11 June, 2010

So, you know what they say: "You are what eat." So... are you?

Most of us know, logically, that we need to eat healthily. It's the right thing to do for our bodies. We know that. We know we need to keep our blood pumping, our lungs working, our cells doing their thing. Sometimes that's not enough to reconsider how we eat, though.

Eating a diet high in fats and sugars is not healthy. You can feel your body getting sluggish and slow and heavy. Not only does your body slow down, but your mind doesn't work as quickly or as efficiently. Have you noticed? If you reverse the trend, you will definitely notice!

Meanwhile, do you give any consideration to what you eat and how it impacts your soul? Your spirit?

If your body isn't working to its full potential, and your mind isn't working to its full potential, is it any wonder your spirit may be lagging? You may start to notice that that sugary drink cup is half empty; you're pessimistic, you're negative, you have trouble seeing the beauty and positive things around you.When you're fueling up on garbage, your meditation comes slowly - if at all - and your priorities get all skewed.

Some super easy steps can help you turn it all around: mind, body and soul. Here are some tips:
  • Remember those crunchy green things you may have seen in the produce section of the grocery store? Try a few of those. Then next week, try some more. If you haven't seen the produce section in awhile, it's in the grocery store not at your drive through. ;)
  • Shop the perimeter of the store.
    Produce, dairy, fresh healthy lean meats and fish are on the outskirts of the market. Skip the processed stuff in the middle aisles. My rule of thumb is if it crinkles when you open it, it's probably the wrong choice.
  • Try new foods.
    If you see produce you've never tried, pick one up and when you get home look online for ways to prepare it (here's a place to start). Some grocery stores even have recipe suggestions right in the produce area. What could be easier than that?
  • Go for colorful platefuls.
    Red berries, yellow bell peppers, deep and rich green spinach, orange carrots.  
  • Don't go "no fat". Try "smart fats"!
    The fats in fish, nuts, dry beans (watch the salt in canned versions!), and skim milk are great. I love avocado in a zillion ways and they're a lovely way to get healthy fats - and they're fillng, too. (Not sure how to eat one? Drop me a comment and I'll give you some tips!)
  • Make it whole-grain.
    No, not just "wheat" but whole-grain. As high a percentage of whole-grain as you can find (you'll have to break out the reading glasses and start checking labels. My kids have never had "white bread" and we switched to whole grain pasta and rice a few years ago and not a single person in the family noticed.
  • Switch to healthy oils.
    Even McDonald's is doing it! Avoid palm oil, palm fruit oil, palm kernel oil, and coconut oil (and butter, fat, and lard!) while seeking out vegetable oils, "EVOO" (extra-virgin olive oil), and other polyunsaturated fats like sunflower oil. 
  • Is your diet fishy?
    Try to eat some salmon, herring or mackerel each week. They're brain-builders, and contain omega-3 fatty acids that can help lower your triglycerides.
  • Go for fresh!
    Opt for fresh (and organic when possible) produce. Making this choice helps minimize your exposure to pesticides and other nasties used on non-organic farms. And fresh clearly lacks the salt and preservatives that may be found in canned goods and some frozen foods.
  • Live life like a locavore.
    Select locally-grown, in-season foods and you'll support your body while supporting the local economy!
  • Train you tastebuds to love dark chocolate instead of unhealthy milk chocolate.
    You'll limit some fat intake and increase some Good For You's like flavonoids, serotonin, and ingredients that increase endorphins. Is it any wonder why we grab chocolate when we need a boost?
  • Drink your water. Drink your water. Drink your water.
    Did I mention water?
  • Seasonings make the difference.
    Herbs and other seasonings pack a delicious wallop over fresh and healthy foods- just don't make the mistake of pouring salt on top of everything!
  • Go slowly if you're not used to eating this way.
    Chop up a pepper and toss it in your spaghetti sauce. Toss a salad to have next to your porkchop. Fresh berries are always delicious over cereal, yogurt, wafles. Switch from 2% to skim milk. Swap your soda for a flavored water or sweet drink like Crystal Lite if water isn't your thing. Skip the "fried" and eat your meat & potatoes (and other foods) another way; grilled, broiled, steamed - those don't have to be  bland! Ditch the yolks and you can still have a great omelet- I swear.

I'm like many of the people out there - I have eaten well and I have eaten... well, whatever I wanted to eat. I can tell you which one works better for me! Using the tips above, I find my physical and mental health to improve greatly. And without those, what spirit can you have?

A final note: I have flirted with eating a raw vegan diet, and find the results to be amazing. Yes, it's hard to maintain. There aren't a ton of raw vegan restaurants in middle America or wherever you may be. And it's such a different way of thinking about food that you'll find it a challenge, surely. But the energy you feel after adopting the raw diet is undeniable. There's no need at all to go 100% raw; simply try adding a raw salad or some raw veggies and fruit to your diet every day and let me know how you feel! Or, try a good old green smoothie... please believe me, it's not nearly as gross as you think. In fact, they are delicious! It's the best way to start a day: guaranteed.

Simple green smoothie recipe
Toss one banana, a handful of berries or other fruit, and a handful of spinach or some other greens into a blender. Add ice (if you like it slushie) or water.
I like bananas and strawberries (some frozen and some fresh) with a handful of spinach or kale.  Add a spoonful of ground flaxseeds and a shake of nutmeg. Voila! Delish.

*Note: I have found that adding lots of red fruits keeps the green smoothie from being so... green. And sweet fruit is a must to balance out the potentially bitter taste of whichever greens you choose. If you're thinking that green drinks are unappealing, you're not alone. Trust me: it's not nearly as bad as it looks. Once I got past that, I was able to use green melons, grapes and other fruits that even enhance the green appearance!

So tell me: do you eat for your spirit? 

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