydrates.
2. Eat more foods that don’t need labels. When you pick up an apple, you don’t need a label to figure out what is in it….it’s just apple! Try to eat vegetables with each meal (yes, even breakfast) and a serving of fruit a couple of times a day. When you have fruit, whole fruit is best so that you get the fiber. Some high fiber fruits are apples, berries, pears and cherries. They will satisfy your sweet tooth and provide you with the nutrients you need. If you don’t like vegetables see number 8 below for a good starter step. Also, do a search for new ways to try vegetables. There may just be a veggie dish out there that will surprise you. Vegetables can also be hidden in many recipes. In later posts I will add some recipes.
3. Be aware of tricky food claims like “lower fat” and “whole grains.” There are many more claims that manufacturers put on their label. Those claims don’t necessarily mean it is better for you. The FDA lets manufactures claim “whole grains” if there are ANY whole grains in the product. This could even mean trace amounts. What you are looking for is “100% whole grains” or “100% whole wheat.” Read labels and become a wise consumer. “Sugar free” is another claim to watch out for. Sometimes this means that they added extra fat to make it taste good.
4. Eat less processed foods. Processed foods lose many of their original nutrients. They frequently have additives in them necessary for extending shelf life that aren’t good for your body. You’ll notice these on the food label because many of them have long chemical names that are not easy to pronounce. Many processed foods have high levels of sodium, sugar, or fats.
5. Be aware of what you are putting into your body. Read ingredient lists. Pay close attention to the first five ingredients – they are what are most plentiful in the product. Within the top five, try to avoid sugar. Sugar may be listed in many different ways: sugar, brown sugar, dextrose, sucrose, high fructose corn syrup, etc.
6. Choose more optimal foods. Your body cries out for nutrients…not merely food. An easy way to do this is to use Michi’s ladder. Michi’s ladder is available by clicking here. http://www.teambeachbody.com/eat-smart/michis-ladder Choose more foods from tier 1 and tier 2 and less foods from the bottom of the ladder.
7. Eat more fiber. Fiber keeps your gut healthy and clean. Fiber helps you feel full. Yay for fiber! The best way to get fiber is from eating whole foods. You can also supplement fiber which is often necessary since most people don’t get enough fiber in their diets. See number 9 below.
8. If you want a great boost of fruits and vegetables to drink in a delicious smoothie you can try Shakeology. Watch the video in the upper right hand corner of this page to learn more or click here. Shakeology is made from whole foods and is vegan, lactose-free, dairy-free with a low glycemic index. It can help to manage weight, support your immune system and boost energy.
9. You may need supplements to ensure that you are getting all the nutrition that you need. Many people do not get enough fiber. As stated above, fiber is important for our digestive health and it helps us to feel full longer. Fiber also helps to keep insulin from spiking so you are less likely to store fat and it helps to lower cholesterol. My personal choice for fiber is Beachbody’s “The Fiber” which can be found here. A good multivitamin and mineral supplement is also recommended. Much of our food is grown in soil that has been depleted of vitamins and minerals and so our food is sometimes nutrient deficient. Also, it is difficult to eat all the right foods to get all the right nutrients. Choose a supplement that is taken more than once a day. Vitamins that have all your daily allowance in one dose is often too much for your body to digest at once. A supplement that is broken up into two or three doses per day allows our body time to absorb the nutrients.
10. Weigh and measure your foods. Until you get used to proper portion sizes it is a great idea to use a scale and measuring cups to be accurate. Fooling yourself about the size of your serving of chicken or brown rice doesn’t do you any good when it comes time for you to step on the scale at the end of the week.