Eating for health is not just about eating a specific quantity of certain foods each day. When you eat for health reasons, you should focus on nutritional content, flavor, reducing stress and cooking techniques too. A health supportive diet, or attitude towards food and eating, is important to help optimize digestion, rebalance hormones, reduce stress and prevent disease.
In previous articles, you learned what foods support a healthy lifestyle and help reduce illness. Here, I outline a few behavioral tips you can add to your daily and weekly routines to help really gain the benefits of a health supportive diet!
- Choose foods that are as close to nature as possible, and minimize cooking to provide your body with the highest concentration of nutrients.
2. Eat according to the season or climate. Foods that naturally grow in a specific climate or season will have the highest nutritional content at the time, so make sure you modify your diet not only by season but by your activity level and your travel destinations.
3. Always look for fresh, preferably organic, foods before considering frozen. Avoid canned or pre-packaged foods. And, find non-GMO and hormone-free foods too.
4. Eat ‘clean’ – avoid preservatives, additives, sugar, dyes, caffeine, mould, processed and refined products, and anything containing chemicals (or any ingredients that are hard to pronounce).
5. Shop the perimeter of your local grocery store to ensure you are filling your cart with the freshest, most natural products available.
6. Make your food tasty and appealing! Choose a variety of colors and experiment with herbs and spices. Try new foods, including vegetables, and work on developing new tastes.
7. Eat only one type of protein per meal. Combining proteins is very difficult for the digestive tract to break down, leading to undigested protein particles that aggravate the gut lining and eventually get through to the blood; this is a condition called ‘leaky gut’ and is a main factor in food-related allergies.
8. Practice food rotation. Never eat the same things day after day; instead, try choosing 4-5 different meals with different proteins, vegetables and grains, and rotate them in on different days. Rotation of the diet is very important to avoid allergies as well. When we eat the same foods all the time, we lose the ability to properly digest them, and we become sensitive to the undigested molecular proteins; our bodies then build up antibodies to fend off the antigens left from undigested protein.
9. Try food combining for optimal digestion. If you suffer from indigestion or low stomach acid, eat the right combinations of food at each meal: protein with non-starchy vegetables; starchy vegetables with grains; fruit alone and away from meals. These combinations make it much easier for the digestive tract to properly break down food particles.
10. Moderation is key! Eat until you’re about 80% full and stop. Wait 30 minutes, and if you still feel hungry, have a small snack.
11. Balance the nutrients across your daily meals. Make sure your diet contains a variety of different foods to get the full spectrum of vitamins and minerals. Once you’ve identified the best nutritional balance for yourself, you will stop craving unhealthy snacks and processed foods and you will begin to ‘crave’ healthy options. Your body will be able to tell you what it needs.
12. Balance foods by color, texture, flavor and shape, too. Each day, try to include one vegetable that grows up (i.e. celery), one that grows down (i.e. carrot), one that grows sideways (i.e. squash), and one that hangs (i.e. bell peppers).
13. Make meals simple – meals do not need to contain a bunch of different foods or ingredients. A delicious dinner can be made by roasting root vegetables and serving them with your choice of legume; or sauté broccolini and serve with a small piece of wild salmon.
14. Don’t forget to chew! Chewing is vital to support health because not enough chewing can lead to bloating, gas and other general discomforts, not to mention problems like leaky gut and constipation. Try to chew each bite 30-40 times.
15. Eat mindfully. Make sure you’re in a state of rest and relaxation for every meal, not running out the door, frantically typing up a work assignment, or even watching a dramatic TV show. Digestion is optimized when we are relaxed.
A health supportive diet is not difficult to achieve. You likely only need to make a few small changes to your current routine and meal plan in order to reap the benefits that fresh, healthy foods provide. A health supportive diet is a way of life, so start small and before you know it, your healthy choices will become second nature.