People around the world see the new year as the perfect time for a new set of resolutions for change. For some, that could mean a new gym membership or treadmill for the spare bedroom. For others, more time and energy could be the goals, or maybe even focus or clarity to make changes or tackle a long neglected project or dream.
Bottom line, whether you want to lose weight or have more energy or focus, streamlining your foods is a crucial first step. True health, and the changes you need to make to attain it, can be found in your kitchen and the foods you buy to stock it.
The first step, or tip for this week, is to take the process out of your diet…and by process, I mean, processed foods.
Processed food is made from real food that has been put through devitalizing chemical processes and is infused with chemicals and preservatives. According to Reader’s Digest, ninety percent of Americans' household food budget is spent on processed foods, the majority of which are filled with additives and stripped of nutrients. As a matter of fact, most processed foods are laden with sweeteners, salts, artificial flavors, factory-created fats, colorings, chemicals that alter texture, and preservatives. But the trouble is not just what's been added, but what's been taken away. Processed foods are often stripped of nutrients designed by nature, such as soluble fiber, antioxidants, and "good" fats. Combine that with additives, and you have a recipe for disaster.
Tara Gidus RD, a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association was recently quoted on WEB MD as saying, “We live in a society that eats so much processed and manufactured food, that I think there's some genuine confusion about what qualifies as a whole food. When you eat whole foods, you're getting the food in its natural state. You're getting it intact, with all of the vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that are in the food."
Whole foods are foods that are unprocessed and unrefined, or processed and refined as little as possible before being consumed. Whole foods typically do not contain added ingredients, such as sugar, salt, or fat. Examples of whole foods include unpolished grains; fruits and vegetables; unprocessed meat, poultry, and fish; and non-homogenized milk.
In my experience, whole food is what my grandmother cooked. In a typical shopping trip, I buy staples - cheese, yogurt, potatoes, rice, fruits and vegetables, my meats thankfully come from a local farmer, as do many of my seasonal fruits and vegetables. And that’s what it is, staples, that’s what I buy, that’s what I cook.
It took some time, to take the process out of my diet – but the end result has been worth it. I have lost weight, have more energy, more focus, and less of the seasonal colds and flus. Eliminating every guilty pleasure in life is not the end goal here, and not a particularly realistic approach to making changes, especially in the beginning. I mean, let’s fact it, we all enjoy the occasional cheeseburger, order of fries, or bag of chips. This elimination of processed foods is a process. Moderation is the first step, and then you will find yourself moving from mainstay to moderation and eventually to elimination.
Keep it simple, look for things you can pronounce and maybe even recognize. Make sure it has the fewest ingredients, and when possible, go organic. You can easily avoid additives and the health problems they may cause by eating fresh, locally grown unprocessed foods. Make matters easier and try to cook most of your foods from scratch, using clean, natural or organic products. As you start to read the labels in the grocery stores, you will find yourself buying less convenience foods and more of the kinds of foods you cook, or better yet, incorporate more raw foods into your diet, as cooking removes many of the nutrients, including enzymes our body uses to actually digest the food we are eating. With increasing organic selections, you may put a little more work into your meal, but your body will definitely thank you for it. By taking the time to really feed your body with good, clean, foods, you will begin to feel better, faster. It truly is one of the best things you can do for yourself as you work to put your resolutions in action and reclaim your health, and your life.