The ball drops at Time Square as the clock strikes midnight, you kiss and hug the ones you love, wish them a Happy New Year and go to bed filled with determined resolve to spring into the new year with a fistful of resolutions. And as every magazine broadcasts and as every gym swells with new members, weight loss and healthier habits seems to be all the rigor for the month of January. But as soon as a couple weeks later to the beginning of February those grand intentions have gone out with a limp sizzle.
So this year decide to make just ONE decision which will have a significant impact on your general health, your weight loss goals, your mental state of mind, your energy levels, and chronic health issues: eat REAL food.
That is it.
It seems silly and even obvious but if you really assess your habits a a modern human being living in an industrialized, developed country most of us don’t really eat this way. For the pasty 70 years or so (which is about 5 generations of us) we have been hoodwinked into embracing industrialized food (and I am including animal and vegetables in here too) because this way of eating is CONVENIENT. Convenience has trumped sound nourishment at the expense, however, of our good mental and physical well being. The price we pay both individually and as a society is high as evidenced by the soaring rates of obesity, diabetes, autism, attention deficit issues, Alzheimers, and cancer rates (most disturbing is many of the above include children, which had not been the case prior to the industrialization of our food and toxins in our environment).
Here are some tips to keep you focused on eating well most of the time (I am a realist and know it is unrealistic to think we will live 100% of the time shunning fast and processed foods. My mantra to my own girls is “eat well 80% of the time and you can have a buffer 20% of the time”):
Ask yourself “Would my great grandmother have eaten this or recognized it?”
I don’t think my great grandmother would have eaten margarine as she churned the milk from her cows into butter. She would have eaten vegetables from her summer garden and canned or pickled them for winter. She ate eggs from her chicken coop for breakfast. She probably even ground her own wheat groats to make her famous flaky biscuits.
Here is a realistic caveat for us to eat this way- it is 2015 which means most of us live in urban/suburban areas, work full time and, I for one, am grateful for the farmers and even food companies that stock the grocery stores, farmers markets, and co-ops that I frequent weekly. Which leads to tip #2.
Go find and eat the best quality whole foods you can afford
Be picky about what you put into your and your family’s bodies. While the obvious places would be a Whole Foods Market, a Trader Joes or your local natural food grocer, your local grocery stores (and even WalMart!) now offer you many great organic choices.
Seek out the farmers markets, farm stands and food co-ops in your local community. They usually offer reasonable prices and high quality food products, you decrease your carbon footprint (if that is a concern of yours) and you support small local businesses.
It may mean making some sacrifices to fit higher quality food into your budget but wait ’til you taste a pot of black beans simmered in garlic, onions, and oregano ladled over a bowl of hot rice with a side of steamed broccoli; your inexpensive Meatless Monday meal so you can afford to have an organic roasted chicken with roasted organic cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and carrots on Tuesday. Do your kids really need that $5 gallon of high fructose sweetened ice cream. Watch what happens when you buy $5 worth of organic and/or local seasonal fruit instead (have you had frozen mango, bananas, or grapes? Wow!).
Most of us spend considerable time researching when we make major purchases (cars, houses, vacations, appliances) but suspend this great practice when it comes to what we eat each and every day. Take the time to find the best food you can!
Shop the perimeter of the grocery store
And when you have chosen the stores that support eating real food, stay mostly along the outer edge of all grocery stores. This is where you’ll find your produce, dairy, meats, seafood. You should only be going into the aisles for staples like beans, whole grains, some condiments and of course household products.
If you do meander into the chips or cookie aisle be choosy (i.e.; read the label) and buy only enough for a serving or so for the entire family. See junk for what it is- as a treat not an everyday occurrence.
Be realistic as to the time you have to prepare meals, find the means to do so and NO excuses
Everyone’s day to day is different. Some of us may work from the house and find it easy to pop dinner into the crock pot between conference calls or picking up kids, while others of us are lucky to have 15 minutes between when we leave work, pick up our kids, drop them to an after school activity, have them do homework and eat dinner. So be realistic in what you can manage but don’t use time constraints as an excuse to do nothing. Spouses may need to tag team in meal preparation or enlist kids to cook one meal a week (and a whole grain or gluten free pasta with a jar of high quality pasta sauce and a bag of salad greens as a side is ok in my book!).
Take advantage of meal planning and, as you know, I am a big fan of this. Sites like The Whole Meal streamline and help you consistently prepare real food. You also have sites like Blue Apron that deliver all your ingredients right to your front door and all you do is prepare it. For those that just do not like to cook and are not on a budget, there are local services (Fitlife Foods in the Tampa Bay area) that offer high quality meals already prepared. Personal chef services are another good option as long as he or she adheres to the best quality foods with minimal processed ingredients.
It’s not rocket science to eat well but it does take desire and some planning to make this second nature. Start with the above tips and expand from there. Also recognize your power as a consumer which is the best defense against the industrialization of our food and assuring better access to real food. We live in a capitalist society which at its best is driven by supply and demand. The “eat real food” movement (if you want to even call it that; I like to think of it as getting back to basics) is alive and well and in our control.
Most importantly, however, is how great your mind and body will feel when you feed it well. With all your energy, positive frame of mind, and pounds shed, you will probably be ready to add in some other “resolutions”. Yoga or spin class anyone?