This is the first installment in a short series of five posts dedicated to basic healthcare suggestions. Healthcare, like life itself, often goes in many directions on many levels all at the same time. Every once in a while it can be helpful to step back and re-focus on basic healthcare principles.
My February 2014 post referenced the decline in several health categories for the average American citizen. My goal is to provide some basic suggestions (or reminders) that can help you and your families fight this decline.
EAT REAL FOOD!
Since the first human walked the Earth we have needed to eat. But only in the most recent, small fraction of our time on the planet have we had access to such a high quantity of refined and artificial foods. This has been a drastic dietary change and, coupled with our increasingly sedentary lifestyle, our bodies are demonstrating the effects.
At the same time cultural changes have led to the devaluation of traditional mealtime among many families around the country. Not only is it common to skip meals or to eat on the run so that we can keep up with our jobs and errands and children’s schedules, but the food that we do eat under these circumstances is often of a reduced quality.
For 2 to 18-year-olds, the top sources of energy were grain desserts, pizza, and soda. Sugar-sweetened beverages (soda and fruit drinks combined) provided almost 10% of total calories consumed. Nearly 40% of total calories were in the form of empty calories from solid fat and added sugars. Half of empty calories came from six foods: soda, fruit drinks, dairy desserts, grain desserts and pizza.
These foods may be more convenient now, when we have a lot to get done in a short amount of time, but we’ll eventually find it less convenient to have a reduced quality of life as we age. It takes a little more time, or at least more advance preparation, to eat well, but once these habits are established I often hear from my patients that they feel both more energized and more productive.
Changing your life-long eating habits can seem daunting. Here are some suggestions:
- Eat regular meals, at consistent times (avoid skipping meals).
- Slow down while you eat, your digestion will improve.
- Eat well (get in the habit of packing a lunch if necessary). If eating out, choose the least-refined option. Salads and meat are less processed and refined than grains (bread, pasta, deserts).
- Choose natural / organic food. Studies show these foods contain more of their nutrients than conventionally-farmed food. Additionally, you will avoid the added chemicals and hormones that are harmful to your body.
- Ideally your plate of food would look like something you could have seen 100 years ago.
- Greatly increase the vegetable portion of your meal and decrease or eliminate the grains.
- When grocery shopping, spend most of your time on the periphery of the store where they typically stock the fresh foods (vegetables, fruit, meat).
- Drink filtered water (and by all means avoid artificially-colored or dyed beverages).
- Treat your food and your overall diet like what it is: the fuel that keeps your body strong and alive!
I find a good strategy for healthful eating is nicely summarized by the following quote by Michael Pollan, a well-respected author and food activist:
Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.