3 ways to eat better and improve nutrition

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Improving the way you eat doesn’t have to be complicated. Three ways you can start to eat better today are to use product placement at home, judge food by the color of its skin and be less refined.

Use Product Placement at Home

If produce is hidden in a drawer at the bottom of your refrigerator, these good foods are out of sight and mind. The same holds true for your pantry. I used to have a shelf lined with salty crackers and chips at eye level. When these were the first things I noticed, they were my primary snack foods. That same shelf is now filled with healthy snacks, which makes good decisions easy.

Foods that sit out on tables and countertops are even more critical. When you see food every time you walk by, it gives you permission to graze. So to improve your choices, leave good foods like apples and pistachios sitting out instead of crackers and candy.

Go through the places in your house where you store food. Organize items so the best choices are the first things you see and the easiest to reach. Then hide poor choices in inconvenient places where you might not see them for a while. Better yet, simply clean house and discard foods with little nutritional value you know you’ll be tempted to eat.

Move fruits, vegetables, and other healthy options closer to eye level in your refrigerator or put them out on a counter. Simply seeing fresh produce regularly will plant a seed in your mind for your next snack. This also gives you a head start at resisting temptation in the moment.

Judge Food by the Color of Its Skin

The bene t of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables is so well- documented it hardly bears repeating. Eating the right natural foods wards off disease, enables you to live longer, makes you look better, and gives you additional energy. Yet most people fail to eat enough fruits and vegetables but consume large quantities of unnecessary foods.

However, we do not have a quick way to determine what foods are the healthiest. We receive conflicting advice from different sources. Then we face countless choices every time we go to a grocery store or place an order at a restaurant.

An efficient mental shortcut is to judge a fruit or vegetable by the color of its skin. Generally speaking, produce with dark and vibrant colors is your best bet. Green means go. Broccoli, spinach, kale, bok choy, celery, cucumbers, peppers, zucchini, and other dark leafy greens are net positives for your health. Also look to red or blue fruits and vegetables as good nutritional sources. Apples, peppers, raspberries, strawberries, tomatoes, and almost any fruit or vegetable with vibrant skin tone makes for a better choice.

The next time you are in a grocery store, start by shop- ping in sections with dark-colored fruits and vegetables. Spend as much time as possible in the produce section before loading up on other foods. When you get home, prepare your plate with dark and diverse colors. When you dine out, ask for greens instead of grains. Order what you would normally put on a sandwich on top of spinach or romaine.

Be Less Refined

We are addicted to refined carbohydrates. One publication went as far as to describe carbs as “more addictive than cocaine” and concluded, “At the center of the obesity universe lies carbohydrates, not fat.” As a team of Harvard researchers wrote in the Journal of the American Medical Association, carbs are a “nutrient for which humans have no absolute requirement.” Another study suggests that eating fewer carbs even curbs cancer growth rates by as much as 50 percent.

Yet quitting refined carbs altogether would be an uphill climb. Most animals, humans included, evolved to prefer the taste of carbohydrates over protein. Carbs also stimulate pleasurable dopamine centers in the brain. And they are cheap and convenient. Everywhere you turn, pasta, bread, chips, or a bowl of rice is staring you in the face. I guess this explains why it is still so hard for me to choose a salad over a sandwich.

Do everything you can to replace refined carbohydrates with vegetables when you prepare or order a meal. You get enough carbohydrates from fruits, vegetables, and protein. Try to reduce your consumption of pasta, bread, rice, and chips in particular. Most restaurants will let you substitute a vegetable for a side of rice, pasta, or fries. Keep most of the refined carbs from making it to your plate in the first place. That way you won’t need a superhuman amount of willpower to resist what is sitting in front of you during a meal.

Instead of chips, crackers, or bars, find natural snacks like nuts, carrots, apples, celery, kale chips, or seeds. Then avoid the processed and refined carbs at all costs. Remember, this is one case where “refined” does not mean “better” or “improved.”

By tom rath
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