Learn how to get healthy by eating healthy food, moving your body, and relaxing your mind. The tighter your budget, the more important it is to invest in nutritious food and to avoid food waste. The more stressful your life, the more important it is to eat healthy food and take care of your whole being. It’s vital that young children eat well while their bodies and brains form and they learn what to eat. Here are the top five practices I discovered while learning how to get healthy. I hope they help you too.
1. Choose nutritious, filling food for satisfaction and health
- Eat lots of fruit and vegetables. Research shows that every serving adds to your health, up to maximum reviewed of ten servings a day. (It is possible! See my vegetable-rich menu.) More may be even better, but the studies stopped at ten. Beans and lentils give you a double payback because they count as a protein source and as a vegetable.
- Add whole grains, nuts, seeds, herbs, and spices.
- Eat a rainbow of food. Different colors signal different nutrients, with deeper colors meaning more nutrients. Superfoods include:
- dark green broccoli, kale, collards, chard, cucumbers, and avocados
- orange carrots and winter squash
- blue blueberries
- red tomatoes and strawberries
2. Get enough to eat but not too much
Eating too much can sap your energy and lead to chronic diseases such as diabetes. To achieve and maintain a healthy weight:
- Eat whole foods with plenty of fiber. As you choose the 10 servings of fruit and vegetables mentioned above, go for apples instead of apple juice. Eat baked potatoes, skin and all, instead of French fries. Add whole grains like oatmeal, wheat, quinoa, brown rice, and barley. Lots of fiber means lots of chewing, which signals your body that it’s being fed. The fiber from whole foods literally fills up your stomach, too, assuring your body that you are safely nourished.
- Eat from a 1970s-size plate. Big modern plates encourage us to fill them and overfill ourselves. Research shows that using a 10-inch plate or medium bowl will encourage your subconscious to feel satisfied with a healthy amount.
- Drink water or unsweetened coffee or tea instead of sweetened or alcoholic beverages. It can be easy to drink too many high-calorie, low-nutrition beverages.
3. Minimize sugar, extracted oils, and alcohol
- Too much sugar can be dangerous. Fortunately, Cook for Good menus have just one optional dessert a day. These just-sweet-enough desserts are rich in fruit, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and antioxidants (cocoa!).
- Extracted oils add calories without fiber and other nutrients. You’ll get more nutrition per calorie if you get your oils directly through nuts, seeds, olives, and avocados. Use any oil you do use wisely, perhaps a little olive oil to keep onions from sticking the skillet, to add flavor to salad dressings and pesto, or to make baked goods tender. Avoid all trans fats, which lurk in the hydrogenated oils used to fry food and make commercial baked goods like doughnuts, crackers, and cookies.
- Some alcohol can be fine for many people, but it’s a luxury and a risk. The National Institutes of health defines the safe limits as being much lower than I expected: just 7 drinks a week for women and 14 for men. Those “drinks” are from 1970s-sized wine glasses or bottles, not the large pours or high-alcohol beverages common now. According to the National Institutes of health, alcohol is the fourth leading cause of death in the US and involved in almost one third of fatal car accidents.
4. Avoid toxins, processed food, and animal products
It should go without saying, but don’t poison yourself.
- Choose organic food whenever possible. You can afford some organic food even on a tight budget.
- Remember organic doesn’t mean pre-washed. Clean your greens and other food before eating.
- Avoid processed food stripped of natural fiber and loaded with chemicals, sugar, and salt. This food was built to trigger cravings and get your money.
- Avoid animal products, which are a form of processed food. The animals eat food and then people eat the animals. Meat, fish, eggs, and dairy products have cholesterol, saturated fat, and no fiber. The animals are raised or captured in a cruel way that is unhealthy for the planet.
- Avoid eating too much protein, particularly protein from animal sources. Getting 10% of your calories from protein is optimal for most people.
5. Move your body and relax your mind
- Get productive exercise by growing food in your garden, shopping, or cooking. Just standing up and chopping vegetables is better for you than sitting down. Eating healthy food gives you the energy and strength to dance, run, and play with the kids.
- Reduce stress for yourself and your family by knowing what’s for dinner and what you need at the store. Having a menu and shopping list saves time and money too. See my tips for getting organized.
- Share food with others to show love and to bring a healing sense of community.
- Eat in a way that reflects your values to strengthen your sense of usefulness and wholeness.
- Feel more financially secure as you save money on food, medical bills, and clothing. (I still wear some clothes I bought 30 years ago. They are “vintage” now but they still fit!)
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