Become Proactive About Your Health.
Simple Ideas To Help You Transition From The Typical American Diet To One Filled With Good Nutrition
By Dr. Rita Louise
America is considered the land of the plenty. This is especially true when it comes to food. There is no need in this country to stand in line for a loaf of bread. Daily, we eat more than a small bowl of rice and glass of milk. In fact, I remember many a day as a child, if I did not want to eat my dinner, I was reminded of the starving children in Africa. The thought of being without food is beyond the grasp of many Americans.
According to Jeffrey Bland, Ph.D., the author of the book Genetic Nutritioneering, the leading nutritional problem in the US today is that many of us eat too many “empty calorie foods”. It is not that we do not eat enough food, but instead, we do not eat enough of the right kinds of foods. Many of the foods we eat do not provide us with good nutrition. So even though we may eat hardily, the chemical elements we need to maintain health are not being supplied by the foods we eat. This thought has led some health experts to conclude that nutritional deficiencies are a major contributor to many of the chronic diseases that are seen in countries that eat a Western Diet.
We all need to consume specific nutrients in order to survive. Our physical body is made up of a series of organs, glands, tissues and cells. They work together in an intricate set of biochemical processes. We eat proteins, carbohydrates and fats because these food substances contain vitamins, minerals, amino acids and phytonutrients. These component parts act as the building blocks, cofactors and facilitators of these processes.
At the turn of the century, our relationship with food changed dramatically. Fast or convenience foods have become a staple for many. As natural and whole food substances are transformed from raw food products into canned, boxed, precooked or instant foods, many of the vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients are lost. In addition, the use of food additives, preservatives, fillers, artificial flavorings and color have transformed something that once provided you with good nutrition, into boxes or bags of chemicals that have been sweetened or otherwise enhanced to make them palatable. It is not unheard of to buy items to eat that have little to no actual food in them. They are made up of hydrogenated vegetable oils, fillers, artificial colors, flavors, and loads of chemical preservatives to keep them from spoiling. As for nutritional value, they have none, or very little.
Nutrition & The Supermarket
Today, when you walk down the aisles of the supermarket, many of the choices available are not “whole” foods nor natural. They are not filled with the vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients we need to thrive. Instead, they are preprocessed, presweetened and laden with artificial flavors, colors and preservatives. They have very little, if any nutritional value left within them. Take a moment to inventory your eating habits. How many of these foods do you eat? Kraft macaroni and cheese, Betty Crocker potatoes a gratin, hamburger helper, Spam, Vienna sausages, Franco-American Spaghetti-O’s, Cheese Wiz? All of these food choices are chemical laden. This is only a small list of products available to American consumers that we happily and whole-heartedly consume.
The truth is, our bodies were not designed to handle these non-food. There are no keys in our genetic make-up designed to utilize these products.
While nutritionists contend that soft drinks, white flour and other calorie-rich, nutrient-poor foods can fit into a good diet, in theory, they are correct. However, they regrettably ignore the fact that most Americans consume great quantities of nutrient poor foods and only meager quantities of healthful foods that provide the body with good nutrition.
Healthy Food Ideas
Today, many Americans are becoming proactive about their health. A great place to start any kind of health program is to adopt a healthful diet. I feel, nevertheless, that many are uncertain of what they can do to promote health and vitality, or feel that eating healthy is an “all or nothing” proposition. They are lost in all of the health food ideas and are confuses about making health food choices.
Many health enthusiasts have led people to believe that in order to be healthy; the only route is to eat organic foods or to become a vegetarian. In the big picture of things, yes, they are right in their assertion. For many, however, making the transition from the typical American diet to one that is filled with expensive healthy foods may seem like an insurmountable task. Many quit before they even try. There are also those who want get good nutrition from the foods they eat but just cannot financially afford to live this lifestyle.
Create A Healthful Food Plan
When creating a healthful food plan for yourself or your family, here are a few guidelines you can use to help you as you transition to a healthful diet, one filled with good nutrition. First, while not discussed earlier, we all need to drink at least 8 – 8oz glasses of water daily. Water, not soda, coffee or other beverage is necessary component in maintaining health. Other than its role in the many biochemical processes our bodies perform, another of its functions is to help to remove toxins from the body.
When selecting foods, we should eat from a variety of whole, unprocessed foods…the more variety, the greater the pallet of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients we will be ingesting. Try to ensure that you eat at least one leafy green salad and a piece of fresh fruit daily. While this is still below the recommended standards, it is a great place to start. Reduce or eliminate preprocessed, prepackaged, chemical laden food. Get rid of foods that are high in refined sugars, including white bread and white rice.
When preparing meals, I always ask myself, is any of the food I am serving fresh? Fresh fruits and vegetables have enzymes in them that are essential to good health. Fresh fruits and vegetables are the best, followed by frozen ones, with canned foods following poorly behind. Food processing of any kind destroys vitamins and phytonutrients. Frozen foods while still having some nutritional value, are nutritionally inferior to fresh. Canned foods have little to no nutritional value left. Limit canned food purchases to items such as tuna, tomatoes and beans.
Healthy Nutritious Foods On The Go
Many of us do not always have time to cook hardy nutritious meals. When time is short, I look to my crock-pot to do the cooking for me. If that is out of the question, it is a time in which you will have to choose “the lesser evil”. For example, you are running late and do not have time to cook dinner, instead of opting for fried chicken or a greasy burger, select roasted chicken or opt for a hearty salad instead.
When looking for something quick and healthy to make at home, prepare sandwiches served on whole-wheat bread or in a whole-wheat pita with lettuce and tomato. Try serving it with a few slices of fruit. If something pre-made seems to be the way to go, select foods that feel good. At least seem like the best choice for your health and well-being.
Following the same vein, we are not perfect and sometimes a Quarter Pounder with cheese will just hit the spot. Whether you eat this meal at home or out, the point is, be aware that you are eating devitalized foods and try to limit it to an occasionally kind of thing. Now granted, while eating healthy may be your plan, give yourself permission to have bad days too. At times, we all end up eating on the run. So do not get discouraged. I like to think of it this way, each time you eat a healthful meal; you are investing in your health that day. Thinking of it this way affirms the changes that you are making.
Dealing With Nutritious Snacks
When looking for a quick pick me up, many of us turn to snack foods such as cookies, candy or chips. Selecting healthy snack foods can be a problem all by themselves. You can eat many healthful alternatives. Go-Gurts – these handy yogurt snacks are always a pleaser. String cheese never lasts long at our house. Baby carrots and ranch dressing is another favorite. Remember the little gold fish? They are baked, not fried. Nuts are also high in protein and other nutrients our bodies needs.
While many snacks do not fall into the same category as fresh fruit, many food items can be bought or prepared that you can feel good about eating. Weeding through all of the junk to find a healthy food choice can be time consuming but is well worth the effort.
Taking the first steps toward a healthy lifestyle is always the hardest. At first, you may feel a bit intimidated by these changes. You may feel as if you are not playing in the same league as a vegetarian who is eating only organically grown produce. These simple guidelines, however, will assist you as you learn more about good nutrition and how to feed your body the nutrients it needs to survive. As time goes on you will find that it will become easier and easier to incorporate healthful food choices into your life.
By Dr. Rita Louise
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