By Elizabeth Blessing, co-owner of Green BEAN Delivery and certified nutritionist
With the recent news of the obesity rates in the Midwest, we are more aware than ever of our need for lifestyle changes. While certain physical conditions call for extreme measures, most of us will find that we get the best results by eating whole foods that are minimally processed.
If you can look at your food and know what it is and where it came from, you are making good choices. It is really as simple as that. So, whether you are ready to make a lifestyle overhaul or find a few little changes that add up, consider looking at the routine habits that create your cooking style.
Focus on fat. More than 30 percent of your daily caloric intake should come from healthy fats. Good quality monounsaturated and saturated fats are your best sources when it comes to cooking. Monounsaturated fats are olive oil, avocados, avocado oil and peanut oil. Saturated fats are coconut oil, grass-fed butter and pasture raised animal fats. Other healthy fats include raw organic nuts and seeds along with nut and seed butters. Buy nuts and seeds in the raw form and toast them at home adding your favorite spices. Strictly avoid trans-fat. Be a label reader and look for hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils. If these are ingredients, then it means there is trans-fat. Main food sources are margarine and shortening and products made with these ingredients.
Set a goal to have at least one serving of omega-3s daily. Sources of omega-3s are fatty fish, such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines, walnuts, flaxseeds (ground) and some green vegetables, like kale and spinach.
Consume as many fruits and vegetables as possible on a daily basis. When choosing what to make for dinner, focus on variety, deep rich color and seasonal produce. Make your plate as colorful as you can. Buy local, sustainable or organic produce that is clean of pesticide residues.
Portion control can make a positive difference in a healthy lifestyle. To make the transition to reduced meal sizes, use smaller plates to control portion size. Putting smaller portions of food on a bigger plate makes you feel like you are eating less, as the plates are not filled up. However, putting that same amount of food on a smaller plate fills up the plate to look like a healthy, filling meal. When adding food to your plate, half of your plate should be covered with fruits and vegetables, and the other half should be divided between protein and complex carbohydrates.
It is also important to incorporate a variety of whole grains into your diet. Try ancient grains, such as quinoa and amaranth. Minimize consumption of highly refined carbohydrates, like white flour products, sugar and sweets. They promote fat storage, perpetuate appetite, promote cardiovascular disease, increase risk of type II diabetes and promote certain cancers.
As for the sweet stuff, there are great alternatives to ice cream and cookies out there. Try grilled nectarines with honey or a fruit parfait. If you must have that favorite dessert, just use moderation. Also, replace sugary beverages with filtered water.
Lastly, enjoy the outdoors and some exercise for just 30 minutes five days a week. Incorporate these small changes into your daily routine and you’ll feel and see the difference. Share these healthy lifestyle ideas with friends and family, and implement these changes together.