Fill in the blank. I want to get ________. Chances are, for many of us that blank is filled in with a health-related word. Perhaps the first word that comes to mind is “healthier”, “skinnier”, “stronger” or even “more energized”.
While I believe that we must take a holistic approach to health in order to achieve any of the above goals, there’s one area that stands out among the rest. Nutrition! What we choose to fuel our body with directly affects how we feel and function, and can have a huge impact on how quickly we reach our health-related goals.
Here are my top six tips for how to clean up your plate… starting now!
Nix the processed foods (and the added sugars and artificial ingredients). This one is a given, but is also the most important which is why it’s at the top of the list! Foods found in a package are often stripped of nutritious ingredients, creating the need for added salt, sugars and other less-than-stellar additives to add flavoring back into the foods.
When stocking up at the grocery store, stick to the perimeter of the store. Instead of just looking at the nutrition label, look at the ingredients and make sure you recognize and can pronounce the foods. Could you make this food at home? If the answer is “yes”, it’s safe to throw it in the cart.
Eat more produce. Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables throughout the day will help ensure your body is getting the nutrients it needs to sustain lasting energy and overall health. Leafy greens in particular are known to be a “longevity food” due to their alkalinizing effects in the body (helps fight inflammation) and disease-fighting nutrients.
Strive for balance. When it comes to balance, consistency is more important than perfectionism (as is true in most areas of life!). Aim to fill half of your plate with veggies and some fruit, a quarter whole grains or more veggies and the remaining quarter with lean protein. Adding in a serving of healthy fats will provide your body with energy and increase the absorption of certain vitamins and minerals!
Fats will help you lose fat. Speaking of fats, don’t shy away from this fat-burning macronutrient. Coming from the right sources, healthy fats can be your best friend when trying to maintain a lean, toned physique. Healthy fat sources include: avocado (my favorite!), olive oil, nuts and seeds, fish and leafy greens.
Be mindful of salt. The dietary guidelines recommend that individuals consume no more than 2,300 mg of sodium a day. This amount can easily be met with just one restaurant meal! Excess sodium leads to high blood pressure which can put you at risk for heart disease, stroke, heart failure and kidney failure.
Increase hydration. This last tip technically doesn’t have to do with your plate, but the importance of proper hydration is worth noting. Did you know that the body is made up of about 60% water? Mild dehydration can lead to symptoms such as fatigue, dizziness, headaches and lackluster skin. I always recommend the 8×8 rule: 8 8oz glasses of water a day. You can jazz it up by adding fresh citrus slices, mint or cucumber to your glass!