by Bernadette Kathryn
In association with The Institute for Integrative Nutrition
You can't turn on the TV, drive down the road or go to a party without being confronted with one of America's hottest obsessions: Diets!
Dieting is a billion-dollar industry. Many companies spend millions of dollars luring you to try the latest diet (low carbohydrate, high protein, low fat, no fat) with promises that this will be the solution. Advertising efforts also deeply affect our children, who develop distorted body images and are often on a diet as early 10 years of age.
We are an 'instant coffee' society; we want instant results for very little effort. Our culture touts diet pills, quick fixes, celebrity workouts, convenience foods and trendy diets to help us achieve our desired weight, but these solutions have backfired. America's populace has reached its highest weight in history. Over half of Americans are overweight; one-third of Americans are obese. Diets steer us away from our common sense and dip deeply into our pocketbooks while eliciting few, if any, lasting results.
• Diets don't work because each person is unique, with different needs based on gender, age, ancestry and lifestyle; how could one diet be right for everyone?
• Diets don't work because they are extreme solutions. As in physics, if a pendulum swings to one extreme, it has to swing equally to the other. A diet might work for a short amount of time, but research shows that almost all diets result in a 10-pound gain once off the diet.
• Diets don't work because they are too restrictive. People who fail on diet plans are not flawed or weak. Diets by nature require discipline and restriction at levels that are unsustainable by a healthy human body and are unnecessary when eating healthy, whole foods and leading a balanced lifestyle.
• Most people are disconnected from why they gain weight and see diet as the only culprit. For example, ignoring or discounting emotions is often the first thing to cause weight imbalances.
In our fast-paced world, we have lost sight of many aspects of life that truly nourish and balance our bodies, such as slowing down, eating a home-cooked meal and spending quality time with loving people. Eating consciously and making simple lifestyle changes will create positive results and release you from the endless cycle of dieting. Given half a chance, your body will balance out by itself, but this is only possible by getting out of the diet mentality and listening to what you truly need. Imagine taking all of the outward energy you expend on diets, fads and gimmicks and turning it inward, so that you can listen to your heart and inner wisdom. There is no such thing as a quick fix; you already have everything you need within you. With careful thought and loving reflection, you can feed yourself in a nourishing way. Working with your body rather than against it will bring you increased energy, stabilized weight and sustainable health.
Organic Fruits & Vegetables
Good nutrition and exercise are major factors that can make a difference in the incidence of many diseases. In addition to making smarter food choices and reducing the quantity of food consumed, it is also advised to make smarter choices in the quality of food consumed. Organic fruits and vegetables have significantly higher levels of cancer-fighting antioxidants, according to a 2003 study in Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.
It is recommended to eat a diet rich in unprocessed foods, meat from free-range animals, and grains, fruits and vegetables grown organically or at least using more natural farming methods.
Another issue affecting conventional fruit that has arisen from modern agriculture is residual pesticides. A 2003 study by the University of Washington found that children eating organic fruits and vegetables had concentrations of pesticide lower than children eating conventional produce. Pesticide exposure has been linked to many adverse health conditions ranging from skin diseases among farmers who use pesticides to very serious neurological diseases, such as Parkinson's disease. Organophosphates, which are used in many herbicides and insecticides, have been linked in animal studies to developmental delays, behavioral disorders, motor dysfunction.
According to the Environmental Working Group, the 12 most pesticide-laden fruits and vegetables (in order of toxicity) are: Strawberries, Bell Peppers, Spinach, Cherries, Peaches & Nectarines, Cantaloupe, Celery, Apples, Apricots, Green Beans, Grapes and Cucumbers.
In addition to eliminating the potential health and environmental hazards organically grown produce actually confers health benefits, according to new research. Some of the benefits of organic food are:
- They have more nutritional value. Organic foods contain higher levels or vitamins and minerals.
- They contain more antioxidants. Food scientists at the University of California found that organically gown fruits and vegetables show significantly higher levels of cancer-fighting antioxidants than conventionally grown foods.
- They help promote biodiversity. According to a study called The Biodiversity Benefits of Organic Farming, "organic farms had five times as many wild plants and 57% more species."
A Healthy Menu 40 | 30 | 30
General guidelines for a healthy menu are:
• 40% Low Glycemic Carbohydrates
• 30% Lean Protein – Turkey is perfect!
• 30% Healthy Fats
What this means is – 40% of your dinner plate should ideally consist of slow burning carbohydrates to avoid a spike in your blood sugar level and keep your physical & mental energy sharp.
This list includes:
• Dark leafy greens like – spinach, kale, mustard greens, etc.
• Whole grains, such as – brown or basmati rice, quinoa, or bulgur wheat.
(All of which would make a wonderful foundation for a stuffing.)
• Sweet potatoes, acorn squash or butternut squash.
Choose one from each category to make sure you do not have too much starchy vegetables on your plate.
30% of your plate should ideally consist of a lean protein. One traditional holiday protein is turkey, which is perfect. Fish and chicken are other good lean protein options.
30% of your meal should ideally consist of healthy fats. Your body needs fat to operate at it's best. Your brain, your skin and body need fat for optimal well-being. However, it is important to take into consideration what kind of fat is being included. Ideally try to use Extra Virgin Olive Oil for any sautéing that your vegetables & dressing your salads. Use butter sparingly and make sure that you are not using margarine. And, if you like nuts and there isn't anyone with an allergy coming to your table, using nuts in your stuffing can be a wonderful addition that has the added bonus of contributing to the healthy fat category!
Let's not forget about dessert! What a great subject – we all love dessert. It very often brings back wonderful childhood memories and amazing fun to go with it.
The only thing to consider is – what else have you eaten so far? If you are definitely a dessert eater – try to plan room in your 40/30/30 equation for dessert. Try to keep your dessert wholesome and fun, limit the amount of sugar used and try to keep the portion size down to limit the blood sugar spike that can come from a dessert. But, by all means, have dessert – and have fun!
2015-2020 Edition of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans
You can read more about nutrition on Nestle's web site, here:
Nestle: Good Food, Good Life; The Nutritional Compass
You can read more about the USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion (CNPP), here:
USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion (CNPP)
You can read more about USDA Weight and Obesity General Information and Resources, here:
USDA Weight and Obesity General Information and Resources