Get real: Four truly simple tricks to eat and feel better

AVT
Chris Walker | MCT
AVT
Posted Dec. 15, 2011, at 5:25 p.m.

Last weekend I spent some time training with a group of very knowledgeable colleagues in the health and wellness space. After an hour or two brushing up on proper fitness form we sat outdoors and swapped some of our own personal healthy eating commandments. There was a striking and notable commonality amongst the favorites we discussed: simplicity. Not a one of us praised the benefits of a super cleanse, a master supplement or a magic food or food to banish. We all, through years of practice, have realized the benefits of eating mindfully and practically. Today’s nutritional news often presents information overload rife with fads and factual inaccuracies. It’s easy to lose sight of the fact that eating well is, well, easy. There are a number of core healthy eating idioms that carry true substance and can help you narrow your focus on what truly matters. Here, some highlights you might find helpful.

Shop the perimeter

There’s a great Michael Pollan quote that summarizes this commandment more poetically, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” One of the easiest ways to ensure you’re reaching for the best foods is to only buy the best. The best, in this case, being whole, fresh produce like nutrient-rich vegetables and antioxidant-rich berries. Almost all grocery stores follow a similar layout: fresh, whole foods line the perimeter and processed, packaged foods remain in the middle aisles. Next time you hit the market, take note. Better yet, fill your cart with only foods from the perimeter. You’ll load up on all the stuff you need and nothing you don’t.

Going bad is good

When you shop the perimeter, you’ll have to shop more often. It may seem like an annoyance at first, but there’s an important reason for doing so and it’s one that can have big impact on your health and your waistline. When you buy whole, unprocessed foods these foods will go bad sooner. Ever been amazed by how long that box of cheese nips lasted in your cupboard? Now think about how those magic snacks defy the laws of aging. They’re packed with preservatives and your system will be too, should you choose those foods. Opt for options that contain natural ingredients or come from the earth. Your body will thank you.

Save the best for last

The next time you’re preparing a meal or dining out pack the majority of your plate with healthful food but feel free to add a small indulgence. Think a well-portioned side or small desert. Simply start eating the healthful foods (e.g. a dark leafy green salad or salmon) and save the indulgence for last. By the time you load up on the good stuff you’ll be much fuller when approaching the less healthy option. This means you’ll likely eat less, but you’ll still enjoy the satisfaction of something you love.

Be true to you

Plato said it best (and simply too) with “know thyself.” Those two little words pack major power when it comes to establishing healthy eating practices that you can truly sustain. Some diet gurus might prescribe eating practices that have worked for them, but if you haven’t be able to prove that those practices will translate to your life and your lifestyle, you’re not likely to stick to them. If, for example, you know you’ll never give up chocolate long term, embrace it. Try swapping your next chocolate bar with a darker, less processed variety. If a cold martini is a must once a week, drink it in and hit a spin class in the morning. Amidst the noise of what might work for others, listen, obverse and then do what works for you. The best healthy living investments are the ones you self yourself on.

Sarah Metzger is a former editor of LIVESTRONG.COM. To read more about health, fitness and nutrition, go to LIVESTRONG.COM.

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