Eat, Drink & Sleep More for Your Health

Your brain is a tool, and you gotta know how to use it to your advantage. We are continually discovering how we can work with the brain, instead of it working us.

When you think about “eating healthier”, do you bemoan all the food you can’t have? When we focus on the food we can’t have, we are still focusing on the food, which leads your brain to crave it.

If I say, “Don’t think of a white elephant!”, what does your brain automatically do? Our brains think in pictures so when you say “no dessert”, your brain reads “dessert.” Doh!

Now, there are valid environmental and animal welfare considerations that may have you considering not eating certain foods, but that is outside of the scope of this particular blog post (but being a plant-based eater myself, I will cover this topic soon).

A better approach no matter what your diet is to focus on all the foods you CAN eat. If the following list seems long and overwhelming, know you don’t have to change the way you eat overnight. Commit to one or 3 changes and give it try for 2 or 3 weeks.  See how you feel, mentally and physically, and make adjustments accordingly.

You can watch the video or read the blog or both. The list is the same, the details vary.

OK, so here are the things to eat more of (and other activities to engage in more).

1) MORE greens On the high end, it is nutritionally optimal to consume  a total of 9 servings (or about 2 1/2 cups) of veggies a day and dark leafy greens should be about a 1/3 of that. Greens are nutritional powerhouses, they detoxify you and are anti-inflammatory. You can add greens like kale, collards, spinach, beet greens to soups, saute’s, and wraps. Kale can be massaged with lemon juice and used as a base for a salad. Spinach salad is obvious. You can also simply saute greens with onions, garlic, and add a dash of lemon juice or tamari to taste. Here are some more ideas. 

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This cart is looking mighty abundant and bursting with nutrition!

2) MORE colors Have fun with this one. Foods with color have antioxidants, which helps keep your body running smoothly on a cellular level and improve your immune system. Eat a rainbow; choose from red, purple/blue, yellow, green and white. Once again, you can add  to anything you already make or you can do an assorted veggies saute as a large side dish. Here is a pretty cool sheet from Whole Foods to make it fun for kids to eat more colors but it worked for me too!

3) MORE Fruit  U.S. government guidelines recommend between 5 and 13 servings a day.  The average American eats only three. 2 cups is about 9 servings and that is a great goal to strive for. Berries are especially good for you, as they are particularly high in anti-oxidants. The fiber in fruit helps to balance out the sugar, but if sugar is a concern (as it might be if you eat a lot of processed food or dine out often), raspberries and blackberries are especially great choices as they are lower in sugar.

4) MORE healthy fat I recommend whole-foods, plant-based fats such as nuts, seeds, avocados and olives. Fat assists in helping you absorb “fat-soluble” vitamins such as Vitamins A, D, E, and K and provide essential fatty acids that assist in brain function, and keep our hair and skin healthy.

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Beans, beans, wonderful beans! To cook from scratch, soak overnight at a minimum. Adding kombu (a seaweed) makes beans more easily digestible.

5) MORE Whole Grains & Beans Grains and beans contain fiber and protein and are filling. They also are also rich in B vitamins and minerals like iron and magnesium. In “Blue Zones”, parts of the world known for their collective health and longevity, grains, beans and tubers make up over 60% of the local diet. There are hundreds of kinds of beans but some of the more common ones you might see are white, black, red, pinto. You can add them to dishes or make dips with them.

When you think of grains, you might think of rice. First off, brown rice is a great option. White rice, on the other hand, is just brown rice stripped of its outer layers, where much of the vitamins and minerals are. Think outside the box and explore grains like quinoa (keen-wah), oatmeal, barley and millet. Here is a guide for cooking grains and one for beans (though canned is OK too).

And now here are some lifestyle tips that will help you eat more healthfully.

6) MORE mindfulness What are you doing when you eat? Do you watch TV, do you read a book? If you never pay attention to the food you are eating, you will eat more of it and you won’t even realize it. When you pay more attention and take time to notice the color, aroma, taste, mouth-feel of your food, you will more easily cue into when you’ve eaten enough. I encourage you to pause and give thanks for your food, to really notice the first and last bites of your food, and to sometimes put down your utensil between bites. For more info on mindful eating, check out Dr. Susan Albers. 

7) MORE WATER Sometimes we confuse thirstiness with hunger. So when you think you are hungry, drink a glass of water and wait 10 minutes. Or better yet, drink water throughout the day. Definitely drink a large glass of water about 30 minutes before a meal. You will eat less and you are preparing your digestive system to absorb nutrients more efficiently. Avoid ice water if you can- it can essentially stop digestion.

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Even under the most challenging of circumstances, be dogged about getting your sleep (see what I did there?)

8) MORE SLEEP Sleep regulation is key to healthy eating. Not getting enough sleep messes with our hormones, decreasing the leptin which decreases hunger by providing energy balance and increases ghrelin, a hormone that encourages the body to consume more food. Studies show that the reward center in the brain is more stimulated by high-calorie and junk foods when the subject has gotten less sleep. Less sleep also leads to to poorer decision-making in general.

Did one or more of these tips resonate with you? What do you need MORE of in your life? What are you already doing? I would love to read your comments and answer any questions.

If you decide to try one or more of these changes, make it simple, make it as easy for you to do as possible, which means making a plan on how you will accomplish it.

For example, have a full water bottle around if you want to drink more water. Pre-chop some fruits and veggies and keep them in a visible spot on the counter or in the fridge. Tell a friend about your plan so they can support you, ask you how its going. Don’t judge if you backslide, it is almost guaranteed to happen.

A health coach can help you create a plan, stay on target, ask the right questions if you are feeling resistance or can help you tweak your plan if its not working for you.

I offer complementary health coaching session so you can get a taste of what I can do for you. You can sign up here. 

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