Oh my gosh – nutrition and diet info is everywhere! And each expert and association tries to lead you in their direction because they know best and their advice is going to help you. Right?
Everyone has heard (and maybe lived through) the intense focus on how much you eat. This has gotten way too much attention because while this does affect your weight and energy level, it’s certainly not the “holy grail” of health.
Let’s focus a bit more on the often overlooked (and proven) benefits of what you eat and drink and how you eat and drink it.
What you eat and drink
The “calories in, calories out” philosophy (i.e. how much you eat) is being drowned out with research on other factors that may be just as important. Don’t get me wrong, limiting calories, carbs or fat can certainly help you lose weight but that’s simply not the only factor for long-term weight loss and maximum energy for everyone.
When the intense focus on how much we ate didn’t work in the long-run it wasn’t really a surprise. We pretty much knew that already, didn’t we?
You can certainly still continue to count your calories, carbs, and fat but don’t forget to also pay attention to what you are putting on your plate and in your mouth.
Ideally, you need a varied diet full of minimally-processed foods (i.e. fewer “packaged” “ready-to-eat” foods), even gluten-free, processed foods are not necessarily healthy. This simple concept is paramount for weight loss, energy, and overall health and wellness.
Every day this is what you should aim for:
- A colorful array of fruits and veggies at almost every meal and snack. You need the fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.
- Enough protein. Making sure you get all of those essential amino acids (bonus: eating protein can increase your metabolism).
- Healthy fats and oils (never “hydrogenated” ones). There is a reason some fatty acids are called “essential” – you need them as building blocks for your hormones and brain as well as to be able to absorb essential fat-soluble vitamins from your super-healthy salads. Use extra virgin olive oil and coconut oil, eat your organic eggs, and get grass-fed meats if you can afford it. Avocados are an excellent source of healthy fats. You don’t need to overdo it here. Just make sure you’re getting some high-quality fats.
How you eat and drink
Pay attention to how you eat and drink. Studies are definitely showing that this has more of an impact than we previously thought.
Are you rushed, or not properly chewing your food, and possibly suffering from gastrointestinal issues? Do you drink your food?
When it comes to how you eat let’s first look at “mindful eating”.
Mindful eating is taking smaller bites, eating slowly, chewing thoroughly, and savoring every bite. Notice and appreciate the smell, taste and texture. Breathe. Set your fork down in between bites. This gives your digestive system the hint to prepare for digestion and to secrete necessary enzymes. Aside from that, as you chew, not only do your teeth break down your food, so does your saliva. Digestion starts in the mouth with your saliva.
This can also help with weight loss because eating slower often means eating less. Did you know that it takes about 20 minutes for your brain to know that your stomach is full?
We also know that more thoroughly chewed food is easier to digest and it makes it easier to absorb all of those essential nutrients.
And don’t forget about drinking your food. Yes, smoothies can be healthy and a fabulously easy and tasty way to get in some fruits and veggies (hello leafy greens!), but drinking too much food can contribute to a weight problem and feelings of sluggishness.
Don’t get me wrong a green smoothie can make an amazingly nutrient-dense meal and is way better than stopping for convenient junk food – just consider a large smoothie to be a full meal not a snack. And don’t gulp it down too fast. A nutritious smoothie is a great alternative to fast food when you know you are going to be too busy for a regular lunch.
If your smoothies don’t fill you up like a full meal does try adding in a spoon of fiber like ground flax or chia seeds. I also like to add walnuts to my smoothies. Walnuts are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, rich in antioxidants, has cancer fighting properties, supports heart health, brain health, helps with controlling weight gain because they are full of fiber, which makes you feel full longer.
Consider not only how much you eat but also what and how you eat it.
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