You CAN eat healthier! Avoid these 3 mistakes

This time last year, the month of June seduced us with her warm, inviting temperatures to head outdoors – worry-free – for large gatherings, vacation travel, and other fun-in-the-sun activities.

This year we’ll try to enjoy our summertime fun under a heavy cloud of caution while still adhering to state-mandated six-feet guidelines, and accessorizing our skimpy summer wear with masks when we can’t maintain that six-foot distance.

We are all powerless in the grip of this COVID-19 pandemic as cases of infection continue to rise.

But with so many factors out of our control, this is the time to focus on the things we can control, such as learning to eat healthier on a consistent basis.

DID YOU KNOW ……..?

Eating healthy is not a fashion trend.

I’m not saying that you can’t use a gorgeous string bikini or form-fitting pair of jeans as an incentive to jump-start your healthy-eating lifestyle.

I’m saying don’t let it stop there.

Now, more than ever, maintaining a consistent healthy-eating plan is crucial to keeping our bodies free from developing diet-related health conditions and diseases. Furthermore, if keeping your weight down is your goal (as it should be for all of us) it’s imperative to stick to a long-term healthy-eating regimen.

  • Did you know that gaining weight, losing it again, then gaining it back is bad for your heart? (Check out this article on yo-yo dieting.)
  • Did you know that processed meats are classified as Group I carcinogens – meaning that there is evidence that they can cause cancer?
  • Did you know that there are two types of carbohydrates, and that our body’s energy levels are powered by the good carbs?
  • Do you read labels? If not, did you know that processed foods in general – and that includes vegan burgers, cheeses and other “healthy” alternatives – are higher in sodium?

I know you think it’s hard to sit around at home and NOT pig out on junk food right? Well, that’s ’cause you’re thinking according to the old norm, old habits that you created.

And guess what? Any habit that you created, you can un-create! (if that’s a word. )

SAY NO TO PROCESSED AND BAD CARBS

So, let’s say you’ve decided improve your health by either giving up or significantly reducing your meat (red meat), processed meats, and dairy intake, according to past research, you’re definitely making sound decisions.

In a 2015 World Health Organization Question and Answer paper regarding the International Agency for Research on Cancer’s (IARC) research on red meats and processed meats, the agency found “convincing evidence” of cancer-causing agents in processed meats. Processed meats included: hot dogs, cold cuts, vienna sausages, hams, bologna, corned beef or any other meat that was processed in some way to preserve it or enhance its flavor.

In my early 20’s when I started noticing that every time I ate meat – especially hamburger, steak, pork chops, even gravy from red meat – I felt lethargic, bloated, and definitely constipated. I decided to say goodbye to it all.

My personality couldn’t fathom giving up some meats; I gave up red meats, poultry, seafood, pork, the whole shebang – and 25 years later, I don’t regret giving up meats at all.

But I do regret the mistakes I made because I didn’t arm my nutrition journey with good information; and I’d like to see you avoid substituting one bad habit for another so that you can succeed at your healthy-eating goals.

MISTAKE #1

Filling up on carbs: I became a carb QUEEN! The way I figured it was: I’m not eating meat, so anything else is fair game.

Well, in my own defense, I was in my 20’s when I gave up meat – back in the 1990’s – and I’d actually never heard of a vegetarian or a vegan. I gave up meat specifically because whenever I ate it, no how much of it I ate, I felt like crap!

Not only did I not know anything about the vegetarian/vegan lifestyles, I was less than savvy about how too many carbohydrates affect your body. I’m not even sure I knew exactly what foods were carbohydrates – that all those bread sandwiches, pancakes, spaghetti, macaroni, and potato meals were the reason my dresses and pants were getting so tight.

I gained 25 pounds before my carb mistake settled into my brain. Yep, I learned the hard way; but you don’t have to.

So here’s the skinny on carbohydrates: There are good carbs: veggies, dairy products, breads, and fruits; and bad carbs: candy, cakes, cookies, honey buns, and on and on. Carbs give us our energy so it’s not necessary to cut them out.

However …

All carbs – good and bad – contain some type of sugar so it’s best to balance your intake. And carbs in natural form such as fruits and veggies are much better than processed carbs (breads) any day.

MISTAKE #2

Processed foods: When I gave up meat back in my 20’s, there were a few processed meatless brands (Morning Star) but not as many options as today.

When I decided to segue into a vegan lifestyle (I was 50 years old), the food industry had created a meatless, processed food smorgasbord – irresistible and totally deceptive as healthy meatless options.

Most processed foods – regardless of your nutritional lifestyle of choice – are unhealthy. They are loaded with extra sodium, sugar and fat, and will totally derail your goals if you’re choosing a meatless/dairy-free lifestyle to improve your health.

Processed foods: Check out the sodium count (for ONE burger) in the left photo.

It is possible to take the “lesser evil” method and choose processed foods that don’t have as much sodium or as much sugar and fat as others if you’re willing to comparison shop. That’s truly the best option if you can create a habit of discipline.

Otherwise, why choose to go meatless and dairy-free only to fill your body with unhealthy ingredients?

MISTAKE #3

Avoiding Meal-Prep: Meal prep is one of the most important steps in creating a new nutritional habit.

Why?

Let me answer that by offering a few life scenrios:

  • You are the only one in your household going meatless/dairy-free and your fridge and pantry are still stocked with temptations.
  • You leave work tired from a stressful day and can’t wrap your mind around creating AND waiting for your food to be ready.
  • You regularly pass by your old fast food joints where you’d stop and pick up something quick.
Chopped veggies: Think how delicious you can make your meal and how much time you save by prepping foods beforehand.

Shall I go on?

These few scenarios alone are reason enough to prep your meals and your snacks to keep you on track as you try and get used to a new mode of nutrition. Prepping your meatless/dairy-free meals will ensure you have a healthy lunch to carry with you to work; snacks to satisfy your hunger and still keep you on track, and a dinner ready to pop in the oven, or eat as is.

If you avoid these three mistakes, I guarantee you’ll create a sturdy foundation to eating healthier for a lifetime, and not just to fit into your summer outfits.

Remember that none of us were born chowing down on fried chicken, snarfing down super-size fries, chug-a-lugging Big Gulps and store-bought smoothies loaded with sugar.

We made a habit of eating/drinking those foods. We created those habits – and any habit created, can be destroyed.

Here’s to your health.

I welcome your thoughts!

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