5 Steps Toward Better Health

Do you want to eat healthier, but don’t know where to begin?  Here are 5 easy steps that you can make to get you started.

butter

  1. Swap your fats. Contrary to popular belief, ample amounts of good quality dietary fats are actually necessary for optimal health.  In fact, there are essential fats that the body can’t produce and must be acquired through the diet.  Good fats play so many important roles in the body: they provide us with long-lasting, stable energy, they are an essential component of our cell membranes and many hormones, they are needed for the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins (Vitamin A, Vitamin D, Vitamin E, and Vitamin K), they serve as protection for our internal organs, and they make food taste delicious!  Because fats are so critical for good health, consuming the proper fats is key.  Healthy, naturally occurring, minimally processed fats from animals and plants should be the focus.  These include avocados, nuts, seeds, coconut oil, animal fats from pastured animals, butter and ghee, extra virgin olive oil, sesame oil, full-fat pastured dairy, and pastured eggs, just to name a few.  Man-made and highly refined fats should be avoided.  These include fried fats, hydrogenated oils, partially-hydrogenated oils, and highly-processed vegetable oils such as margarine, canola oil, corn oil, butter spreads or substitutes, soybean oil, and vegetable oil.  So, instead of cooking in canola oil, give coconut oil or ghee a try, swap margarine for butter, ditch that non-fat yogurt and upgrade to a delicious full-fat option, make your own salad dressings with just a few simple ingredients and extra virgin olive oil.  It is easy to find a good quality and healthful fat to replace any refined, processed fat.  Your body (and your taste buds) will thank you!meditate
  2. Relax.  Did you know that taking the time to relax before you eat can actually help your body digest food better?  It’s true!  Calming your mind and body puts your system into “rest and digest” mode.  This means that the body can focus its resources and energy on getting those digestive juices flowing.  Before you eat, take just a few minutes to put your body into that relaxed state.  Go for a light walk, take some deep breaths, meditate, or sit on the floor, whatever works for you.  When you are ready to eat, be mindful.  Enjoy every bite that you are putting into your mouth and chew it well.water
  3. Hydrate.  Water is vital for good health.  Our bodies are made-up of about 60% water, and it fulfills so many fascinating functions in the body.  It transports nutrients and delivers oxygen, cushions bones and joints, regulates body temperature, flushes wastes and toxins, improves cell-to-cell communication, helps maintain the normal electrical properties of cells, and more.  So how much water should you be drinking?  Take your body weight (in pounds) and divide by 2.  This is the number of ounces of good quality pure water that your body needs every day.  Sip your water throughout the day and avoid chugging large quantities.  For an extra boost, add a small pinch of unrefined sea salt to your water for extra electrolytes.jar
  4. Read labels. Although shopping the perimeter of the grocery for foods without nutrition labels is ideal, sometimes we need to venture into the center aisles for a few items.  When buying packaged foods that have nutrition labels, take a look.  How many grams of sugar are in a serving?  What are the ingredients listed?  Are there more than 10 ingredients? Can you pronounce and recognize all of the ingredients?  Look for products that contain minimal ingredients and ingredients that you can pronounce and recognize.  Be on the look-out for added sugar, artificial dyes, sweeteners, or flavors, and hydrogenated, partially-hydrogenated fats, or highly processed fats.  For example, nut butters should contain nuts (and maybe salt).  That’s it.  No sugar, no added fats.veggies
  5. Eat more veggies. We have all heard this one before, right?  But for good reason.  Vegetables are rich in vitamins and minerals, phytonutrients, enzymes, fiber, and water.  They are a source of good carbohydrates that provide a quick source of energy for the muscles, fuel for the brain, and regulate the proper metabolism of proteins and fats.  Strive to fill half of your plate with non-starchy vegetables for at least 2 meals a day.  Eat them cooked, eat them raw, and even eat them cultured and fermented.  Enjoy an assortment of colors and varieties.  Step outside of your comfort zone and try new vegetables and new recipes.  If you are not already a veggie lover, I think you will be surprised by how delicious they can be with the right ingredients and recipe.  Even just a pat of grass-fed butter with some salt and pepper can transform plan vegetables into something scrumptious!  If you have the resources, organic, local, and seasonal produce is best and worth the extra effort to source.

My Favorite Real Food Destinations

How do I source real food? 

Well first of all, I am lucky enough to have a certified Master Gardener as a mother.  She keeps an incredible garden from which I pick a variety of fresh organic vegetables.  She also started a little garden for me in my backyard that mostly produces kale, carrots, beets, onions, and herbs.  Thanks, mom!

For the rest of my nutrition, here are some of my favorite real food destinations:

The Market House (Meadville, PA)

The inside features tons of local goodies all year round.  Grass-fed beef, pastured pork, pastured poultry, eggs from pastured hens, grass-fed butter, raw grass-fed cheese, maple syrup, raw honey, and more.  During the growing season, the outside is full of local farmers selling their freshly-harvested vegetables and fruits.

The Whole Foods Co-op (Erie, PA)

This little wellness store offers local organic produce, local grass-fed beef, grass-fed dairy products, and some higher quality foods that are a great alternative to those found in most grocery stores (organic honey, a variety of organic teas, organic coffee, organic chocolate, organic personal care products, etc.)

Wegmans (Erie, PA)

Although I purchase the majority of my produce and meat from local farmers, Wegmans does offer a variety of organic produce and meat (even some grass-fed beef).  They also carry a good selection of grass-fed dairy products.  My favorite things to buy from Wegmans include wild-caught sardines, coconut aminos, kombucha, and Epic bars. Yum!

Real Food Nutrition

How do we achieve and maintain radiant health through nutrition?  By fueling our bodies with the nourishing foods that they need.  Eating whole, nutrient-dense foods as close to how they appear in nature as possible.  Eschewing processed and packaged fares in favor of foods without nutrition labels.  Each human being is unique, and so are their dietary needs.  It is important to discover which foods are compatible with your unique biology.

So what are the foods that nourish our bodies? A variety of fresh vegetables and fruits, meats from properly-raised animals, whole eggs from pasture-raised hens, wild-caught seafood, properly-prepared nuts and seeds, and healthy fats such as avocados, coconut oil, and butter from grass-fed animals.  If tolerated, properly-prepared whole grains and minimally processed, whole dairy from grass-fed animals can also be extremely healthful.

Which foods should we avoid?  Most foods that come in a package, box, or can.  Processed grains, refined sugar, artificial sweeteners, and hydrogenated oils are the worst offenders.

falling veggies