A Healthier Diet, A Healthier You

Better nutrition is the first step toward improving your overall health, and it begins with eating fresh, whole foods—foods in their natural state that have not been commercially processed. This may sound simple, but making healthy choices has become increasingly more difficult in today’s fast-food world. Start by adding more high-fiber fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds to your diet, and always pay attention to how your food is prepared.

Plan Ahead

Meal planning and time management are key components of adopting healthier eating habits. It helps to first review your lifestyle and determine how you can integrate more healthy foods into your daily meals. Try to plan meals for one week prior to visiting the market, and when possible, plan lunches for you and your family ahead of time. Ideally, meal planning for the coming week should be done on the weekend or on a day off. Selections should be written down for better organization and planning, and grocery shopping should be a part of your weekly routine.

Get into the habit of washing fruits and vegetables thoroughly before storing them to save time during the week, and if your weekly meal plan includes dining out, select only those restaurants that offer healthy options. Discarding unhealthy foods from your refrigerator and pantry is also an important step toward following a healthier diet. Eliminate sugary foods and beverages, as well as heavily processed snacks and pre-packaged meals.

Go Organic

Choose fresh, whole foods as often as possible, as they have not undergone any harsh procedures meant to extend their shelf life or alter their flavor or appearance. Such food processing techniques involve the application of heat, which destroys beneficial digestive enzymes, as well as much-needed vitamins and minerals.

Organically grown fruits and vegetables are recommended when making the transition from processed foods to whole foods. Such foods have not been treated with harmful pesticides or herbicides which may lead to poor health if allowed to accumulate in the body. Be sure to wash organic produce in either hydrogen peroxide or a special vegetable wash solution to avoid parasites. Organic meat and dairy products are also recommended, since many farm animals today are treated with antibiotics and hormones to accelerate the growth process.

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When choosing packaged grains, it is best to select those that are not refined. Choose brown rice over white rice, and try adding some less familiar but highly nourishing whole grains such as millet, buckwheat, teff, quinoa, amaranth, spelt, bulgur wheat and barley. Many of these are available in bulk form at your local supermarket or natural food stores. Opt for organic grains whenever possible.

Read Labels

Finally, be sure to read labels and avoid foods that contain artificial sweeteners, chemical preservatives, and unhealthy fats such as partially hydrogenated vegetable oil. This manmade oil, found in commercial peanut butter, margarine and most baked goods, has been associated with numerous health problems. A good thing to keep in mind when reviewing your food labels is that if you can’t pronounce it, you probably don’t need it. In other words, the simpler the better—and better for you.

Easy Does It

When it comes to making better choices about what you eat and drink, there’s no time like the present, but that doesn’t mean you have to completely alter your way of life starting today. Begin gradually by replacing one or two unhealthy habits each week with smarter, healthier choices, and pretty soon you’ll notice the difference in the way you look and feel.

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