Lately, it seems like I can’t turn on a tv, open a magazine or have a conversation where the latest diet fad isn’t brought up. To be vegan or not to be vegan…gluten free, paleo, vegetarian (and the many shades there are of that diet), dairy is good no wait dairy is bad….I can go on for days. Throughout my schooling and pursing my career and interests I have come up with my diet overview. I follow this diet myself as part of my daily life and when I do it best is when I feel the best. Here goes nothing.
Main Principles of the Diet Regimen I follow:
1) The fresher the better. Stick to the parameters of the grocery store. Strolling around the edges of the grocery store you see fresh produce, fresh breads, fresh meats, dairy, eggs and so on…obviously even within each of these sections there are still better and worse choices but they still are closer to how they came out of nature than say a bag of potato chips. From the inner isles I grab the occasional plain rice cakes, popping corn kernels for air popped popcorn, plain quick oats, spices/vinegars/olive oil, strategically chosen granola bars, soups, frozen veggies/fruits, nuts and wine. If buying prepackaged items you want to be able to flip the package over and know (or at least be able to pronounce) all the ingredients. For the most part though it is just better to make your own rather than consuming a lot of manufactured items.
2) This addresses many of the diets out there. I am not a huge fan of cutting out entire food groups unless it is for a religious, medical or ecological reason. Just because you cut out meat or dairy or grains or whatever does not necessarily mean you will lose weight or become healthy. In many cases people cut a group and then end up just replacing it with unhealthy options anyways. You also have to be very knowledgeable when you cut out an entire food group. You have to do your research and be sure you are not missing key nutrients provided from that group.
3) For the building of each meal I first pick my fruits and vegetables, then a protein item (plant or animal based) and then if I am still hungry or craving a grain (especially at breakfast) I add that in. This is similar to the “My Plate Method” from the USDA. This is the newer version of the food guide pyramid and it is easier to remember and put into practice. Taking a reasonable sized plate you first fill half of it with fresh produce, take the other half and cut it in half again creating fourths and fill one with a protein and one with a starch or grain item. In theory, this is a balanced diet incorporating all food groups in fair proportions.
4) Plant based protein versus animal based protein. More and more research seems to be pro plant based protein especially for heart health. I am no vegetarian but I think about it this way, when eating more naturally…what is the easiest thing to get from the Earth? Picking produce off a vine or tree or chasing down an animal and going through the skinning and cooking of it. Maybe we should take a hint from Mother Nature. So putting that into practice in a day of meals I would say the majority of my meal’s protein component is plant based.
5) Frequency of meals. Each person is different with this and research goes back and forth on whether small frequent meals is better or if three moderate meals a day with snacks are better. I used to be more of a big meals kind of person and just with lifestyle changes and being on my feet all day I find snacking with smaller meals works better for me. I also find snacking to be a good way to get rid of cravings. If I am craving something sweet I try to satisfy it quickly in a small portion like a few coco roasted almonds or a small piece of dark chocolate. Instead of holding on to that craving and letting it grow until “dessert time” then it is like you have created this set aside time to gorge and overdue it on your favorite sweet item.
6) I have a bad sweet tooth, I have been trying lately to replace some of my favorite desserts with dressed up fruits or healthier items. I will make a small cup of oatmeal and dress it up with cocoa powder and banana slices instead or a cookie or ice-cream. Frozen grapes have become a quick go to sugar craving buster for me. They are refreshing and sweeter when frozen. Throw them into some low/non fat yogurt and you have a satisfying sweet snack. To make the yogurt portion seem larger and thin out the thickness of Greek yogurt (the plain kind is what I usually keep at the house) I add a splash of Almond Milk or Coconut water. I sometimes add a small splash of vanilla extract and sprinkle of Stevia. Nothing like at home flavored vanilla yogurt.
7) Staying hydrated. This is so important and I think it gets put on the back burner often. If your belly is full of water the stretch receptors in your stomach send a signal to your brain saying you are feeling full. This way you are going to pay more attention to what you are choosing to eat and how much rather than letting your low blood sugar and starving-ness drive you down a path of stuffing your face with less than optimal food choices.