10 General Guidelines – Maximizing Your Dietary Lifestyle
Overall health is of particular concern to me. Since becoming a Chef dietary health has been an even bigger force in my life. I share with my friends, family, and clients, the following tips. They are developed from my reading, field research, and experience. I hope that they are useful to you in achieving and sustaining your goals.
1. Battle of the Mind. Don’t go on a “Diet”. If you need to make necessary changes to your consumption for the purpose of losing weight, by all means I support it. But I don’t support calling it a “Diet”! It is a dirty, four-letter word. The moment one says they are on a diet the challenge to maintain it intensifies. A diet is simply defined as the foods eaten by a person or group. Diet is about the consumption of food and its effects on one’s health. We all have a diet. We are all on a diet. Some of us have good diets and some bad. When one decides to pursue a particular diet plan, I think it should be thought of as a dietary lifestyle change. The change may include a particular set of restrictions in one’s diet. In my opinion, most of what we refer to as “Diets” are often unhealthy in the long run. Depriving our body of necessary nutrients for short term gain is a slippery slope. I often think, “what does it profit a person to lose 5lbs only to gain 10?” – which happens frequently. Losing weight and achieving health through one’s diet should be about a change for the better; not numbers, scales, or measuring tapes. There are no short-cuts. Call it what you want. Anything except a “Diet”. You will thank yourself later.
2. Elimination vs. Replacement. It can be difficult to eliminate food items “cold turkey”. Your body may go through withdrawals when things are omitted outright. The result is feeling bad (I usually experience headaches, lethargy, and mood changes). You increase the likelihood of uncontrollable cravings and loss of self control when you omit food items that you regularly consume. Instead offer your body an alternative and/or decrease your intake until your body is no longer dependent.
a). If you need caffeine, replace your coffee with tea. Most tea has more caffeine than coffee. Not to mention honey in your tea is healthier than cream and sugar in your coffee.
b). Replace candy with dried fruits and trail mix containing dark chocolate. Dark chocolate has health benefits and the natural sugars in fruit are better for you than processed sugars.
c). Replace chips with nuts, rice cakes, or “vegetable chips”. It’s really about snacking, not about the chips. Be sure to manage the sodium intake, whichever one you choose.
d). Soda – it’s challenging to “replace” soda (for me at least). I found it easier for me to taper my intake until my body is no longer dependent upon it. I also increase my water intake during this process to help with the headaches. You can drink flavored carbonated waters, so long as you monitor the sugar intake.
e). Replace starches – use whole wheat grains for pasta dishes. Substitute brown rice for white rice. Use red or yukon gold potatoes. Given their texture and versatility they lend better to preparations like grilling and roasting. No need for butter, cream, and cheese.
3. H2O. Drink water. There are thousands of reasons to drink water. But it is a key component in a healthy lifestyle. It flushes out the toxins and makes everything run better. Drink at least 8 ounces of water before each meal. It will help to consume less and aid with digestive system health.
4. Be creative. No one expects you to eat brown rice and baked chicken breast every day. That’s not a requirement for healthy eating. There are small changes that can make all the difference in the world. For example, try adding herbs and spices to your foods to enhance their flavor. In the alternative, find the things that you enjoy in lower calorie versions or make them at home and modify the ingredients to fit your dietary goals.
5. Salt! Salt is not your friend. More like a frenemy, really. We hate to love it. It is true – we need some salt. But too much salt is linked to a number of food-related illnesses. Talk about a thin line between love and hate. I recommend replacing your iodized salt with kosher salt. Eliminate seasonings like “lemon salt” and “garlic salt”. Instead use lemon and garlic then season with kosher salt as needed. Food should taste like food, not salt. Kosher salt will enhance the food without as much actual sodium intake. Salt can be substituted all together with naturally salty/briny foods like lemon, fermented vegetables, vinegar, olives, capers, etc.
6. Eat up! Eat throughout the day. Skipping meals is a killer! …for the functioning of the body and when trying to reduce weight and sustain energy levels. The way to speed up your metabolism is to eat snacks/small meals with steady frequency. Consume fruits, nuts, vegetable sticks, yogurt, etc. between meals. By the time you eat your meals your body will not require large quantities of food.
7. “Go Green”. Try drinking one meal a day. (No, you don’t need a juicer) All you need is a decent blender. Add low fat milk, milk substitutes (soy, almond, coconut), or water to your favorite combinations of raw fruits and vegetables. The combinations are endless. This can help in many ways. It aids with digestion, adds vitamins/minerals, and boosts your immune system. It truly is the best way to get in that daily intake if you are not a fan of fruits or vegetables. Use the fruit, not sugar, as a sweetener. I also use honey from time to time – particularly when I am blending bitter greens. I usually drink my breakfast because I am always on the go and the mornings are not my friend!
8. Eat quality foods. Healthy food is not necessarily expensive or difficult to find anymore. Whole grains, fresh vegetables and fruits are made available in greater supply – particularly in large cities. Eating processed/frozen/canned foods does not best support a healthy lifestyle. Fresh food is not only better for you, it just tastes better! Over time, your body will develop a preference for fresh and natural food. Say goodbye to fast food! Plan meals ahead to avoid the dilemma of having to eat out at the last minute.
9. Partnership. First thing, don’t beat yourself up if you had a whole egg instead of the egg whites. It’s okay if you had a bagel with cream cheese instead of a fruit cup this morning. Healthy eating is a gradual process. Cheating is okay in moderation. The key is to balance the overall dietary intake. More importantly, healthy eating alone is not enough. It takes exercise/activity and proper rest to win. The chemical compounds in your food respond to everything else you do to your body. Things like smoking, drinking, and other poor lifestyle choices will not help the overall healthy lifestyle goal. Healthy lifestyles aren’t just about one thing. It’s a harmonious partnership. Work on these things together and don’t accept defeat!
10. Have fun. There are so many online resources, mobile apps, and tools to help you make better food choices. Food should make you feel good both physically and mentally. It should excite all the senses. (That’s what makes it especially exciting for me).
Dietary changes are gradual. Consult with your Physician and take the time to explore. You can discover food in new ways with an open mind and steady pursuit.
Health be unto you. Happy eating!