Health has a lot to do with your mindset. How you look at your food choices can determine your health now and later in life. Stop looking at food as 'will that make me fat?' or 'what's the calorie content' and start looking at food choices as 'what is the healthiest choice to fuel my body?' You will live in your body for many years to come, so you want to give it the best nutrients to carry you through, allowing you to experience everything you desire with good health on your side. Your mind can set your body up with the best fuel ever to make you the healthiest you can be, you just have to make the choice.
Below I have outlined some of the food choices we make on a day-to-day basis, and how to always choose the best possible choice at any given time. Sometimes we're caught out shopping a little too long and start to get the munchies, or we're invited to a dinner where all the food choices seem unhealthy. We have to eat, right? So a choice has to be made. My biggest tip is to form a habit of always choosing the healthiest product from what's available at the time. In your mind, get comfortable with scanning the options and rating them in your mind from best to worst. Over time this will become easy, and you'll know instantly which option to choose. Wherever possible choose the options that are wholefoods - and by this I mean the product that hasn't been altered at all. It is exactly how Mother Nature intended us to eat it, in its original form without having things taken out or added.
Yes, the beverages you choose to put in your mouth can be liquid gold to the thousands of cells in your bodyor, they could be poison. If given the choice between coffee, tea, water, coconut water, soft drink, energy drinks or fruit & vegetable juice, what do you choose on a daily basis? and how much?
- Where coffee and tea is concerned, tea generally has 1/2 the caffeine of coffee so tea is a better choice.
- Where tea is concerned, green tea will generally have 1/2 the caffeine of regular tea, so green tea is the better choice.
- Then if you're wanting no caffeine, then a herbal tea is the better choice.
- Soft drinks & energy drinks may give you a short pick me up, but you're feeding your cells with loads of sugar and chemicals which in the long-term is not a good health choice. Please steer clear of these! Just turn the product around and read the ingredients list to give your mind a reminder why they're a no-no!
- Juices you have to be careful of. Stay away from any juice that's pre-packaged. If you are going to juice, be aware that fruit juice contains high natural sugars, and without the fibre this is not good for you on a regular basis. Vegetable juices are a better option, with maybe a 1/2 a small green apple to sweeten.
My pick of the choicesWater, Coconut Water, Green or Herbal Tea. These will keep you hydrated, you won't feel a big high then a low, and your body will love you for it! They can also be great for weight loss.
ORGANIC VS NON-ORGANIC
There have been many studies done over the years to answer the question 'Is Organic better?'. Most have been inconclusive, and some studies have shown that eating Organic Fruit & Vegetables does not mean you are getting any more nutrients in your diet than non-organic choices.
Howeverand it's a big HOWEVER!eating Organic is more about what you're NOT getting! You're not getting pesticides, chemicals and other nasties that are known to cause many diseases, even cancer. Farmers have to wear masks when spraying their non-organic crops, and sometimes even full protective suitsbut hang on a minute.. we're then ingesting that produce which has been sprayed! What the?
Organics is not just "chemical free". It is a whole systems or holistic means of growing and handling food. The whole system is linked - Soil. Plants. Animals. Food. People. Environment.
My advice is to choose organic where possible, especiallygreen leafy vegetables, broccoli, capsicum, tomatoes, cucumber, apples, berries, and any fruit in which you eat the skin as these are the most contaminated. Did you know that at my local farmer's market I pay only $1kg more for my Organic Apples than the ones sprayed with nasties! Take the time to shop around, and don't be afraid to ask your local store or farmer 'Has this been sprayed?'.
For other organic/non-organic products, always choose certified organic where you can. Your local health food stores and supermarkets are expanding their range of organic products all the time, and often they're at the same cost or only a little more. In Australia, look for the Australian Certified Organic Bud logo below which means the product is grown and processed without the use of synthetic chemicals, fertilisers, or GMO's.
FRUIT & VEGETABLES - ORGANIC OR LOCAL?
Sometimes Organic isn't always the best option. The organic 'fresh' product you're about to buy may come from another country and therefore has been shipped around the world before it's made it to your plate. It may be days, weeks, or even months old, meaning the nutrient content is less.
The fruit & vegetables we see in our supermarkets are usually not 'local' and fresh, particularly apples, which have often been kept in cold storage under controlled conditions from the time they are picked until the time they reach the supermarkets shelves. Studies have shown that the apples we buy in supermarkets could be up to 10 months old! Scientists have said that quality and freshness was being affected because they were being kept for longer in order to satisfy consumer demand for year-round products.
Along with this comes the factor of all the fuel that's been used to deliver the product to you which isn't good for our environment.
Sometimes local is bestwhere the fruit & vegetables have been grown within 200km and picked just this week, and they're seasonal! I bought some beautiful tasty tomatoes at my farmer's market yesterday that were picked the afternoon before! Can't get much fresher than that.
We all like to indulge in a little sweet something from time to time.
- I loooove my dark chocolate, and have this most days without guilt. If you are reaching for the chocolate, make sure it's dark, and sugar-free.
- Fruit can usually satisfy a sweet tooth and if you ditch the sugar-laden options you may be choosing now, then I promise you that you'll fall in love with the beautiful sweetness of fruits.
- Why not try my as a treat!
- Sweet Vegetables can often be enough to satisfy too, think Sweet Potato & Butternut Pumpkin.
- If you are looking for a dessert, raw desserts are sooo yummy, and can be good for you too without the sugar headache that usually follows the indulgence. There are loads of raw desserts available on the internet, just choose wisely ensuring the ingredients list isn't full of sugars. My favourite cafon the Gold Coast, , has some to-die-for desserts that will suit everyone's taste.
BREADS, FLOURS, PASTAS & RICE
For some time now carbohydrates have had a bad wrap, for all the wrong reasons. Carbs themselves won't make you fat, but the wrong choice of carbs will! The wrong choice is also known to cause health problems and disease.
- Where Breads, Pastas & Rice are concerned, ditch the white.. every time!
- I prefer to get my carbs from Fruit & Vegetables, and Brown Rice, as I find (as do a lot of people) that breads & pastas make me feel bloated. It is not that breads & pastas are instantly making you fat (although they may over time when eaten in excess), the bloating is more that your body is having a bad reaction to the food. Listen to what your body is trying to tell you. For me, it's about the gluten in breads, flours and pastas. Whilst I'm not Celiac, I do have a reaction to gluten which I have only discovered over time by listening to my body after I eat certain foods. Keeping a food diary can help you achieve this. Be careful if you're looking for 'gluten-free' products, often found in the Health Food section of your supermarket. Turn the package over and read the ingredients listoften there are nasty things looming in there, and it isn't a health food after all.
- If you do choose Breads, Flours and Pastas think density, whole grain and brown. If you are able to screw that piece of white bread up into a tiny little ball, you can be certain it's got a high glycaemic load and will wreak havoc on the function of your body's intelligent system.
Use your snack time to up your intake of fruit, vegetables and protein for long lasting energy. Be creative.
- I love a 2 egg omelette for morning tea, filled with asparagus & mushroom.
- A protein shake is good, just be sure to read the label of the protein powder - if you can't pronounce some of the wordsleave it on the shelf!
- Vegetable sticks with guacamole - just ensure it's home-made by mashing with maybe a sprinkle of Herbamare - none of this pre-packaged guacamole that has a 'best-by' date a few weeks later. That's not a whole food.
- Lean Meats such as Turkey or Fish also make great snacks.
- Fruit is another great choice for a snack, but again be careful with how much fruit you're having on a daily basis due to its high sugar content. 2-3 serves should be your limit. Also, think wholefoods, straight out of mother nature's packaging. Dried up apricots with a powdery residue is NOT how mother nature intended us to eat apricots! Go back to basics. Dried fruit also has a higher sugar content than the just picked fruit. Something to consider.
PARTY FOODS, DINNERS & FOOD DAYS AT WORK
So usually these are celebrations of some sort, filled with lots of bad food choices. It doesn't have to be that way! BUT.. when it is, here's some tips to help you make the best choices for you.
- Try and eat a healthy snack BEFORE you head out the door to meet friends for dinner, or attend a family gathering. If you turn up ravenous, you'll be sure to want to eat everything in sight - bad choices included!
- If it's 'bring-a-plate', take something healthy that you like. That way if your dish is the only healthy thing in sight, at least you'll have something to nibble on.
- Scan the table and think about your choices. Ditch the bread, chips, white potatoes and pasta. Load up on the salads & vegetables, leaving the salad dressing alone. Choose the leanest meats that aren't dripping with fat and oil, and avoid the sauces.
- If sweets are on offer, go for the fruit, or opt for a tea instead. Better still if you have a sweet tooth and know you just can't resist, make your 'bring-a-plate' a raw dessert or fruit platter!
I hope that you're now inspired to make better choices for yourself. We are stuck with our body for life, and it's not just about what we see on the outside it's every living cell on the inside, so lets choose to treat our body with respect, giving it the nutrients it needs to function well. Your body won't let you down if you treat it well.