This week’s column covers the last of the top 10 nutrition questions I get asked. If you missed it, the first week I covered soy products and the controversy around whether they are good or bad for your health. Then I explained whether or not we needed nutritional supplements and organic food. We also explored the health benefits of dairy products and why some people choose to turn to dairy alternatives. Next, we explored eggs and why they’re a great addition to a healthy diet, even if you have high cholesterol.
After that, we looked at plant-based diets and whether eating meat is healthy. Over the past two weeks, we’ve explored how to beat a sugar addiction and the sugar substitutes I recommend. Today we’re going to look at the number one nutritional question I get asked: where do I start to improve my diet?
Don’t be overwhelmed
Many clients I see are overwhelmed – even if they have some basic nutrition information. Often they don’t know where to start to improve their health. Sometimes they have an idea of what they need to do, but they don’t know how to implement it. For example, they know they want to reduce sugar, but have no idea what products contain sugar and what to replace them with to improve blood sugar. So today I want to address some of the suggestions I give that will have a positive impact for most people if implemented consistently.
I prefer to focus on what we want to include, rather than what we want to exclude. This is for two reasons. First, if I tell you not to think of a pink elephant, what do you automatically do? It’s the same if I tell you not to eat sugar and wheat. You’re going to focus on these elements and it’s going to be hard to think of anything else, especially with such ubiquitous ingredients! Second, knowing what you need to do makes it easier to follow through. He gives you a plan. So today we’re going to focus on some things you can add to your diet to dramatically improve your overall health.
large size salad
A very simple step that most people will benefit from is making one meal a day a large salad. A large salad provides plenty of nutrients and fiber and if it follows the guidelines below it has a very low impact on blood sugar.
The optimal salad should focus on vegetables and have a homemade dressing made with olive oil or avocado oil. Why? Commercial salad dressings are made with inflammatory vegetable oils that do nothing for our health. Making a delicious salad dressing at home is very easy and extra virgin olive oil is super nutritious and anti-inflammatory. If the salad contains a mayonnaise dressing, the mayonnaise should be homemade from avocado oil. If the salad contains fruit, the fruit should be limited to half a cup. And the salad should always contain a good amount of protein. Following these simple guidelines results in a perfectly balanced meal.
- 2 cups of greens
- 1 cup savory diced vegetables
- 1 cup protein (sprouts, eggs, meat, seafood, tofu/tempeh, nuts, seeds, cheese)
- Healthy fats (avocado, egg yolks, nuts, seeds, cheese, or just the oil from the salad dressing)
- Oil and vinegar/lemon herb dressing or homemade avocado mayo with vinegar, optional sweetener and herbs
Two of my favorite salads are the Classic Niçoise Salad and this Roasted Beet and Nugget Salad.
Another way to dramatically improve our overall health is to add fermented foods, beverages, and condiments to our daily routine. These can include miso, natto, tempeh, sauces, sauerkraut, kombucha, kimchi, and more, but they must be unpasteurized to be beneficial.
These foods provide our intestines with probiotics, which help us break down food and extract nutrients. A healthy gut biome has been shown to protect against inflammatory disease, mental illness, and digestive disorders. It is also essential for optimal immune, brain and hormonal function. Additionally, the gut biome may be the most important factor in whether we gain or lose weight easily. In mice, the modification of the bacteria in the intestine modifies the body weight without any other factor being modified! Adding these interesting foods can go a long way to changing our own health outcomes!
Wild seafood is rich in protein, nutrients and minerals – from nori to fish to shellfish. We all know the benefits of salmon, but did you know that small fish are known to be lower in mercury and high in omega 3 fatty acids, which are the ones that significantly reduce inflammation in the body? Add seafood at least once or twice a week to get the full benefit, including seaweed. This is a very easy addition to your large salad, like with the tuna in the Salad Niçoise, above.
These are not offal
Although organ meat isn’t as popular as it once was, chefs are beginning to realize the importance of nose-to-tail eating and the nutrient density of organ meats. It’s also cheaper. If the flavor or texture is something you don’t like, finely grinding the organ meat and adding it to other ground meat dishes is an easy way to hide it. Meatloaf, meatballs, burgers, and sliders are all easy ways to add organ meat to dishes without overwhelming a dish or raising the ire of finicky family members. It’s an easy way to get abundant nutrients for physical and mental health.
Quality over quantity
Who doesn’t like a bargain? But is it really a great value if the quality is questionable? This is the case with many food products. More expensive does not always mean better quality, as brand image also plays a role, but by reading product labels you will understand when quality is at stake. Buying oils, sugars, quality meals and meats will go a long way in improving overall health. Sprouted ezekiel bread or natural sourdough bread for someone with a sensitive digestive system – can make a huge difference to overall health. Be super picky and, whenever possible, go for quality first.
Making our candies and treats in-house helps us ensure that the ingredients are as fresh, natural and high quality as possible. Homemade cookies, cakes, chips and popcorn are infinitely healthier than store bought ones. This is due to the quality of the ingredients. Last week, I compiled a list of the least likely sugar substitutes to raise blood sugar. Incorporate them into your treats and replace those that you buy already prepared. Try almond and coconut flour in exchange for wheat products. Replace vegetable oils with natural butter and coconut oil. There’s not much you can’t mimic with these healthier ingredients. This way you can have your cake and guilt free too!
Protein smoothies are another great way to add nutrients to your day. They can serve as a quick and easy meal replacement when you’re busy and on the go – and are very versatile. They can keep you from changing your mood and energy and from snacking or losing control of yourself when you don’t have time for a full meal. You can make fruit or chocolate protein smoothies, depending on your preference. Just look for a naturally flavored sugar-free protein powder! Add to this the milk of your choice and fruit or cocoa and vanilla with ice cream. You can also add superfoods and quality kefir for this fermented food solution! Over time, you’ll notice a drop in your appetite and waistline when you regularly incorporate a low-sugar, high-protein smoothie as a meal replacement.
These are just a few of the easy things you can add to easily improve your diet and your health. I hope this will help you! As always, if you have your own nutrition-related question, email me. If you want to read more articles like this, you can find me here.