While I was recently on a very long and bumpy car ride in the middle of Patagonia in Chile, I was listening to a podcast about the 12 Rules of Life. This got me thinking about the 12 rules of the topic that is most often on my mind: Healthy Eating (sorry to my husband and children and dog! Doesn’t mean I don’t love you guys!) Here is my list of the:
12 Rules of Healthy Eating and Healthy Living:
- Notice that how you eat affects how you feel. Drastically. This is one of the ultimate reasons to eat healthy. You will feel so much better. And until you give healthy eating a try, you won’t get it. It’s hard to fathom, but unhealthy foods actually make you feel like crap. They make you feel tired and groggy; the extra weight they add to your body makes it hard to workout and get around; they cause you to sleep poorly; they cause you to get sick more often; they make your stomach feel bloated, sore and sick. Now, on the other hand, healthy food is cleansing and beneficial and makes you feel energized, strong, alive! Getting rid of the junk food and feeding your body healthfully will make you feel like a champ.
- Keep it up. No matter what. You can’t just eat better temporarily, like for a diet, and then go back to eating junk. It makes no sense. Once you go in the direction of healthy eating and you see how great you feel, just never go back. You can do this by allowing yourself to eat every kind of food in moderation. Except artificial sweeteners. Those should NEVER be consumed in my opinion. (see my blog post on this topic for details). If you choose healthy foods 80% of the time, and then let yourself indulge in less healthy options 20% of the time, then you can just consider yourself a person who makes healthy eating your way of life. And what a smart person you will be!
- Save your money by being prepared. This means stop being forced to spend money because you weren’t prepared. Like when you have to buy breakfast, lunch, snacks, dinner, water bottles and coffee drinks because you didn’t have food in the house or because you were rushing or because you weren’t in the mood to make a meal. Try to be prepared: get to the grocery store, get up a few minutes earlier, be productive at night. Brew coffee at home and bring it in a thermos, eat breakfast before you leave the house or bring it with you, carry a reusable water bottle wherever you go, pack a lunch to go to work or to bring on errands, prepare dinner in the evening or earlier in the day. Many busy people find success eating healthy by using a grocery delivery service or by meal-prepping on their days off. Find what works for you. It will be worth it because you’ll be WAY healthier not eating out and you’ll save money, too!
- Don’t be so afraid of carbs. Carbs are not your enemy. Actually good carbs give you energy and provide various important additions to your body such as fiber and protein. It’s a fact that people who eat the highest amount of fiber from whole grains experience a 15-30% decrease in cardiovascular-related mortality compared to those who eat the lowest amount of fiber. Eating high amounts of fiber is also associated with a decrease in cholesterol and bodyweight. Where people go wrong is in choosing unhealthy, bad carbs—like white bread, white rice, white pasta, fried foods, junk food, baked goods— and eating too much of them. As long as you are choosing the right carbs, which means WHOLE GRAINS like whole wheat, quinoa, oats, barley, sprouted grains, etc,. and you eat them in the right portion, you can enjoy a few carbs daily.
- Drink water. All day. And not in plastic water bottles. It’s really crucial that you stay hydrated. So you want to be sure to start your day by drinking 1 large 16 oz. glass of water before drinking coffee or tea, or eating breakfast. Then continue to drink water all day with the goal of ingesting 64 ounces per day. NOTE THIS: It’s best to avoid drinking out of plastic water bottles as much as possible. For one thing, plastic disposable water bottles are horrible for our environment; in addition, chemicals from the plastic bottle leach into the water, so you end up consuming those chemicals. So always drink out of glasses when you are home, take stainless steel or glass reusable bottles when you go out and only use disposable water bottles when you must.
- Indulge a bit. Do NOT totally deprive yourself of all sweets or treats. If you decide you are DONE with sugar and will never eat it again, you may stick with that for a while. But there will likely come a time where you will end up bingeing and eating like an entire container of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. So just indulge a little sometimes. Maybe think of allowing yourself 1 small treat every day. That means 1-2 cookies, a couple pieces of dark chocolate, a few french fries, etc. Savor the taste of the indulgence, be mindful about it, and stop yourself after a small portion of it. YES. YOU. CAN.
- Eat veggies. Always. Make vegetables a MAIN part of your diet and meals. Just literally fill yourself with vegetables. The goal is to eat 5-7 vegetable servings per day, and most of us get way less than that. So have them on every plate, in every dish, at every meal and snack, add them to foods like smoothies, soups, tomato sauces, rice dishes, pasta dishes, etc. You can’t overeat vegetables. Trust me.
- Stop relying on meds for everything. Medicines wreak havoc on your gut health and it’s best to minimize them. I’m not talking about the meds you are required to ingest to live. If a doctor has told you that you need to be on a medication for blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, cancer, depression, etc., then you must be on those. But if you are just popping meds like Alleve, Advil, Tylenol, sleep meds, Xanax, Valium, Ambien, Benadryl….start rethinking these and stop relying on them. Let your body take care of things more naturally. You may think you are helping yourself by taking all of these meds, but you are hurting yourself and your health more than you are helping. Eat your meds, meaning eat healthy food, and see how much better you sleep, you feel, and you function.
- Don’t eat too much sugar. Always minimize it. You don’t have to eliminate sugar, but always try to minimize it. Sugar causes us to gain weight and feel sluggish, and it’s inflammatory. And believe it or not, the average American consumes 152 pounds of sugar per year which is the equivalent of 3 pounds or 6 cups per week! Gross. And we should actually be eating a maximum of 25 grams or 1/8 cups per day which is the equivalent of 13 teaspoons per day. MAX. This may sound like a lot, but IT’S NOT when you realize it’s hidden in so many of the foods you eat. So look for it in the ingredients of the foods you are buying because you’ll find it where you’d least expect it, like in yogurt, barbecue sauces, marinades, tomato sauce, iced tea, etc.
- Enjoy the fine things. There are so many natural, delicious things on our planet that are considered to have health benefits. Eat and drink these things often, and enjoy them. Coffee, tea, red wine, dark chocolate, frozen wild blueberries, garden-fresh fruits and vegetables, wild-caught fish, nuts. All real, unprocessed foods that are real delicious.
- Cook. Or at least prepare your own meals. You don’t have to be a gourmet cook, but the more often you prepare your own meals, the better. Because when it comes down to it, we really have no idea how that restaurant meal is made. Is it loaded with butter or oil? How much salt is in it? What is the quality of the ingredients they are using? Eating at home can save you 140-calories per meal, which can really add up over time if you frequent restaurants. SO eat breakfast at home before work or after your workout, bring lunch to work or with you during a busy day, make a quick dinner when you get home at night. Experiment with one of those healthy meal delivery services such as Hello Fresh or Blue Apron. Get in the habit of preparing more meals at home and increase your health while decreasing your total body weight.
- Move it. Live an active life! Being active helps our brains, our mood and our bodies, not to mention it helps us live longer. So keep moving and don’t stop! Try to work out 5 days per week: walk or bike instead of drive when you can, add an evening or afternoon walk in nice weather in addition to your morning workout, try a dance class, take a tennis drill, walk your dog daily, join a gym, try a new class, participate in yoga or pilates, etc. Just be as active as possible.