Are you looking to make healthier food choices without effort? Whatever you’re at home or on vacation, follow these simple rules and you’ll be making healthier food choices in no-time.
We are always busy, always on the run for something, and it has become common practice to delegate our food responsibilities to supermarkets or restaurants. Instead of cooking the food ourselves, we prefer buying already cooked, pre-packaged or processed foods.
Yes, we may save some time now, but are we saving time in the long run? Are these foods good for us, or are they making us sick? Don’t you think this race for time and the unhealthy choices associated with it will negatively affect your health in the long run?
These are the things that puzzle me daily and that’s why I’ve put together a list of tips and tricks that I hope will help you towards making healthier food choices.
Always read the labels.
You want to know what you’re eating, avoiding preservatives, additives or any other hidden ingredients that shouldn’t be there in the first place. In my experience, most texts are written so small that people just don’t read them. Make it a habit to take a picture with your phone, using the zoom function to read the ingredients list effortlessly.
Ask questions to the people preparing your food.
Don’t be ashamed to ask your waiter or your chef what’s in the food, how it was prepared or how fresh are the ingredients. From my experience, they’ll be happy to answer all your questions. Chefs, in particular, pride with their food and are always happy to talk about it.
Learn how to cook yourself.
Yes, this requires some time and passion, but cooking your own meals comes with too many health benefits to be ignored. For instance, you are in control of what you eat, and I’m thinking the taste, flavors, ingredients, and food in general. If you want to invest in your long-term health, learning how to cook is a must.
Avoid packaged foods
Packaged foods are usually processed in a factory unless you’re not buying raw nuts and seeds, or maybe some dried fruit. All the chips, sauces, gems, biscuits, tortillas, most breads, etc, all are engineered to stay on the store’s shelves months or years in a row. They’re loaded with additives, preservatives and hydrogenated oils that increase shelf life but are far too unhealthy to be eaten.
Buy organic as often as you can.
Organic produce will always contain less harmful pesticides compared to conventionally grown produce. Plus, since the plant has grown on its own, it was “forced” to develop more phytonutrients to protect itself from the environment and predators. This means that organically grown plants should be more potent in terms of the nutrients they contain.
Include more plants into your diet.
Plants come with vitamins, minerals, enzymes, phytonutrients and soluble fiber, all of which are compounds that our bodies need to thrive. We all know about vitamins and minerals, but did you know that soluble fiber is food for your gut bacteria, promoting a healthy immune system? Did you know there are thousands of phytonutrients we are just starting to acknowledge, not to mention we know very little about how they work? We only know they contribute to a stronger immune system and that’s huge for having great health.
Not all food is real food.
Only because something is approved to be sold as food doesn’t mean it’s also healthy for you to eat. Most of the pre-packaged foods are made using harmful ingredients that will do more harm than good for you. While eating a small quantity won’t kill you, eating the same products daily will certainly contribute to an increased risk of chronic disease. As a quick rule, real food doesn’t come with a long list of ingredients and ideally isn’t processed in any way.
Educate yourself on what food is.
Educate yourself on the food theory so you can understand what you’re eating. This is huge because only you will know what foods are good for you or what makes you sick.
Go beyond calories and diets, learn how your body works, how digestion works, what are the micronutrients and macronutrients, where you can find them in the foods you’re eating, how real food is grown or how it’s prepared. Knowing all of these will help you make conscious decisions when it comes to what you’re putting in your mouth and body.
Familiarize yourself with fasting.
Fasting is one of those things that goes contrary to all the “conventional wisdom”. Ask your doctor about fasting for 16-18h/day and s/he will probably tell you that you’re crazy. Yet fasting has been used since forever and our bodies are designed for fasting fast.
Fasting is even present in all religions, as a form of purifying the mind and the body. The benefits of fasting are huge and I won’t get into all of that here, just know that fasting is great for general health, mental clarity, burning stored fat, having more energy, optimizing cellular metabolism, and the list can go on and on.
Listen to your body’s cravings.
We all have cravings, we all want something sweet when we’re down, everybody likes French fries, right? The trick is to learn how to differentiate real cravings from “mind-induced cravings”.
Sometimes we need chocolate, potato chips or maybe an ice cream to get us out of a bad mood or a stressful situation. Sometimes we’re simply tired and our body asks for salt, but we deliver salty pizza or salty French fries instead. Sometimes we could be tired after a long walk or a long day at work, and we just need to relax, instead we deliver a soft drink or a big ice cream. Did you catch my point?
It’s all about learning how to manage those cravings and this can be done by understanding how your body works, what nutrients it needs and how foods affect you. Yes, it requires some work on your side and some patience while you’re there, but it’s all worth it for having long-term health.
Food is much more important than most of us think. Food is nourishment, food is energy, food can take us one step closer to health or one step away from it, towards disease. The way food was grown, prepared and served are all very important aspects of this equation. I truly believe it’s our responsibility to see that, when it comes to the food we’re eating, we only get the best.
Healthier Food Choices Power Tips
- Food has to be grown using natural methods (less to no chemicals).
- Real food is unprocessed or processed as little as possible.
- Read food doesn’t come with additives, preservatives or fillers of any kind.
- Food must be cooked as naturally as possible, without harmful ingredients (refined oils, trans-fats, added sugar).
- Our food has to be prepared in non-toxic cookware and served in non-toxic dinnerware.
- If all this means cooking it yourself, then I believe it’s well worth it.
- There’s no shame in cooking your own food and certainly it’s not that hard.
I hope that I have convinced you of the importance of making conscious food choices. Remember that investing in your health starts with what you put in your mouth. This can be as soon as your next meal.
What are your tips for making healthier and conscious food choices?