Whether or not you need to lose weight, eating a diet rich in nutrients is a worthy goal. Did you know that what people see on the outside is not from the hours spent in the gym, but made up of what you put in your body. Eighty percent of your physique comes from the food you eat, not the weight you lift. That means that choosing the right foods is critical if you want to look healthy and lean.
With all of the ‘expert’ advice around, and the conflicting views that change almost daily, it can be difficult to discern what’s really healthy and what isn’t. A few years ago we were told eggs were bad; now, it seems they’re actually quite good for you. Carbs? The right kind can nourish your brain and keep you energized throughout the day.
If you want to get started on your healthy lifestyle, here are some foods that you will want to avoid, followed by a list of foods you’ll want to stock up on:
5 Foods to Avoid
- Soda: This is nothing more than sweet poison. There are almost 10 teaspoons of sugar in ONE 12-ounce can of coke. Most people drink much more than one can a day; that’s because all that sugar just makes you more thirsty. Swap your pop for water. If you get sick of the taste of water, make some unsweetened ice tea or lemonade made with real lemons. You can try infusing your water with real fruits as well for a naturally sweet taste.
- Artificial sweeteners: Many people think if they swap regular soda for diet they will get the same taste and less sugar. New studies are showing that artificial sweeteners like aspartame are just as bad for you. These foreign substances are not recognized by the body, so they get stored as – you guessed it – fat. They are also thought to cause long term health issues like cancer.
- White bread, pasta and grains: When you purchase white pasta, rice or bread you are buying products that have literally been stripped of their nutrients. These are also known to spike your blood sugar levels, which can lead to Diabetes and other health issues. It’s best to avoid these white products for good and choose whole wheat, whole grain products instead.
- Alcohol: While the Mediterranean diet endorses one glass of red wine here and there, there really is no scientific evidence to suggest that any type of alcohol is healthy. If you find that one drink leads to two, then three, etc. then it’s best you abstain completely. There are absolutely no nutrients in alcohol and too much can lead to a host of health issues. Some people find that they suffer from withdrawal symptoms, so getting help from a treatement center may help.
- Processed foods: This is anything packaged, boxed or otherwise ‘manhandled’ by humans. These include junk foods like chips and candy, but also include seemingly ‘healthy’ foods like baked crackers, some cereals and more. Basically, anything in the middle aisles of your grocery store is loaded with processed foods. Learn to read the labels and choose only foods that list ingredients you can pronounce.
5 Foods to Embrace
- Almonds and walnuts: These got a bad rap from the health experts because of their high fat content; but they are loaded with nutrients and ‘healthy’ fats like Omega-3, which is good for your heart. All you need is a handful a day and they are a great snack on the go.
- Beans and lentils: These are full of protein and fiber, and can actually fill you up more than some meats can. There are dozens of varieties, and are great in soups, salads, casseroles and even snack bars.
- Olive oil: Another great source of Omega-3, olive oil is a versatile addition to any diet. Use it to drizzle on salads, sweet potatoes, and dozens of other healthy foods. All you need is a tablespoon a day.
- Fruits and veggies: There are so many varieties of fruits and veggies that you’ll never get sick of eating just one type. Make it a goal to try one new fruit or veggie every week. Choose a variety of colors; if you’re really adventurous, start a garden of your own so you’ll always have fresh pickings for dinner.
- Whole grains: Breads, pasta and rice don’t have to disappear from your diet entirely if you choose wisely. Read the ingredients and make sure the first one is listed as ‘whole wheat’ or ‘whole grain’. This ensures you’re getting more nutrients. This will help stabilize your blood sugar, make you feel full longer, and give you boundless energy.
Don’t forget about water! Try to get at least 4-6 glasses in. Decaffeinated beverages like green tea count towards your water intake.
You’re not going to have perfectly healthy days every day, and that’s ok. Start small and make small changes until they turn into habits. Soon you’ll be reaching for an apple instead of potato chips, and water instead of a beer.