FUNDAMENTALS OF HEALTHY EATING PART V - WHY WHOLE FOODS?
I've been sharing my fundamentals of healthy eating over the past few months in an ongoing (and going and going) series. I encourage you to start at the beginning, but if you just can't even, here's a handy summary for you before diving into part 5.
- Part 1 encourages you to identify a health-focused motivation for mixing up your eating habits, to have patience and compassion for yourself, and to let this be a slow evolution towards a sustainable way of eating.
- Part 2 is all about increasing awareness around what, why, when and how you're eating and the impact of your choices on your overall wellbeing. This awareness is a SUPER important foundation for lasting change.
- In part 3 you pick up that fork and dig into some dietary changes by filling your plate and your belly with more vegetables throughout the day.
- Part 4 is where things get a little interesting. I challenge you to examine and reduce the amount of added sugar you're eating daily. Womp.
THE NEXT 2-4 WEEKS: A NEW KIND OF RAINBOW
When I started eating more whole, real food at the ripe age of 23 (I was a processed food junkie before that), I was sure it was going to be torture. After all, I did hide my broccoli under my napkin until I moved out of my house for college and then ate mostly heaping bowls of cereal washed down with orange soda and beer for 4 years straight. My palate wasn't exactly primed for Brussels sprouts and dry roasted nuts.
Thanks to a boyfriend-now-husband intent on making me try everything once, a gourmet chef of an uncle, and a nagging voice inside my head that something had to change if I was ever going to feel better about my body, I became more open to tasting a rainbow of foods other than the kind you find inside a skittles bag. I have to admit I was nothing short of shocked to discover that vegetables prepared in simple but thoughtful ways are actually good enough to enjoy, no matter crave. I certainly NEVER thought I would love dates stuffed with nut butter more than pink Starburst.
It was a slow and steady process for me, but over the course of a few years I discovered that eating a wide variety of whole foods has tremendous benefits - beyond making the plate look pretty and making my husband and uncle proud. When I stick to a diet loaded with good stuff from the ground, I truly feel like a different person from when I ate all the white, processed things in sight. My digestion is regular and healthy, my energy soars, my mood and mental clarity improve, my skin is clear and dare I say "glowy". Other freaky benefits I had to experience to believe myself: my seasonal allergies are manageable with nettle and dandelion tea instead of OTC drugs with undesirable side effects, my wonky hormones are more stable and my PMS far less severe, and I don't get coughs, flus or colds when everyone else around me does.
Does all this sound too good to be true? Yeah, I feel you. I wouldn't have believed it either (and didn't when I read testimonials in books on "clean" eating). That's why you're going to spend the next month or so proving it to yourself!
FIRST THING'S FIRST: KNOW THE WHY
Fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, whole grains, seafood, pasture-raised meat and poultry all have incredible potential to provide the macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein and fats) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) that help us not just survive, but thrive. A diet rich in whole, unprocessed foods has incredible power to improve overall health, reduce the risk of chronic disease, heal/reverse autoimmune conditions and increase overall quality of life. Processed convenience foods are cheap, accessible and highly palatable, but most of these foods are proven to do exactly the opposite of a whole foods diet. The more you seek satisfaction and fuel from real foods, the less room you'll have on your plate for the processed stuff that makes it increasingly difficult to manage your health, weight and overall wellbeing.
AN EASY PLACE TO START: PUT DOWN THE BOX AND PICK UP THE GOOD STUFF
Two of the biggest places Americans rely on processed foods are at the breakfast table (cereals, sugary oatmeal packets, fruit-on-the-bottom yogurt) and on the desert plate (cookies, candies, cakes). If you can start to make any of the swaps suggested in this post at breakfast, when you're craving something sweet or when snacking - even a few times a week - you've won more than half the battle on processed foods! Give these swaps a try and next time we'll tackle incorporating more whole foods in the rest of your meals!