Levels of Healthy Nutrition
For some people, especially restaurant eaters, this is the very basic first step. Commit to eating at home every day, every meal, or packing a meal from your kitchen when you are on the go. Don’t take this step too far: it’s very simple. Do not worry about calories or eating perfectly healthy meals. JUST EAT AT HOME. This was my own first step. I honestly think for many people this is a huge sacrifice. Here are some tips in order to make this happen and make sure you are successful: stock up your freezer with frozen meals, frozen pizzas, frozen burritos, frozen dinner packs, frozen chicken nuggets, frozen meatballs, WHATEVER IT TAKES to resist the urge to eat out. You have got to break this habit, and for our society it is a huge problem. More tips: Clean your kitchen and make it user friendly. Sort your cabinets and pantry. Stock up on ziplock bags and paper plates, even plastic silver ware if that’s what it takes. Make the cleanup process as easy as possible.
Level 2: Replace Soda.
Another extremely hard task for some people. When you start out buy and drink whatever you can that is not soda. Chocolate milk, cranberry juice, tea, coffee, flavored water, Koolaid, juices. In my house we used KoolAid and iced tea the most. As hard as it is to stop drinking soda, remember, You Can Do It. Kick the habit. It is a choice. Free your brain from all of those chemicals and fake sugars, your mind will clear up after a few days and you will most likely lose some weight. And yes, the juices have more calories than diet soda, but they also have more water and less chemicals, and in some cases healthy nutrients.
Level 3: Add Fresh Fruits and Vegetables.
Okay it’s getting easier now. Go to the produce section and buy some fresh fruits and vegetables. Pick some that you know you like or can cook to eat. Don’t get too much all at once and overwhelm yourself with eating it all before it expires. Just get a bag of carrots to munch on with lunch, or green and red peppers to grill with dinner. Get a fresh orange for a midmorning snack. Get a few ingredients for a simple salad. And keep it simple. Often the best salads are the ones with only a couple things on them. You just need that healthy crunch or taste of fresh vitamins. Make it your goal to have one fruit or vegetable with every meal, or at least 3 times a day. Think about what you can replace during the workday with a healthy snack.
Level 4: Watch Food Documentaries.
There are so many out there. Use Netflix or ITunes to find them. I have seen up to 15 different food documentaries. There are lists of them. I recommend watching Food Inc, Forks Over Knives, Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead. Etc etc. They WILL contradict each other. Use common sense and your own judgement and take away the information that will help you. From these food documentaries you should know about GMO’s, Monsanto, the plight of American farmers, where our food comes from, and other nutritional knowledge. They are worth your time and many are highly interesting. I also like to read books, such as Eat to Live, and online articles about nutrition. Want some serious motivation to get healthy? Watch a season of The Biggest Loser (also highly entertaining!) available online and still on air.
Level 5: Master Packing Your Food on the Go.
When you are not at your house that’s no excuse to eat unhealthy food. Anytime I am traveling I pack my lunch bag full of healthy snacks. Use those ziplock bags and Tupperware containers. Tons of food and snacks can be stored at room temperature. When I am working a long day I will pack up to three meals and two snacks and yes it fits in my one lunch bag. PLAN PLAN PLAN. Even just running errands around town can derail you if you haven’t planned meals. Know how soon you are likely to get hungry and don’t leave your house empty handed. Use those drink powders or Shakeology for flavored beverages on the go. I even pack my own silverware and bowls into my bag, it fits! Get a stylish lunch tote if you don’t have one. My dad even keeps a cooler in his car (with car adaptor) to keep groceries cool while he travels. It can be done.
Level 6: Begin Cooking Healthier Meals (1 cheat meal per week)
This is different for everyone. I started making a healthy version of every meal I liked. I made lettuce tacos when I craved Mexican. I made turkey burgers and sweet potato fries when I craved fast food. I started making chicken salad wraps with cut up chicken nuggets or grilled chicken. I started cooking soups and eating more fresh salads. I started using Shakeology for a morning nutrient packed smoothie and to satisfy chocolate cravings after dinner. I bought dessert flavored gum and fresh raw nuts to snack on (to replace chips). Use healthy recipes and get ideas from others that are also eating healthier. Develop a healthy routine and a typical weekly meal plan. Start using Greek yogurt instead of sour cream or mayo. Use olive oil and balsamic vinegar instead of salad dressing. Come up with a list of healthy dessert options because everyone needs to satisfy their sweet cravings. I have a list of what I used for desserts when I first started I can give you. Take your time with learning how to cook healthy meals and overcome obstacles one at a time.
Level 7: Focus on the Purpose of Social Gatherings
When you meet family and friends for a gathering, there is usually a reason. It is either to celebrate a holiday, a baby, a retirement, an anniversary, a birthday. Sometimes it is for a funeral or a goodbye gathering. The real purpose when we meet our loved ones is quality time with people we care about. Keep the real purpose in mind when you meet and try to plan this quality time so that it doesn’t center around a group meal. I like to plan bike rides, movie dates, barbecuing outdoors with games, walking at the park, just dropping in at their house, etc. This may be the hardest of all the things I am writing about because it involves other people but I hope you see the connection I am making here. Bring healthy things to eat to group meals (people will eat more of it than you think) and sip on water, and talk to the people you love.
Level 8: Learn What is in Food and Track Calories
For this Nutrition Level to really be met you need to understand what you are eating. Get some nutrition books, read every label, determine your number of calories needed, keep a food journal. Calculating calories is intense and it is not for everyone. If you want to just be healthy or keep things simple or feel overwhelmed by the thought of calories then don’t do this. If you want to get very lean and have a six pack, chances are you will need to keep a food journal and begin a low calorie regimen. I am at a point where I have no emotional attachments to what I eat (finally!) and I can look at food objectively. That’s the only way I can drop the last 5 pounds and get the fitness model type body I am shooting for. I will be posting my food journal in my nutrition group daily and you will see how close I get to my goal 🙂
Note: You will hear a lot of different things from every one around you. Filter the information carefully. One of the most common debates will be centered around protein and carbs. Don’t get caught up in it! Just focus on whole foods, vitamins, nutrients, superfoods, and eating the least amount of processed food as possible. One key thing I finally realized: Many foods have protein and carbs both! If you look at the makeup up a food, or read the label, remember that foods will contain a lot of different things: sugars, proteins, carbs, fats, etc etc.
Level 9: Set a Goal.
Set a weight loss goal and strive to meet it. YOU CAN DO IT. Currently my goal is to eat a certain amount of calories per day and track it in my food journal. Eventually I will breakthrough the final weight loss plateau using that method. Use MyFitnessPal (a helpful app), a notepad, accountability partners, etc. At this point if you have met level 8 you should know how many calories you are consuming and how many you should aim for. Keep learning about foods and nutrition and keep going until you have met your weight loss or body fat goal.
Level 10: Celebrate!
For every goal you meet or every level you get to in nutrition (and fitness) make sure you have rewards for yourself! Realize meeting each of these levels is a goal in itself, and we should all have a fitness goal that we are meeting alongside the nutrition goals. Do something you have never done before and tell people you are going to do it. They will watch you and applaud your progress. Celebrate your accomplishments with something that you truly enjoy. Your body will be thriving and strong enough to enjoy those rewards 🙂