Vitals: Everything Wrong With Your Diet Starts Here
Amidst the practicals, somewhere between the internship but definitely before you go out into the workforce, you wonder when exactly you’ll find time to improve your nutrition.
After all, you’re the one who told your parents they need to eat breakfast every day. It was you who convinced your sister to buy less processed foods. You’ve taken enough classes on preventative health to know, intake counts, but… and there’s always a but, when?
The problem with most dietary advice is they always asks us to make changes. For most people, change is that nice idea that we’re getting to, but never actualising until it hurts not to change.
We’ll clean the dishes when the sink is full, we’ll lose weight when the doctor says we’re in danger, and we’ll stop eating huge bowls of ice cream every night when we contract type II diabetes. We hate to think that’s the way it is, but that’s the reality of human nature.
Some of us, however, can gear up for change without the writing on the wall. Since you’re still reading, let’s assume that’s you. You don’t tolerate dishes in the sink. What can you do right now to improve your intake? One thing stands out above all the rest.
The biggest mistake people make with nutrition is to overhaul their whole grocery cart. With determination, anyone can wake up one day to start eating all the “right things,” whatever that means.
In the long run, nobody will stick to a diet that completely overhauls their existing food choices. Beyond the fact that those choices are the things you prefer, they are the things you buy on autopilot.
The first place diet overhauls fail is the grocery store. The grocery store trip is beyond grueling when you try to change everything. It’s like you’ve never been to the market before. Don’t do this.
Instead, take a look at your intake. Consider the worst offenders. You don’t need a nutritionist to tell you what you should consider changing.You know what it is. Pick the top three at most, but start with at least one.
Understand this: you will not be able to cut something out by focusing on what you cannot have. If eating tubs of ice-cream after a long day of classes is your biggest sin, you’ll spend all of your time craving your favorite scoops unless you can redirect those thoughts.
The trick is to find something to replace your favorite ice-cream. Your options are as wide as the imagination. You could find a low-calorie replacement but beware processed foods.
In the long run, your body will thank you more for whole food sources. What about cutting up fruit, freezing it in little bags or containers to eat later? Most fruit has just the right consistency to make the perfect frozen treats.
Whatever your sinful delight, focus more on the new thing you can have instead of the thing you cannot have. This is a good time to explore new things, like a type of fruit you’ve never tried, or some such better choice than ice cream.
*As a side note: there is nothing specifically “bad” about ice cream. Ice cream has some lovely attributes, like protein. We’re just using it as an example since most of us struggle to enjoy moderate portions. Let’s not get mired in defining "moderate."
Try to think of your dietary choices as course corrections, like steering a speedboat or flying a plane. Even if you've never done either of these, you can image that cranking the wheel or stick in any direction could be disastrous. Course correction in these cases comes down to the smallest moves to affect the biggest change.
While you're considering your most offensive food choices, consider these five additional course corrections in your planning. If you only get to the first one for the first month, then so be it. Tackle these the following month or over the next six months. The more time you take making changes, the more likely they’ll stick. Also, this way you are not cranking on the wheel of your life.
Build meals around your proteins
When building meals, pick your protein first, then build around it. This advice does not include vegans, it’s especially for vegans, but everybody should do this.
Proteins, whether plant or animal, are critical for your body to maintain your lean mass; the parts of you which are not fat tissue. Muscles, especially need protein but proteins in your diet cover many fringe benefits, from satiety to the thermogenic effect of food.
Backfill with veggies
After you pick your protein, select your veggies. If you are sticking to mostly your green and leafy veggies, cooked or uncooked (best option), you can eat as much as you like.
Veggies of this sort, the roughage category, are mostly fiber and water. The contain zero fat unless you bathe them in oil, but they do feed you vitamins and minerals your body needs.
Keep the fat
Fat is not your enemy. Unless you’re eating tofu or super-lean cuts of meat, you won’t likely need to add much fat to your meals. If you’re eating the aforementioned, the easy way is by cooking in butter, olive spread, or try a healthy oil like olive, coconut, avocado or macadamia.
There are many healthy fats to choose from, not all saturated fat is bad, and our bodies need our essential fatty acids like Omega 3 and Omega 6. It is the trans fats you should avoid, including vegetable oils and lard. If you skip on the fat entirely you could be left feeling unsatisfied after meals, craving sugars. Then you may binge.
The highest percentage of fats in your food should not exceed 30%, but don’t get too caught up in that either. Usually, a pat of butter or a tablespoon of oil in each serving is enough. If you’re dumping a whole stick of butter in your pasta, you’d better be cooking ten servings.
Keep the sugar
While it’s no news that refined sugar (sucrose) isn’t the best choice for a healthy intake, there are sources of sugar in many places. We're drawn to sugar as it’s in fruit (fructose), so rather than cookies eat fruit. As mentioned, fruit makes a great tool for weaning off other choices. If you’ve never enjoyed frozen banana bits, you’re really missing out.
In your meals, you can include sugar by eating sweet potatoes, or any fruits. You can also try using coconut sugar as a sugar substitute and rice malt extract as a honey/syrup extract. These are all natural unlike some of the chemically manufactured sugar substitutes, the safety of which has been the debate of many health experts. Plus they are low G.I carbohydrates, so unlike cane sugar you don't get a sharp spike in your insulin levels followed by a crash, you get a sustained release of dense energy.
Kill Your Cravings
Your evening cravings are likely related to your sleep cycle. When your body dips low in dopamine, you will feel the urge to eat, often not the healthiest choices. There are two solutions for this: feed the beast or go to bed.
If you cannot go to bed, try eating some protein, like an egg or two with a glass of water. If that doesn’t work, you can try some dark chocolate and peanut butter. That’ll kill the cravings for now, but in the long run, you should consider adjusting your sleep situation as the best solution. The extra calories will catch up to you otherwise.
Whatever you do, don’t stress over your diet. Rest assured, even if you’re not a self-made nutritionist, you probably have a good idea of your worst offenses. You don’t need to change everything. In fact, don’t ever. Between the classes and the exams, you simply need a little course correction.
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Now for the disclaimer… Albeit you may agree this is good advice, this blog was written for entertainment purposes. It is no way intended to be clinical advice, nor is it intended to conflict with the advice of your physician. We seriously recommend that before you start any exercise program, you consult your physician