We’ve been told this many times by our friends and family, our co-workers, and the health and fitness professionals we see in the media.
It gets to a point where we hear so many different things that lines get blurred and we are left wondering what is and what is not “healthy.” One person may say soy is good for you while another person says eating soy is foolish and drops testosterone, among other mal-effects.
Why so many contradicitions?
It’s because to be HEALTHY consists of many different things which are subjective in nature, especially the food we eat. As a result, many different interpretations are made that provide us with different versions of health. Through all of the noise, I think it’s important to break it down and narrow in on a few basics principles that make healthy eating healthy.
Let’s go over them.
What is healthy eating?
HEALTHY EATING, in my opinion, is consuming clean and wholesome food (i.e. minimal to no processing, refining, chemicals, and adulteration…think organic) that gives you a combination of macronutrients (protein, fats, and carbs) and micronutrients (vitamins, minerals, probiotics, fiber, etc.) for optimal life function.
Essentially, QUALITY FRESH FOOD that helps us feel better, work better, and live better for everything that we have to do.
The picture below also does a good job summarizing…
To illustrate, think about the foods at a grocery store.
The foods that you see on the perimeter, like vegetables, fruits, meats, and nuts and seeds (exclude the ice cream section, haha) are the foods that we need to be consuming more of. Of course, everyone will have different preferences and ratios of vegetables, or whether or not they eat meat, but, overall, sticking to edge of the grocery store is where the most nutritious and whole food is at. Everything in the middle of the store is likely excessively processed and filled with excess sugar, artificial flavors, preservatives, colors…the list goes on…that aim to accentuate taste and not necessarily provide valuable nutrition (quality macro and micro nutrients). This decreases the nutritional value of the food, and the less nutritious something is the less health benefit it has.
For instance, if you compared Oreo’s to apples, apples are by far more nutritious (remember more nutrition = more health improving effects). Apples provide you vitamins, like vitamin C, and also provide you with pectin, which is a fiber important for digestive health and important at moderating insulin response when consumed. Oreo’s, on the other hand, are primarily a food for pleasure because they taste so good. The sweet cream and chocolate crisps go together almost perfectly making you want to eat more and more. Oreo’s lack vitamins, fiber, and are overloaded with sugar, causing the likelihood of overeating to be high. This can lead to weight-gain, and over time, play a small role in promoting chronic disease, like obesity and Type II diabetes.
Are you following me?
I hope you are because from a simple comparison like this do people develop their own version, or standard, of what is considered healthy.
One person may say, one or two Oreo’s won’t kill me, while another may say they should be avoided like the plague. Point is, where does pleasure food — a.k.a junk food — play a role in our diet?
According to my definition, it doesn’t play a role in our diet because there is no nutritional (health) value to it. The risks outweigh the rewards. That, however, doesn’t mean I would not like to have one. Of course, I would! Who wouldn’t? BUT, what’s important is that we must define boundaries and guidelines to what makes food HEALTHY, so we consume more of that and less of the pleasure stuff.
Once we know what healthy food is we can start eating more healthy.
FOLLOW THESE GUIDELINES FOR HEALTHY FOOD:
- Does it offer nutritional value?
- Look whether or not the food contains micronutrients, like vitamins, minerals, fiber and is a source of quality and complete proteins, fats, and carbs.
- Is it minimally processed?
- This means the food is fresh and in it’s most basic form. Think produce and meat, like spinach or ground turkey. It’s one thing.
- Make sure if you buy it packaged it doesn’t have a 30 ingredient list and words you cannot pronounce. 5 ingredients or less is a good rule of thumb.
- Does it come from a quality source?
- Simply put, think organic. Meaning it has less contamination, like pesticides, hormones, chemicals, etc., that likely have harmful health effects, especially over time.
- What’s the taste like?
- From the above criteria, healthy food will often taste better than their counterparts. It should taste good.
Why is it difficult to eat healthy?
We’ve established what healthy food is, but why don’t more of us eat more of those food?
There are several reasons, I think, which include:
- Eating healthy is too expensive
- Healthy doesn’t taste good
- I just can’t give up my treats for “healthy”
- I just don’t care
All these reasons are valid to a point, and are definitely areas of concern.
To address the first reason (excuse), “healthy food being too expensive,” let’s take a look.
Many people say that healthy food in general is too expensive and it just can’t work for their budget. Often times quality food is indeed more expensive, but if you employ some of these tips here, for instance, you might have a better chance staying within budget.
In addition, the way you spend your money is largely indicative of what you think is important. If your health is truly a priority then you will find a way to prioritize what you spend your money on and invest in your greatest resource: your body. This means you buy better (healthier) food and less junk.
Think about it like this…
If you fuel your body with more nutritious food you’ll have a better chance of optimizing your health to do everything better. You’ll work harder and better (in the gym and at the your job), recover faster, have increased mental acuity, and likely be less distressed with chronic ailments that the average American suffers from (i.e. frequent colds, headaches, chronic fatigue, insomnia, being overweight etc.).
I’m sure all of you have heard people say, “I need to eat healthy,” but when will they?
Unfortunately, the answer most of the time is that they will only make a change when they reach a crisis scenario. For instance, once a person discovers they’re pre-diabetic or they can’t participate in something because their health they start to listen. I, for one, experienced this myself. I was over 260 pounds before I was 16 years old, and on the verge of being completely obese. Only when I reached this crisis situation is when my eyes were opened and I realized change was absolutely necessary to improve my life. So, I started eating healthier foods and less junk, and I made it clear to myself that I would never be that way again.
I know I’m making my situation a little dramatic, but that doesn’t give you an excuse to keep eating poorly. You may not be that out of shape or overweight right now, but poor eating habits will eventually catch up to you one way or another. Don’t wait until you reach a crisis like I did to make a change for the better because it’s not necessary.
This makes the type of food we eat extremely significant and worth caring about. Thus, it is our responsibility to do our part to make the best informed decisions of what we put into our bodies with the food we eat (like using the guidelines given).
Let’s be smart!
If you have a poor diet at present don’t fret! Big changes are the result of many small ones and that is exactly what needs to happen to you if you have a diet high in fast food, prepackaged meals, and junk food.
The first step on your path to eating healthy is to be committed to it. A commitment to healthy eating will definitely take a lot of effort and discipline, but don’t be intimidated. You will fail, and fail often, but never lose faith in yourself that you can do it no matter the circumstances. Remember that you are in control of what you eat and you have the power to say “no” to any food that is not resourceful (of nutritional value) to you. Believe in yourself!
Now that I’ve given my pep talk (haha), let’s get a game plan going!
A good place to start is by making a few SMART (specific-measurable-attainable-realistic-timely) goals to help you in your first steps on your path to eating healthy. For example, if you drink a lot of soda, replace one can of soda with a glass of water everyday. Do this for a week and then replace another soda with a glass of water a week after. Continue this until you don’t drink soda anymore, or if you do, only drink it on special occasions.
Drink lots and lots of water and remember that vegetables are your friend, not your enemy! When you go shopping, stick to the outer perimeter of store where all the fresh produce, meats, dairy, and all the good, healthier food you want to eat is located. All the the junk is centered in the aisles, so only venture in there if you dare (that was a joke, but you get my point!). Remember, if you don’t buy junk food to put in your house it won’t be an option for you when you’re hungry, so don’t buy it!
Please understand that I’m not expecting you to eliminate all the comfort food that you like. If you want a cheat meal have a cheat meal. Just don’t binge and eat the whole kitchen cabinet. Follow the 80/20 rule if possible, or any variation of that (85/15, 90/10, but at least 80/20).
This means 80% of your total caloric intake is as healthy as can be and the rest is your treat to yourself if you wish. Overtime, however, you may find that eating healthy makes you happy and forces you to be creative with how you prepare and cook your meals. This has happened to me and I find it fun to experiment and make so called “healthy” comfort food, such as paleo hamburgers. Food should be your friend and not your enemy and eating healthy has caused me to learn that lesson. Hopefully it can do the same for you.
Thanks for stopping by and please comment down below by sharing your thoughts. See ya next time!
Check out these links on eating healthy!