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Guest Post by Dan Chojnacki The health and wellness industry continues to have a significant impact on society. Figuring out how and what we should eat is the subject of endless debate. You've probably heard of the keto diet, the macro diet, the Mediterranean diet, or the South Beach diet — they all promise better health. How does a person decide what diet will work for them? Is it the best diet for them, or would another one be better? Will it give them the results they’re looking for? Breaking news: You don’t have to diet to be healthy or reach your goals! People dealing with a medical condition may need to follow a specific diet to maintain their health. For those of us not under a doctor’s care, however, our best bet is to try healthy eating. “Healthy” is a term that can mean different things for different people. Our bodies are all unique in their exact needs, so what is healthy for one person might not be healthy for another. Despite this, we all share many common needs when it comes to nutrition. So let’s take a look at some of the obvious (and not so obvious) choices we can make to eat well, sans diet. Cut out the junk No one’s going to be shocked to learn that pizza, burgers, and fried foods won’t make the list of today’s best diets. For those trying to improve their health without a specific diet, there’s no excuse for junk food. Whether you’re following a plan or not, the first step toward eating well is to remove or cut back on the foods we know are unhealthy. Of course you can indulge in your favorite foods on occasion. Don’t be that guy who gets bummed when there’s no cauliflower pizza at the kid’s birthday party. At the same time, don’t be the guy making junk food a part of your daily menu. That will lead to many problems. Most people know which foods they should avoid when trying to eat well. For those with questions, there are plenty of resources available to help you make the decision. When in doubt, ask yourself if this food will benefit your body, or just satisfy a craving. Figure out your daily needs It’s not a universal rule that everyone needs to count calories. However, knowing the number of calories your body requires will help you be mindful of what you’re eating. You don’t have to keep an exact log all day, every day. But it’s important to be aware of whether you are overeating or undereating to stay healthy. Calorie counting can also help you decide what types of foods you want to eat. For example, if you know that three slices of pizza will take up 800 of the 1,800 calories your body needs in a day, you might rethink your decision and opt for something healthier. People’s specific calorie needs vary due to several factors. You can find dozens of calorie calculators online to give you a rough estimate of what you need in a day. If you’re looking for something more exact, consider seeing a dietician. Keep your portions under control Portion control is one area of eating well that can’t be stressed enough. Even healthy food can be unhealthy for our bodies if we eat too much of it. Let’s use almonds, for example. They contain healthy fats that are good for our hearts. However, a handful of almonds can contain around 200 calories. It’s easy to overindulge quickly when you don’t know things like that. Here are two tips I like to give my clients when thinking about portion control and healthy eating: Use a smaller plate when eating meals. Most of us fill our plates to the max when we see delicious food. If there is less room on the plate, then our portion size is automatically smaller (as long as you don’t go back for seconds or thirds). Try to stick to one helping of a meal. There is a delay between our brain and our stomach when it comes to feeling full. We might be full after our first helping, but our brain hasn’t received that signal yet. Try waiting 10–15 minutes after your first helping before deciding if you need to go for seconds. Plan your meals in advance Now before you start to think this is beginning to sound like a diet, I promise you it’s not. Many diets do ask you to plan or prepare your meals in advance. But these diets usually have specific meals for you to follow. Knowing what you’re going to eat in advance helps you avoid giving into cravings or taking an easy way out when it comes to cooking a meal. This is not a specific diet. It’s simply a plan for your meals to contain the foods of your choice. This is also a great way to save time. Many of our poor eating choices happen when we’re in a hurry. We feel like we don’t have time to even think of what we should make to eat, let alone cook it. So mapping out your meals and having them ready eliminates your excuse to make an unhealthy choice because of time. Yes, you can eat healthy without dieting The word “diet” has a bad reputation, and often leaves a bad taste in our mouths. It conjures up thoughts of carb-cutting, kale salads, and day after day of boneless, skinless chicken breast. Newsflash: the word “diet” can simply refer to what you’re eating. Everything you eat is part of your diet. For that reason, you can eat nutritiously without giving your diet a specific name. By focusing on healthy foods, calorie needs, and portion sizes, you’ll be well on your way to cleaning up your diet without being on one. Dan Chojnacki writes for QuickQuote.com and has been a certified personal trainer (NETA) for nearly a decade. He currently trains in Green Bay, Wisconsin, where he is also a group fitness director. In his free time, he enjoys running, swimming, playing tennis, and coaching youth softball.
Guest Post by Lisa Richards Nobody enjoys being bloated or gassy. And yet we often think that it’s just something to put up with. Well, good news — you don’t have to put up with it. All you need to do is make a few lifestyle changes. Good digestion is not only about what you eat, but how you eat it, and how well you look after your body in general. After all, you are what you eat! Here are eight lifestyle changes to help maintain great digestion: 1. Eat the right foods Unsurprisingly, the foods that upset your digestive system the most are those that are high in fat, sugar, and artificial additives. That’s because your body was never designed to break down these highly processed foods. Chips, cookies, crackers and soft drinks aren’t really food at all, but rather a mixture of chemicals and synthetic ingredients. Your digestive system is built for plant foods, lean proteins, fruits, and nuts. These are the foods that provide the vitamins and minerals your body needs in order to function properly — so it makes sense to eat them! By including more real food in your diet and less man-made food, you’ll be feeding your digestive system the foods it recognizes and providing yourself with real nutrition. It’s a no-brainer, really! 2. Boost your good gut bacteria Your gut is home to trillions of microbes that play a major role in healthy digestion. But if you’re suffering from dysbiosis or an overgrowth of bad bacteria (or yeast such as Candida albicans), your digestive function will be considerably weakened. The best way to beat the bad bacteria is to add more good. Studies have shown that supplementing with probiotics is an effective way to reduce levels of bad bacteria and yeast in the gut and also restore good digestive function. You can improve your levels of beneficial bacteria by taking a quality probiotic supplement every day or by adding fermented foods to your diet. These include products such as kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir, and natural yoghurt. When buying a probiotic, look for one that contains lots of strains and at least 10 billion CFUs of bacteria. Also consider the delivery system to your gut, as most probiotics in vegetable capsules are destroyed by stomach acid. The probiotic that I use myself uses time-release tablets to deliver its bacteria safely past stomach acid. 3. Add more fiber to your diet Another one of the reasons for poor digestive function is slow bowel transit time. When your diet is lacking in fiber, food moves more slowly through the intestines, causing it to release nasty gases. Fiber also only helps to maintain the health of your gut and bulk out your stools, helping them to move through your digestive system more regularly. Even better, fiber provides fuel that supports the good bacteria in your gut. The best fiber-rich foods include nuts, seeds, kiwifruit, berries, avocados, pears, bran, and oatmeal. 4. Minimize stress You may have noticed a kind of butterflies feeling in your tummy when you’re nervous or stressed. This is the effect that anxiety and worry can have on your digestion. In some cases, stress slows down digestion and causes bloating, pain, and constipation. Other times, it can speed everything up, causing diarrhea or destroying your appetite completely. Stress can also worsen conditions such as stomach ulcers and irritable bowel syndrome. It can also change the balance of your gut bacteria. It’s a good idea to avoid eating if you’re feeling very anxious, stressed, or upset. Try to avoid stressful situations during meal times or eating on the run. Practice meditation for 15–30 minutes a day to reduce your stress levels and induce a sense of calm. 5. Quit smoking Smoking can really mess with your natural digestive function, causing all sorts of nasty symptoms. Cigarette smoking tends to weaken the muscle that controls the lower end of your esophagus, known as the gullet. When this happens, acid from your stomach can splash up into your esophagus, causing the unpleasant sensation known as acid reflux. Reflux is often described as heartburn — a burning sensation in the chest. Over time, excess stomach acid caused by smoking can also increase your risk of stomach ulcers and inflammatory conditions of the bowel. Smoking is also a major risk factor for stomach cancer. The best way to restore the health of your gut is to quit! 6. Practice mindful eating Taking the time to really focus on your food can make a huge difference to your digestion. Don't rush your meals. Take time to chew slowly. Try putting your fork down between bites and chewing each mouthful properly. This method can also help prevent you from overeating. If you find it takes you too long to eat a full meal, try eating five to six small meals a day instead of three large ones. It’s also important to avoid eating a big meal just before you go to bed, as your body will find it difficult to digest a meal while lying down. 7. Hydrate Make sure you have plenty of water to drink each day — at least two liters. Water helps to flush food through your digestive system, keeping everything flowing smoothly down through your digestive tract. When you don’t drink enough, your stools can become dry and hard to pass, causing constipation and intestinal discomfort. Try carrying a water bottle with you at all times and remember to keep sipping it throughout the day. This is easier than drinking those eight glasses! Do try to avoid drinking large amounts of water 30 minutes either side of meals, as this can dilute your digestive enzymes. 8. Exercise Exercise naturally stimulates peristalsis, the movement of food through your intestines. Being sedentary, however, has the opposite effect: it causes your digestion to slow down, which in turn can lead to tummy trouble. Being overweight can also cause digestive problems because excess abdominal fat puts pressure on your stomach, causing heartburn. Regular exercise will not only help speed your bowel transit time but will also keep your weight at a healthy range. Losing a few pounds can help to relieve digestive symptoms and also reduce your risk of inflammatory bowel conditions. Try exercising for at least 30 minutes a day through walking, jogging, running, or cycling. Lisa Richards is a Nutritionist for The Candida Diet.
Why eat healthy? Your health is your lifeline. Literally. Your ability to function is directly related to your physical health. Though there are many ways to improve your health, one of the most important is eating healthy foods. This may not be appealing to some, but the results of healthy eating habits make it well worth it. According to Healthline, if you are willing to commit to eating healthier foods, you will see a number of improvements in your life. You will be better able to maintain a healthy weight, your mood will likely improve, your body will be better equipped to combat disease, you will have more energy, and your overall longevity will be increased. Now, eating healthy, though a challenging goal, is doable during the majority of the year. What about during the holidays? Thanksgiving and Christmas come with a number of fun traditions, but most people would agree that some of the most significant traditions during the holiday season center on food. In this article, we will be providing you with some expert tips on healthy eating during the holidays, what foods you should be avoiding, and what healthy foods you should be adding to your diet. Though eating healthy during the holidays seems difficult, we hope to make it a bit easier for you. Healthy eating tips Hard things require effort. Eating healthy foods can certainly be one of those hard things. To take some of that burden off of your shoulders, we have turned to a number of experts to compile a list of ways that you can maintain a healthy and balanced diet during the holiday season. Avoid the holiday think Dr. Candice Seti, a clinical psychologist, personal trainer, and nutrition coach with The Weight Loss Therapist, feels that there an all-or-nothing attitude that has become common during the holiday season. In essence, it is like considering the last three weeks of December as "the holidays" and deciding you will get back on track starting January 1st. Realistically, two or three large and/or unhealthy meals will have almost no impact in the long-term, but 15 or 20 meals is where things get scary. Seti suggests avoiding holiday weight gain by "reminding yourself that you have control over ALL of the other non-event meals during the holiday season. Making healthy choices during those meals will ensure that the impact of the big meals is much more minimal." Make the “best” choices "It's simple, don't aim for perfection, but aim for the best choice," says Bart Wolbers, Chief Science Writer and Researcher with Alexfergus.com. Wolbers talking about how eating an imbalanced meal during thanksgiving and a couple of them during Christmas is not going to ruin a year's worth of efforts. If people tell you otherwise, they need to get their facts straight. That being said, don't be worried about stuffing yourself with turkey during your thanksgiving dinner. The key to your success will be opting for a smaller dessert when the time comes. As you plan for Christmas and New Year's, Wolbers suggests, "Eat that wonderful meal with your family, but make healthy choices during your other meals of the day. Don't be afraid of having a few glasses of champagne, but make sure to eat and drink healthy again the next day." Moderation Maintaining moderation in your diet requires discipline. Kristian Morey, RD, LDN, and Clinical Dietitian at Mercy Medical Center, recommends, "Don’t keep candy, cookies, or pies around the house. Enjoy it in moderation here and there, but keeping it always available in your home during the holidays can make that very difficult to do." Morey knows that many people have holiday traditions of making and giving away sweets to friends and family. To make sure that you don't end up with excess sweets in your home, she suggests only making as much as you are going to give away. If you don't know that you will be able to practice self-control if you do end up with some leftover sweets at home, she suggests choosing a different way to give to those you love and focusing on special experiences with them. She says, "the memories will last longer than the sweets do!" If you find yourself struggling to maintain balance through eating in moderation, it may be helpful to measure out your portion sizes. To help you figure out appropriate portions for you, this infographic from a recent study conducted by Precision Nutrition should help you visualize what this looks like. Infographic provided by Precision Nutrition “All foods can be eaten in moderation. Try to limit saucy, fried foods. Also, limit drinks with calories; they can add up quickly." — RD Natalie Allen, Instructor of Biomedical Sciences at Missouri State University Consistency "The best way to eat healthy during the holidays is to stick with your normal eating routine (as best you can)!" This advice from Kimberly Snyder, Celebrity Certified Nutritionist, is one of the keys to your success. Instead of depriving yourself so you can later binge on a huge holiday meal, she recommends starting your day with a nourishing smoothie. This will keep you hydrated, provide your body with nutrients you may not be getting from other meals, and prevent you from overeating indulgent foods later in the day. When it comes to mealtime during the holidays, it’s understandable to overload your plate with mounds of sweet and savory dishes. We all face the temptation of reaching for multiple helpings. If you find yourself going back to the buffet, Snyder suggests keeping your portion of seconds small and avoiding a third helping, so that you can enjoy the desserts without regret. Foods to avoid One of the key success factors when eating healthy is not eating unhealthy foods. During the holidays, we are presented with so many options at celebratory meals. That being said, there are some foods that we would recommend avoiding in order to best care for your health without missing out on the celebrations and fun. Beverages Most of our favorite holidays are often accompanied by a number of beverages. Though drinks seem innocent, be careful how much you drink. Many seasonal drinks are high in calories. According to Caleb Backe, Personal Trainer and Health and Wellness Expert for Maple Holistics, you should watch out for the following: Beer Wine Eggnog Mimosas It's easy to keep going back for "just one more glass," but Backe adds, "not only are they unnecessary calories, but too much will make you lose your inhibitions and head back to the buffet for second and third helpings." Be smart with your drink selection! Leftovers Another super important tip is to avoid leftovers as best you can. "Holiday meals often come with days worth of heavy leftovers that just continue the cycle of overindulging," says Snyder. If you don't think you will be able to avoid eating them, give your leftovers to others so you can get right back on track with healthy eating and a normal routine. Obligatory foods Avoid foods you don’t actually like, but you feel obligated to eat, like Aunt Sally’s fruit cake. (And we ALL have that "Aunt Sally"). Kristian Morey, RD, LDN, and Clinical Dietitian at Mercy Medical Center, adds, "You do not have to try everyone’s dish at Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner, especially if they don’t align with your health goals or tastes." Don't be afraid to say no; just get the food that you actually want to eat. Energy-dense foods Energy-dense foods are those that are deficient in nutrients including vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Kaitlin Cushman, a nutritionist focusing on children's health from Healthy Height knows that convincing your kids to eat non-energy-dense foods is no simple task, as these include the classic turkey, assorted vegetables, and other healthy side dishes. She suggests that portion control for the following foods will become crucial in order to maintain somewhat of a balanced meal: Deep-fried turkey or other fried foods Bread-heavy stuffing Baked goods (i.e. cookies, pie, cake) Heavily sauced items like casseroles, creamed corn, and mashed potatoes with gravy Canned cranberry sauce White bread, dinner rolls, etc. Filler foods One of the most common mistakes that people make is filling up on filler foods. Most casseroles, baked goods, and even vegetables are loaded with fats, sugar, and refined carbs. These are considered filler foods as they accompany the key elements of the meal. Lisa Richards, an author and nutritionist from The Candida Diet, has said, "Avoid 'healthy' foods that have been cooked in sugar and fat. There are many filler foods, mostly side dishes, that only add excess empty calories. Rather than filling up with these foods choose the more nutrient dense options." Healthy foods to eat The key to eating healthy is providing your body with the nutrients that it needs in the right proportions. That means that you should be eating healthy foods every day. Did you know that there are many people who are eating little to no fruits and vegetables on a daily basis? Precision Nutrition found that over the past five years, people have started eating fewer fruits and vegetables each day. Image provided by Precision Nutrition We know that it can be hard to know what foods will help your body the most. We have done the homework for you! We asked health and wellness experts about their top five fruits, vegetables, proteins, and whole grains that will help our bodies stay well nourished. Here is what we found: Fruits “Whether it’s a large group brunch event or a traditional family dinner, opt to fill up with fruit or veggies before tackling the rest of the meal. For breakfast, this may mean a small fruit bowl first and dinner could be starting with a small salad or some roasted veggies. Either way, you will fill up some space in your stomach to help curb your hunger sooner. And you’ll also get a bunch of good nutrients in your system – something that’s often missing from our holiday favorites!” — Seti Top five fruits Blueberries Avocados Coconut Apples Raspberries Expert tip from Trebing How to eat more apples: "Apples are incredibly versatile. From apple slices to stewed apples and of course traditional apple pie or baked apples, there’s a multitude of recipes for apples." — Renata Trebing, Health and Wellness Expert from nourishwithrenata.com Veggies “There’s a reason why Popeye loved his spinach, and I’m with him – I can’t get enough of this stuff. I put it in smoothies as it resembles the taste of a banana alongside other fruit like mangos. Anywhere I order a salad or when I make one at home, I ask for the base to be spinach as opposed to iceberg. You can toss spinach into pasta and also layer it in a sandwich. I recommend upping spinach intake to all my athletes as its calcium content is great for injury prevention.” — Matt Kite, Director of Education and Personal Training Coach for D1 Training Top five veggies Kale Spinach Tomatoes Carrots Broccoli Expert tip from Trebing "Carrots are high in beta carotene, which not only gives it the orange hue, but is also a powerful antioxidant. Some studies show that beta carotene may help fight cancer cells too. Carrots sticks are great raw snacks but you can also make carrot cake, roast or braise carrots too." — Trebing Proteins “Just like avocados, Salmon is packed with healthy fast – omega 3 fatty acids – and super delicious. It also has plenty of protein to keep you full and help with muscle growth. I bake salmon in the oven and will eat it with a squeeze of lemon or some tzatziki sauce – a healthy condiment that’s made with yogurt, giving you even more protein and health benefits. But, you can also break it up and toss it in a salad." — Kite Top five proteins Salmon Chicken Lean red meat Beans and lentils Protein powders Expert tip from Trebing "Chicken is a great source of protein and is one of the most versatile protein sources too. You can literally use chicken as a meat to grill, roast it in the oven, simmer it in stock, use ground chicken for chili, or have canned chicken on salads." — Trebing Grains “Quinoa has become a popular gluten free grain option, but most people do not know it is actually a seed. It is thought of as a grain because it is often prepared and consumed similarly to other whole grains. Quinoa has the highest protein content in this category containing 8-10g grams of protein per cup compared to white rice at about 4-5 grams per cup. Quinoa is also unique plant protein in this category because the protein is a complete protein containing all the essential amino acids." — Randy Evans, MS, RD, LD, Consultant for Fresh n' Lean Top five whole grains Quinoa Lentils Whole-Wheat Bread Oats Brown Rice Expert tip from Trebing "Brown rice is actually really nutritious. It contains high amounts of manganese, selenium, and phosphorous, as well as being higher in fiber than white rice. Brown rice is a great accompaniment for any Asian meal or even to make paella, rice cakes, or as an addition to soup." — Trebing Bonus tip That's right, even a blog post like this has a bonus round! Here is one more expert tip to help you stay healthy all year. Buddy system "We all do better with a little support and accountability, and the holiday time is no different," says Seti. She also recommends finding a friend or family member with similar health goals and making a plan together. Share your goals for each meal, agree to remind each other, or simply choose to check in with each other each day and give a daily report. Whatever you plan, having someone committed to the same goals will help with motivation and commitment.