When beginning to make healthy but sustainable lifestyle shifts, one of the most important things to do for optimal health is eating a balanced and nutritious diet.
Begin with slow and realistic lifestyle improvements. When it comes to improving your lifestyle and diet, change cannot happen all at once. For anything to be sustainable, there needs to be a process in place, to learn, grow and develop habits. Therefore, be realistic and stick to trying 1 new thing every week- and be sure to commit to it.
Eat more plants, eat fewer processed foods. Fruits and Vegetables are the centerpiece for optimal health. A plant- focused lifestyle has been scientifically proved to provide higher levels of healthy fats, antioxidants and and anti-inflammatory compounds. Plants are also very high in fiber which are optimal for our digestion, decreases inflammation and keep us full longer. Most importantly, fiber is considered to be "brain food," with the ability to improve our mood and our mental health. Processed foods are often high in added sugar, white flour, and/or added oils, providing relatively few vitamins and minerals but a lot of calories. *TIP: Make your default whole foods and meals that you cook yourself. This way, not only will you eat more healthful foods, but you'll also be more likely to eat the amount you intended since whole foods can fill you up faster than processed foods.
Balance your plate, including colors! Polyphenols are antioxidants, which is what give color to fruits and vegetables. The more diversity of color you consume, the greater likelihood that you will prevent or reverse damage in your cells caused by aging, the environment, and your lifestyle. Fruits and vegetables should be the foundation of your diet; half your plate should be vegetables. Protein should be about a quarter of your plate during lunch and dinner.
Make sensible swaps. The way we view food should never be considered: good vs. evil. However, introducing whole grain alternatives into your diet is an incredible way to maximize your nutrition. For instance, cauliflower rice or quinoa instead of white rice, legume pasta instead of white flour pasta, or enjoy sandwich fillings in a lettuce wrap.
Incorporate "volume eating." Volume eating is a relatively new concept to eating a balanced, nutrient-dense way of consuming food without sacrificing hunger. Essentially, it means eats large volumes of food that are low in calorie density. For example, these foods can be consumed with little attention to portion size. They have a high water, high fiber, and low sugar content and are, therefore, low in calories per serving. High-volume foods include: leafy greens (lettuce, spinach, kale), cruciferous veggies (cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and broccoli), stem veggies (peppers, onions, zucchini, celery), fruits and berries.
Do not eliminate carbs and fats. You need carbohydrates at each meal for energy, as cutting carbs leads to binging and sugar cravings. Again, being extreme and eliminating carbs and fats can be more harmful than helpful. *TIP: Aim for about 1 cup of cooked starch per meal, such as oatmeal, farro, barley, sweet potatoes, couscous, or pasta—whole grain whenever possible. Try to also include a serving of healthy fats like nut butter, avocado and olive oil at each meal.
Increase water intake. We all know that we could drink a little more water, because we know the health benefits are beyond impactful. Most of us wake up dehydrated, so I encourage you to start your day with two large glasses of water. These 2 glasses in the morning are surprisingly powerful. They turn on your gut, kidneys and brain, and balance out your body before you consume anything else. *TIP: Aim for at least 8-10 total glasses for the day. 10 glasses is optimal if you’re someone who suffers from constipation (think of a glass of water as about 8 oz per glass).