1. Eat your colors (more fruits and veggies!)
Think of fruits and veggies as your superheroes. People who eat more fruits and veggies are more likely to keep off weight that they’ve lost, are less likely to develop diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers. People also tend to eat less unhealthy foods, since fruits and veggies have a high content of water and fiber that fill you up. We should try to eat 5 – 9 fruits and vegetables EACH DAY. Shop at farmers markets and on the outer perimeter of the store where the fresh and raw foods are. Buy what is in season, because it’s cheap and more flavorful. Spend some time on Sunday washing and cutting up your favorite vegetables you’ve purchased or grown and save them for snacks and to add to meals during the week. Preserve the cut up veggies in water – they will keep longer. Keep fresh fruit in a bowl on the table or at your desk at work.
2. Stick to 100% whole grains that satisfy you.
Whole grains have the most fiber which is better for digestion and causes a slower release of sugar into your blood. Adults need about 85 grams (3 oz) of whole grains a day which is equivalent to 3 slices of whole grain bread. Many types of bread may be brown but not have a lot of whole grain – so look for ones that say “100% whole grain”. Whole grains will also satisfy you longer. Try bran cereal for breakfast or oats in a smoothie. Keep lunch simple –whole grain bread slices or a handful of crackers with a simple spread like avocado with pepitas or tuna salad, and a fruit and some cut up veggies on the side. Stick to corn tortillas, brown rice and whole wheat pasta – all of the nutrition is in the outer shell of the grain that gets taken off in the process of making white rice or white flour. Cook a big pot of delicious whole grains, like brown rice or oats, at the beginning of the week and try them in different meals instead of bread or tortillas (i.e. stir fry, breakfast porridge, add to soups). Keep uncooked grains in clear jars in your kitchen so you remember to cook them.
3. Cook more and grow your own food
Cooking is a way for us to slow down and enjoy our food. It’s also a way for us to see what goes into our food. Pick out your favorite things you eat at restaurants and look up recipes to make them at home. Cook with your friends and family. It’s a chance to learn from and enjoy food with others. Gardening fruits and vegetables allows us to eat fresh fruits and vegetables that may be too expensive to shop for at the market. It also adds variety to our diet and goes hand-in-hand with learning to be a better cook. Herbs are a simple thing to start with since they add flavor to foods, reducing the need for salt and fat. Try porch gardening or helping with a community or school garden if you don’t have a yard. You can purchase small vegetable seedlings to grow in pots at the Brownsville Farmers Market (add link) or the flea market.
4. Eat at the table, with family and friends – NOT in the car or in front of the TV
In the U.S. about one third of our meals are eaten in the car! Eating meals with others is better for your digestive system. Eating in front of the TV is a bad idea because we are exposed to a myriad of tempting junk food ads. It also distracts us from enjoying the food in front of us, which someone prepared with effort and love. The foods we typically eat in the car and on-the-go are less healthy and more processed. People who eat meals at home are less likely to be overweight and eat more fruits and vegetables (It’s hard to eat a salad in the car).
5. If you need to snack, focus on foods that grow from the ground (keep it simple)
Cut up fruits and vegetables are smart snacks that are vitamin bullets loaded with fiber and antioxidants, which helps prevent cancer. Some examples are avocado, cucumbers, pears, grapes, and cucumbers. Again, pick your favorite kinds, or try a new veggie every week! Nuts and seeds, like pecans or sunflower seeds, are also excellent snacks that provide you with protein and good fats (you need them too). A general rule to follow is: the more packaged a food, the less healthy. They can also beje more expensive than fresh, whole foods. Add up the money you would spend normally on packaged foods and spend that money at the farmers market on delicious local produce that you can snack on during the week.
6. Love your body; give it foods that nourish
Listen to your body, it can tell you a lot. If you’ve had too much to eat, if you’ve had too much sugar, if you’re dehydrated, etc. Make sure whatever you put in it counts. It is like an engine and the better fuel you give it the longer it will last you. If you give it too much it will slow you down and not run properly. A good rule to go by is to stop eating when you are 80% full, or a little bit hungry.
7. Refresh yourself with water or sparkling water.
Our bodies are mostly made of water and it is always evaporating, so we need to be always replacing it. Water helps us to have better digestion and keeps us feeling satisfied. Women should be drinking about 72 oz (9 cups) of water a day, and men 104 oz (13 cups); babies should be drinking about 32 oz (4 cups), children around 40 oz (5 cups), and adolescents and teenagers from 56 to 88 ounces (7-11 cups). (CLICK HERE FOR PICTURE) Have you ever seen the amount of sugar that goes into sodas? It is A LOT. It will make you thirstier and bring down your energy level after an initial rush. Try other drinks like Topo Chico w/lemon or sparkling water with 100% fruit juice; these are special and different from water, yet they don’t have the added sugar.
8. When you shop, buy things that are five ingredients or less
Shop mostly around the outer parameters of the store where the fruits and veggies are. If you have to buy packaged, READ the label. Try to focus on those things that have less than five ingredients because they will be healthier. Don’t buy anything with ingredients you don’t recognize.
9. Treat “treats” as treats!
Don’t deprive yourself entirely of treats; you will crave them more if you do. It’s okay once in a while to treat yourself, but let it be a special occasion and only do it with other people. Be moderate - only have enough to satisfy you (i.e. a few pieces of high-quality chocolate a few times a week). For fun, get a recipe for your favorite “junk food” treat and try cooking it at home. Then modify it to be healthier but still taste good (i.e. replace butter with oil, sugar with honey, and cream with yogurt or milk).
10. Half your beef and salt intake
If you eat beef 4 times a week, try changing it to two and focus on leaner sources of protein (like black beans, soy, fish, nuts, turkey or chicken) for the other meals. Fish is an excellent lean protein and a great source of the essential nutrient Omega-3, which aids in brain and eye development. Beans and nuts are healthy proteins that are delicious (and more nutritious) when paired with whole grains. There are several types of beans that are nutritionally superior and delicious, but not used very often (i.e. lentils, kidney beans, pigeon peas, etc.). Make it a fun part of your culture and invite others to join (i.e. Fish Fridays/Frijoles Fridays, Soy Saturdays, Walnut Wednesdays, etc.). Reduce your salt intake by half. Salt causes us to retain water and is bad for people with high blood pressure. Replace this with twice the amount of herbs and spices, to enhance flavor.
11. After you eat, take a short walk
Going for a walk with your friends or family after a meal will help you digest your food and will bring you more energy for the remainder of your day. When you’re at work, invite a co-worker to walk with you after lunch. Physical activity and nutritious eating are an inseparable team in achieving health, and as you start to exercise more you will crave more fresh foods that help your body work more efficiently.