January 18th, 2017 | Diet & Health, Ask A Nutritionist
5 Habits to Eat Your Best
“How do I eat to have more energy, run faster, focus better at work, or (insert any goal that applies to you)?"
People ask me all the time about which superfood they should focus on, if there’s a specific nut they should eat more of, or some other magic bullet that will fix it all. The challenge is that there is no single answer or magic pill. Your situation is personal, and fluctuates as your body changes. There is no one size fits all. However, some overarching habits are essential and worth focusing on.
Here are my top five.
1. Balance Blood Sugar
Balancing our blood sugar is the foundation to our physical, emotional, and mental health. I even had one client say that balancing her blood sugar was “life changing.” You may not experience the extremes of blood sugar (diabetes and hypoglycemia). However, it can still affect areas of your daily life such as:
Your sleep. If you wake up between 2am and 4am with a racing mind, it can be a symptom of low blood sugar.
Your ability to deal with stress. Are you able to step back and objectively solve a situation, or do you quickly feel overwhelmed?
Your productivity and focus. Afternoon lows can make you want to reach for coffee or treats, or give into cravings for sugar, chocolate, or that salty fix.
So what do you do? Some simple steps you can take are the following…
Eat breakfast within 1 hour of waking
Don’t go beyond 5 hours without eating a meal or snack
Ensure you are eating protein and fat at every meal and snack
Remove refined and processed foods as much as possible
Find healthy alternatives that contain fiber, protein, and/or fat for those cravings
2. Remove Refined and Processed Foods
This is usually one of the hardest habits to break as refined and processed foods are highly addictive. These foods break down to sugar quickly giving us a “quick high.”
On top of that, our bodies are biologically programmed to crave and desire sugar. Back in the day, sugar was an uncommon commodity and a quick source of energy for our muscles during emergencies. So it only makes sense that our body would tell us to consume it whenever we could.
The challenge today is that refined foods and sugar are EVERYWHERE! The processed food industry knows that adding a little sugar will keep consumers coming back for more. However, refined sugar sends our blood sugar on a roller coaster, negatively affects our moods and emotions, can contribute to pain, dehydrates us, and makes us slaves to our cravings. Once removing or limiting refined sugar, many people note feeling better in a myriad of ways after as little as a week.
3. Drink Water
Soda, sports drinks, coffee, and juice do not count as water. Only water is water. Drink as much of it as you can in its clean, pure form. Proper hydration can:
Boost productivity and focus
Help with detoxification
Lead to clearer skin
Aid in weight loss
Simply help you feel better
I would encourage taking note of how much water you naturally drink, then slowly increasing it until you reach about 80 or more ounces. If you really think water is boring or hate drinking it, consider tea, broth, or flavoring it naturally with fruit, fruit juice, herbs, etc. Get creative in order to start feeling better!
4. Add More Vegetables, Especially Leafy Greens
Leafy greens are your most nutritionally dense foods. They can:
Help with detoxification (the chlorophyll is a great blood cleanser)
Add healthy fiber
Be a potent source of antioxidants
Help reduce pain
Provide a number of other health benefits
Vegetables and leafy greens also help balance your pH by keeping your body in a more alkaline state. Why is this important? Well, most diseases (especially cancer) thrive in an acidic environment, as this condition promotes pain, inflammation, and makes the body vulnerable to disease.
Luckily, there are many ways to support proper pH, with leafy greens and vegetables being your best defense. It can be difficult to consume enough of these foods, so I encourage blending them in soups, smoothies, or whatever way you want. Make them tasty with herbs and don’t be afraid to experiment. Healthy food should taste delicious, not boring like cardboard (unless for some reason you like eating cardboard!)
5. Eat Mindfully
It may seem overly simple to sit and relax while eating. Yet, when was the last time you ate a meal without any distractions?
Most of us are so busy that we find ourselves eating during a meeting, in front of the computer or TV, while on our phones, on the go, or in front of some other distraction. This habit is so common and accepted nowadays that most of us do not stop to think how this pattern actually affects our health.
Consider this - the most stressful and important thing we do daily is digest our food. When we are under additional stress, distracted, and not relaxed while eating, our body thinks there is an emergency and diverts blood and resources we would use during digestion to other areas of the body, such as, the brain, muscles, or wherever is deemed most important.
What’s the big deal?
Well, if we don’t properly digest our food, we don’t assimilate it. When this happens, we don’t absorb all of the essential nutrients that affect energy, stamina, sleep, mood, pain, weight loss and gain, cravings, anxiety, and everything else connected with our health. If you are super busy right now, consider eating one meal or snack a day while relaxing and build from there.
Remember that changing habits can be hard. We may take one step forward, think we’ve mastered it, only to fall flat on our faces. This is to be expected, and is a blessing in disguise as well as a lesson for the future. As much as we expect it, we are not going to be perfect. However, any steps you take—to make changes, feel better, and be the best you—are great! Small steps turn into big change. Just keep at them!
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Kasin Anton, Nutritionist
Kasin Anton is a Nutrition Consultant who is passionate about improving peoples’ lives. She specializes in identifying the triggers holding people back physically, emotionally, and psychologically in order to maximize energy, reduce pain, improve focus, and optimize weight. For more information, get in touch with Kasin at her website www.kasinanton.com.