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Healthy Eating Made Easy-Nutrition 101

Healthy Eating Made Easy

The subject of healthy eating can get very complex, given the shift in dietary trends, and changing nutritional guidelines. Regardless of nutritional beliefs and dietary preferences, using the 5R rule can help make eating well simple and easy. The 5 Rs of eating well are as follows- Keep it Real; Reduce Exposure to Chemicals, Reduce Sugar Intake, Remove Trans Fats and Ramp up the Phytos.

Healthy Eating Rule #1- Keep it Real

Whole foods are nutrient dense foods from nature. These are foods whose nutritional value has not been diminished by refining or processing. These include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and minimally processed dairy, eggs and meat. It is best to consume animal products from animals who were free to roam on grass and exposed to sunshine as opposed to the ones raised in confined animal feeding operations (CAFO)

Processed foods lack the enzymes that are found in fresh fruits and vegetables. Fruit juice that has been pasteurized, and fortified with artificial Vitamin C is different from fruit juice from a fresh squeezed orange. Fresh squeezed juice retains not only the natural Vitamin C but also all the synergistic flavanoids needed for the proper absorption and assimilation of Vitamin C.  Processed foods are laden with chemicals and artificial ingredients along with added sugar and salt. These play a major role in contributing towards chronic illness such as Cancer, Heart Disease, Diabetes, and Obesity.

Dr. Hyman has rightly observed- “Why do we believe that we can feed our bodies manufactured, nutrient depleted, food like substances, empty of all life and yet remain healthy? How did we come to believe that industrial chemicals and processing could replace what nature produces?”

Shopping at a Farmers Market, or the produce section of the grocery store will help keep most of your meal menu real.

Healthy Eating Rule #2- Reduce Chemical and Pesticide Exposure

The easiest way to eat well is to eat clean. Reduce processed, artificial, and chemical laden food-like substances and pesticide exposure. The complications of overly busy lifestyles tempt us towards convenience- the bait used by the food industry.  So, what can we do for those times when avoiding processed foods is not an option?

If we know what to look for, we can avoid the onslaught of chemicals commonly found in foods by becoming an avid label reader. Some brands are opting out of artificial colors, flavors, preservatives. The list of dirty dozen additives to avoid  has been published by the EWG and you can access it here-http://www.ewg.org/research/ewg-s-dirty-dozen-guide-food-additives#.WZgyMCiGO1s .

While grocery shopping, the simplest practice to adopt is to read the ingredient list always. Remember to avoid the food product if sugar is listed as one of the top three ingredients, if the ingredient list is long (more than three or four ingredients) and if it is hard to pronounce the ingredient names.

The best way to avoid high levels of pesticide exposure is to buy local, seasonal, and organic when possible. The dirty dozen produce list (published by EWG.org) are the ones with the highest levels of pesticide residue and are better purchased organic. The list for 2017 includes – Strawberries, apples, potatoes, grapes, nectarines, spinach, peaches, pears, cherries, celery, tomatoes, and hot peppers. For meats and dairy eggs choose organic or pasture raised as much as possible. Avoid processed meats which often contain nitrates and nitrites, which increase the risk for developing cancer.

Healthy Eating Rule #3- Remove or Reduce Sugar

Weight gain and insulin resistance, and other complications that arise from diabetes such as kidney failure, and blindness, can all be attributed to higher blood sugar levels. However, this is not the only problem that sugar poses. Did you know that post high sugar consumption, the immune system can remain depressed for up to 5 hours, making us more prone to infections?

Sugar can sneak in to our diets very easily. It turns out that condiments and sugary beverages-sodas and fruit juices are the major culprit. A can of soda alone (39g or ten tsp) exceeds the allowed dietary sugar intake per day (9 tsp for men and 6 tsp for women) for non-diabetic adults. Consider replacing sodas with kombucha drinks which are both fizzy and digestive tonic, loaded with gut friendly probiotics. Consider diluting fruit juices with water. If you have diabetes, please consider removing these completely or consult with your nutritionist for options. Always read all labels on cereals, breads and condiments and salad dressings, fruit yogurts-choosing <5grams per serving when possible. Avoid artificial sweeteners, although stevia and honey are ok to use sparingly.

Healthy Eating Rule #4- Remove Trans Fats

Trans fats aka partially hydrogenated or hydrogenated oils are commonly found in chips, cookies, fried and packaged foods. The FDA does not require trans-fat labels if the food contains less than 0.5gram/serving. Therefore, reading the ingredient list on packaged foods is important. Remove any foods from your kitchen cabinet that contains hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils- margarine and coffee creamers being the worst offenders.

According to a recent Harvard Health publication, “there never was any good evidence that using margarine instead of butter cut the chances of having a heart attack or developing heart disease. Making the switch was a well intentioned guess, given that margarine had less saturated fat than butter, but it overlooked the dangers of trans fats.” (https://www.health.harvard.edu/nutrition/butter-vs-margarine) Indeed, butter from grass fed cows, can be a very nutrient dense food. However, just like any other fat, portion control is always a good idea.

Extra virgin cold pressed olive oil is still the oil of choice for sautéing. For high temperature cooking coconut oil, grass fed cow butter, ghee, sesame oil, peanut oils and more recently avocado oil may be better choices.  It is best to avoid high temperature cooking, such as frying, as it produces free radicals which are agents of inflammation. Refined vegetable oils are also best avoided as they have not only been stripped of nutrition value but often produce higher levels of free radicals when heated.

Healthy Eating rule #5-Ramp up Phytos

Phytos also known as phytochemicals or phytonutrients are compounds found in plants that protect the plant from disease and have the same effect on humans when consumed. These compounds are key in fighting inflammation and are your single most ally in warding off disease and delaying degenerative ageing processes.

Phytos give fruits and vegetables their deep rich colors and these natural colors.  The easiest way to include these in your diet is to remember 3S- Salads, Smoothies and Spices. If you have diabetes, consuming fruit smoothies can cause a spike in sugar levels. Consider adding some fiber or healthy fats like nuts or flax or pumpkin seeds to your smoothies, along with greens and apples.

In Conclusion

“Every time you eat or drink, you are feeding disease or fighting it.” -Heather Morgan. The food we eat is intimately tied to the quality of our life and health. What is going to be at the end of your fork today?

Calories or chemicals

Are you counting Calories or Chemicals? As health conscious individuals, we have been conditioned to count calories only, but are we paying attention to chemicals that are sabotaging our health and well-being?

Among other issues, food additives have been linked to obesity, digestive problems, ADD and cancer. How many of us are paying attention to food labels, ingredients lists?

I am not a fan of processed foods and would advocate never eating anything for which you have to read the label but there are times that we may need to (not a perfect world, right?) The busy holiday season is a perfect example.  Even with the best of planning and cooking, we may be tempted to grab some stuff “out of a box” or buy precooked thanksgiving/ Christmas meals. It is for those times we need to be armed with education to make the right decision. When preparing your own meals, for fruits and veggies choose, locals, seasonal and organic as much as possible. For meats choose pasture raised, organic when possible.

For any “food like” food out of a box please make sure to read labels and choose the brands with the shortest possible list and ingredient names you can pronounce.

Meal Planning Tips

Healthy Eating without Burning a Hole in Your Pocket is possible using this simple tool-meal planning.

“The food you eat can be either the safest and most powerful form of medicine, or the slowest form of poison.” (Ann Wigmore) With a little bit of planning, food can be medicine indeed with some $$$ savings as a side effect:)

In this post, I break down meal planning into 3 simple steps. Investing some time upfront on this will go a long way to save your health and your $$$. This project can be fun and once you invest the time initially, weekly planning will take hardly any time! Of course, it doesn’t have to be weekly. Some like to do it one month at a time. I like to do it weeklyJ

Step 1

Make a list of all the Vegetables, Fruits, Grains, Meats and Snack options that you enjoy and make sure to include as many as you can to give yourself more options (in case you get bored). For example, my list of veggies has avocadoes, bell peppers, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, carrots, tomatoes, onions, okra, garlic, peas, beets, eggplant, squashes, leafy greens, sweet potatoes and so on…

My list of fruits include: Berries, apples, mangoes, papaya, grapes, oranges, cantaloupe, honey dew, water melon, peaches, lemons, pear and pineapple. Again, your list may look different. Choose organic or local produce, when possible.

My list of snacks includes-carrots and celery with humus, nuts, apple and nut butters

Your list in each category can certainly be longer/different.

My list of grains: Qunioa, brown rice, multi grain flour (avoid if allergic to gluten). Also, I soak all my grains and lentils prior to cooking-easy on digestionJ If you choose Paleo, you can skip the grains.

My list of meats is very short-pasture raised chicken and salmon or cod fish. Yours can be much longer-just make sure to get meats from a quality source (preferably local farmer or co-op/grass fed).


The next step is to identify recipes around the foods on your list. This may be the most challenging part for some of us. Never fear. Time to call mom or grandma for family favorite secrets J You may also search your local library for cook books or the internet-google and pinterest- of course! This step may take the longest. Personally, it is the one I enjoy the most. However, if you are pressed for time check out http://www.instantfundas.com/2010/08/15-websites-to-find-recipes-by.html. The above site provides an overview of all the different websites which will help you create recipes from ingredients. For those who prefer Paleo, you can check out http://elanaspantry.com/

The thing to be sure when following recipes, is that we make healthy substitutions, when possible. Ex: replace margarine or PAM cooking spray with grass fed butter or extra virgin olive oil or extra virgin coconut oil (organic where possible). Another healthy substitution is quinoa or brown rice for white rice. Whatever you do, make sure it is something you will enjoy eating. Let us not forget to eat for pleasure as well-Remember healthy does not have to mean boring!

Step 3

Use blank meal planning templates (pinterest and google gives you a variety to choose from) or better yet there are meal planning apps like Meal Board (www.mealboard.com) as well as sample meal plans at http://www.100daysofrealfood.com/our-free-meal-plans/


Eat organic or local, when possible. Not all our fruits and vegetables need to be purchased organic. The Environmental Working Dozen publishes a list of the “dirty dozen” each year. These are high in pesticide and should be purchased organic. They renew the list every year. The “dirty dozen” for 2015 from the EWG is as follows- apples, peaches, nectarines, berries, grapes, celery, spinach/kale, cucumbers, sweet bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, snap peas, potatoes. These should be purchased organic when possible. Sometimes organic frozen is cheaper than the fresh. I have found this to be true especially of berries (unless the fresh ones are on sale). Do not forget to like the Facebook page of some organic brands to gain access to coupons. When possible purchase quality meats as well. Elizabeth Wilson (financial coach, debt management) has some tips for doing this without breaking the bankJ Her blog post has some great money saving tips!! http://findyourzeroes.com/eating-healthy/

Meal planning using these three simple steps should ease some of the stress of preparing meals at home. If you are not used to cooking your meals, start with the simplest recipes possible (realsimple.com). My personal favorite is the chickpea cucumber salad with organic yogurt on the side.

Remember that change takes time. Baby steps are never a waste. Start somewhere. Bulk cooking with a friend over the weekend and storing in a freezer can help you get off to a reasonable start.

Your suggestions, thoughts and comments are welcome!