With so much conflicting information out there on what is healthy, it's hard to know where you stack up. And if you wanted to improve your health, where exactly would you start? It's often easy to assume that because you exercise often you're in the clear and that you are in optimal (or very good) health. It's also easy to assume that because you don't struggle with weight, or because you eat salads and chicken breasts for some meals (or every meal ?!?), that your diet is healthy without giving it much more thought.
But what if you took a closer look at your actual habits. You may find (as many people do) that you have overestimated how 'healthy' your lifestyle really is. The good news ... it's often very simple fixes that can drastically move you in the direction toward better health now ... and keep you that way for the next 30 years (or longer, hopefully).
Improving your health can largely be done by focusing on three main areas: Food (nutrition), Sleep, and Movement. Today, we're going to focus on one of the biggest things you can do to improve the first area, nutrition. And it's a simple idea (however not always easy for everyone to adapt).
Eat more Nutrient Dense Plants and Animals from Quality Sources. And along with this comes eating less processed and industrial made 'food'.
We can talk Paleo, Keto, Primal, Bulletproof, Zone, dialing in your macros, low carb, high fat, intermittent fasting, etc, BUT if you haven't made eating more nutrient dense whole foods a habit, all of the above 'diets' take a back seat to the simple idea of eating more quality real food. At first thought, you might assume that you do eat mostly nutrient dense whole woods from quality sources. But before you brush this advice off ... take a closer look at what you consume for a week:
How many serving of veggies to you eat each day? (be honest)
How many different colors are those veggies and fruit that you eat each day?
Where does your meat, eggs, or dairy come from? And how were the animals raised (what were they fed, what were the living conditions? were they treated with antibiotics or hormones?)
Do you eat (or drink) anything out of a box, jar, bottle, bag, or can? And if so, do you know what all the ingredients are in the product? (This includes salad dressing, 'whole grain' bread, even 'healthy' nuts or nut butters ... do they actually include other ingredients)?
Is there room for improvement if you really look at your daily habits? I'm going to guess that the answer is yes ... because I don't know anyone who is perfect every single day ... even for a week. The goal, however, isn't perfection ... the goal is just to nudge the dial in the right direction a little at a time, making new habits, and building consistency.
Let's talk whole foods (not the grocery store) and nutrient density (we'll save food quality and food sources for another blog post). Think of whole foods as food that is as close to it's source as possible. Food that you can still identify as a plant or animal (and ideally, food that was R.A.W. (recently alive and well). Food without added ingredients and without added processing (or minimal processing). Examples of whole foods include veggies, fruits, herbs, minimally processed cuts of meat, seafood, seaweed, mushrooms, organ meats, eggs. These foods are full of vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals (good compounds that come from colorful plants), heathy fats, amino acids, and fiber. Fill up on these things, and cut out the processed stuff with added sugars, chemicals, and toxic oils.
Real food (whole food) fills you up, satisfies you, and nourishes your body, while the processed food does the opposite and often leaves you craving more and more. When you're hungry, your body is craving nutrition ... not necessarily just food. If you fill up on the processed junk, it's hard to ever feel satisfied and you end up eating more and more of the food that's making us fat and sick. "Bet you can't eat just one, " is a real thing, and the processed food has been designed to make sure you can't 'just eat one'. What's worse? If you aren't getting enough nourishment, your body hangs on to everything it can get (in the form of body fat). Start nourishing your body, and it will shed any extra fat that it's been clinging to much more easily.
Nutrient density refers to the amount of nutrients you'll get per calorie. Think of eating a bowl of spinach vs. a bowl of ice cream. Spinach is packed all kinds of micronutrients, and has almost no calories ... making it very nutrient dense. Ice Cream offers little in the form of nutrients, and is quite high in calories ... making it not very nutrient dense (a waste of calories in terms of nourishing your body ... although it's a tasty treat on occasion!). Even whole foods can vary drastically in their nutrient density. Picture 100 calories of whole grain rice vs. 100 calories of broccoli (or spinach or kales, etc). The veggies win out because per calorie, they pack in a lot more micronutrients that your body craves.
Now, when you're making your food choices, aim for the more nutrient dense whole food options. Each time you eat is a chance to improve your health and nourish your body. Maybe make it a goal to prepare one meal a day using whole foods. Eggs over leafy greens for breakfast or a veggie packed smoothie? A big salad with lots of colorful veggies and homemade dressing for lunch? Wild caught salmon with roasted broccoli and cauliflower rice for dinner. Plenty of options with a little planning and some time!
Take pleasure in nourishing your body, and making healthy choices will become habit! And, even better... you'll be a great example to those around you!
If you're looking for more in depth coaching and accountability around your diet and nutrition, we have a variety of Nutrition Coaching programs at FitHaus. Check out the options HERE and get on your way to better health! Our Nutrition Coaching is open to FitHaus members and Non-members and is a great way to learn, create healthy, lifelong habits, be accountable, and enjoy what you put in your mouth!