There are lots of different ways to eat healthily. Many people have done well with an intermittent fasting approach whereas others will eat six small meals a day. Making juicing part of a diet plan can make a real difference. The Paleo diet also has a very solid track record and is something that I have found to work. It is an easy way to to eliminate a lot of the low-quality food that makes up so many modern choices. One thing that works, whatever you choose, is basing your diet around whole foods. It is without doubt the simplest way to eat well and certainly the most natural.
With a little forethought and planning, it isn’t that tough to get the whole family eating this way too, making it a smart way to keep everyone healthy.
What is a Whole Food Diet?
So what exactly is a whole food diet? Basically, this means eating foods in, or as close to, their natural state as possible. Remove food that is overly processed (especially sugar and white flour) and make sure that fresh fruit and vegetables are the cornerstone of your meals. If you eat grains , they should be whole grains rather than refined.
You might think that you do this already, but most of us really don’t. When you don’t have much time, it is just so much easier to throw something quick and easy into bag as you rush around the store. After all, what difference does a tv dinner or two really make?
That’s the real issue here. Most of us aren’t completely honest about what we eat and what we serve up to the rest of the family. If you take the time to note down what you actually eat, you might be surprised just how little whole food ends up on your plate!
So the basic version of a whole food diet means cutting out refined food choices, but you can take this further. For example, many whole food dieters reduce or eliminate meat, eggs and fish altogether. This isn’t a necessity however and you can eat a very healthy diet that contains meat and diary (which is what we do.)
If you have kids, you might want to avoid getting overly restrictive. If I remove meat from my kids’ plates altogether I know that whatever I make is usually going to be a tough sell. Of course, there are plenty of ways to trick them into eating something. Presentation does make a difference.
The same goes for grains. Unless you are looking for a gluten-free diet, whole grains are fine for most people. In fact, life can get fairly hard if you try to remove them all from the dinner table. Most of us in the Western world tolerate whole grains pretty well and if you don’t suffer from any problems in terms of allergies or digestion, it makes sense to keep them.
So it’s a diet that relies on high-quality food in its natural form. What could be healthier than that? Of course, this is actually a pretty big contrast to the “health” movement of the last couple of decades which has promoted weight loss through all sorts of crazy schemes. If we take a look at what has been suggested to stay in shape, it is easy to see why. When I think back to all the hair-brained crazes that I have seen (and yes, tried!) I shudder.
There are still, unfortunately, many out there who think that staying lean and looking good revolves around taking endless supplements every day. Others start their day with tens of pills, potions and capsules. These range from vitamins and minerals to hormone boosters. Before anyone writes in to complain, I am not ‘anti-supplement’ as you will see.
So what’s wrong with this? Well, at least a couple of things. Firstly, this is diametrically opposed to ‘natural’. It should be obvious, but if the majority of the things you consume are in capsule form in a bottle, you aren’t eating naturally, whatever the picture on the packet shows!
Secondly, it has a huge financial cost. In fact, I always smile to myself when I hear people say that a juicer is an expensive option and then see how much that same person spends on sports supplements over a week or two! A juicer would pay for itself many times over when you compare the real cost of what you are taking. This also goes for any other of the great pieces of equipment that I have sitting in my kitchen, from spice grinders to steamers. These things certainly aren’t free, but they have paid for themselves so many times over by now it isn’t even funny. We can eat tasty, natural food that is full of vitamins and minerals and don’t need to worry about getting ‘health in a bottle.’
So are all supplements bad? Not necessarily. Perhaps the key is to think about the word ‘supplement’. We should be talking about things that are used in addition to your diet and then only in exceptional circumstances when needed. They are the ultimate processed foods in many ways and if you do use them, it should be from trusted manufacturers and in small quantities.
For example, if you like to exercise or spend a lot of time in the gym, using some supplements might make sense. They are quick and convenient. There are some companies that use all-natural ingredients and make some great products. However, it might be time to stop reading those magazines at the checkout that are pushing the latest miracle cure to finally lose those extra 10 pounds!
The Advantage of Natural Eating
The beauty of whole food is that you are really eating the way that nature intended and it will do you the power of good. Things like chemical additives, extra sugar and trans fats are responsible for a lot of health problems from digestive troubles to joint pain through inflammation and heart disease.
From personal experience, the difference this makes is huge. After a month or two, you will find that all the little aches and pains that had become part of your daily life are slowly going away and your energy levels are heading way up. I defy any mom to experience this and not want to do the same thing for the rest of the family.
Don’t think that this means surviving on raw fruit and vegetables. You can make all of your favorite recipes without ruining them by using additives. How much more satisfying is it to eat something that you have made yourself from scratch rather than heating up a tv dinner with a list of artificial ingredients as long as your arm? You will enjoy something that tastes good and does you good.
Of course to make this work you need a little know-how and a few tools in the kitchen, but this isn’t rocket science. You don’t need to be professional chef to make tasty food (yes, even food that your kids will enjoy!)
So fruits and vegetables are great, but what else should be on your plate? It isn’t all about plant-based nutrition. Here are some ideas:
- Free range eggs
- Organic fish and meat
- Potatoes and sweet potatoes
- Brown rice, millet, buckwheat
- chickpeas and kidney beans
This is just a start. The point is that there are many delicious natural foods to choose from, both plant-based foods and others. And if your partner turns up his nose at this list, just wait until he tastes what is really possible. Making a pizza using chickpea flour for the crust with fresh organic tomatoes and herbs on top should remind him exactly what his taste buds are for!
As you get deeper into whole food nutrition, you will become good at changing one unhealthy ingredient for something natural.As our example above shows, you might have thought that pizza was now off-limits with its processed white flour but it really doesn’t have to be. There are so many other situations where switching natural for processed will make food tastier, healthier and won’t break the bank or mean that you have to spend hours in the kitchen. You simply need to cook smarter and make sure that you are equipped.
Although this way of eating has been around for thousands of years, it doesn’t mean that you can’t take advantage of modern methods to prepare your meals. There is nothing wrong with using a state-of-the-art juicer everyday, or preparing your evening meal in a slow cooker while you are out at work. Obviously, you should stay away from the microwave, but don’t think that you should eat everything raw if you don’t want to (although raw food certainly has its advantages too and should be a part of your diet.)
Eating whole food does require a mentality change. We tend to look at the things we eat in a one dimensional way. Meat is for protein, diary is for calcium, fruit is for vitamins or whatever. This is thanks to years of advertising and commonly-held beliefs. Food doesn’t work like that. Anything you eat is actually a complex mix of different nutrients. It is time to take a more global view of things and consider the total package. This is what a whole food diet is all about. Surely your health and that of your family are worth it.