I keep hearing it: “I know what to do, but I just don’t do it.” You know which foods are ideal and should be integrated into your everyday life: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, etc. You also know which ones Foods should be minimized or consumed in moderation: baked goods, fried foods, high-sugar foods, etc. But why is it so difficult to put these concepts into practice when this information is so readily available?
There are many factors that can affect your eating habits. These are not excuses. These are real reasons that can make eating healthy a challenge.
Emotions. Patterns and habits shape what you consume, and changing your habits is not easy. Perhaps you have developed an emotional relationship with food, be it comfort or stress management, whether you grew up in the “Clean Plate Club” where you had to eat all the food on your plate regardless of signs of hunger or food for celebrations.
Food plays a role in your emotional state. Certain foods increase happiness hormones, dopamine, and serotonin, which cause your brain to associate food as a reward. This can cause you to become dependent on food whenever you experience any negative emotions such as anxiety, depression, or stress. You begin to “have to” this meal in order to feel better and to offset negative emotions.
Environment. Living in a certain area can mean having minimal access to healthy options, and the low cost of cheap but unhealthy foods could make this the only option, although those foods may be higher in additives, fat, sodium, and sugar.
The location of the food is also one of the environmental factors. When a tempting meal is around or easy to come by, it’s only a matter of time before you eat it. You might sometimes be disappointed with your lack of willpower to avoid unhealthy foods, but no one has enough willpower to stay away from them forever. The most successful people are those who keep off trigger foods or very tempting foods so that they are less likely to consume them. All of these environmental factors can make eating healthy a challenge, especially when optimal food choices are not readily available.
Physically. Physical factors include actual physical feelings of hunger. When you are physically hungry, your body craves instant energy, which generally makes you want to eat a simple sugar diet high in carbohydrates. Your body processes carbohydrates easily, which causes your body to crave them when you are hungry. Because of this, if you don’t eat consistently and skip or postpone meals, you tend to develop sugar cravings. Once you eat the sugar, your body craves more sugar, creating a downward spiral in your physical and mental health due to feelings of guilt and loss of control.
Another physical factor is genetics. There are certain genes that influence eating habits and behavior, and the way your brain is influenced by certain receptor genes. These factors contribute to how the foods you eat will affect you, which will also affect how easy or difficult it can be to change your eating habits.
Emotions, the environment, and physical bodies can all influence your food choices, habits, and patterns. So what can you do about it? Here are some realistic tips for taking sustainable steps towards positive change.
Eat fruits and vegetables
Why it matters. Fruits and vegetables provide incredible sources of antioxidants, minerals, nutrients, phytochemicals, and vitamins that are essential for health. A diet high in fruits and vegetables can reduce the risk of many chronic diseases such as diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and more. Fruits and vegetables are also high in fiber, which is filling and contributes to a healthy bowel.
Focus on the colors of the rainbow
Different colored foods offer different antioxidants, nutrients, and benefits. For example, red fruits and vegetables (red peppers, strawberries, tomatoes, and watermelon) improve heart health and memory. Orange and yellow fruits and vegetables (carrots, oranges, pineapple and yellow pumpkin) improve eyesight and support your immune system. Green fruits and vegetables (honeydew, kale, kiwi, and spinach) support strong bones and teeth. Blue and purple fruits and vegetables (blueberries, eggplants, purple cabbage, and purple grapes) improve memory and reduce inflammation.
Quick tip. Eat at least one color of fruits and vegetables every day. For example, eat something red on Monday, something orange on Tuesday, something yellow on Wednesday, something green on Thursday and something blue or purple on Friday. That way, you’ll eat all of the colors throughout the week to absorb a wide variety of nutrients. Eating more than one color in a day gives you more strength.
Fill half the plate with vegetables
Vegetables are low in calories and high in nutrients and fiber, which means they will fill you up with no guilty conscience. Whether you buy canned, fresh or frozen, all vegetables are good. If you put more vegetables on your plate, you can also reduce the portion sizes of other foods as there is less space for them.
Quick tip. On the weekend, cook a large serving of vegetables in batches so that you can easily access them throughout the week.
Add fruits and vegetables to every meal
Focus on having at least one serving of fruits or vegetables for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Quick tip. Make a smoothie that has fruits or vegetables in it. Eat soup with vegetables. Add vegetables like cucumber, lettuce, onions, peppers, spinach, sprouts or tomatoes to a sandwich. Add a side salad to a meal. Add vegetables to an omelette. Try a vegetable-based recipe swap like cauliflower rice or zucchini noodles. Make a pan with lots of vegetables. Add diced carrots, mushrooms, and onions to a meatloaf.
Have healthy snacks ready. Easily available healthy snacks will keep you successful and prevent temptation from other unwanted food options. Healthy snacks will also keep you full and satiated to reduce food cravings. When a good snack is available, people are more likely to go for this option.
Quick tip. Spend about 10 minutes a week planning and preparing healthy fruit and vegetable snacks. Delicious examples of snacks are fruit in combination with cheese, nuts or yoghurt; Vegetables paired with dips like hummus; Fruit skewers with fruit and cheese; Fruit with nut butter; or the delicious snack made from celery, nut butter and raisins.
Increase your fiber intake
Why it matters. Foods high in fiber make you feel full and have many health benefits. Higher fiber intake reduces the risk of chronic diseases like many cancers, diabetes, heart disease, and more. Foods high in fiber tend to have a lower glycemic index, which leads to better regulation of blood sugar. Since fiber keeps us feeling full, it can also help with weight management. In addition, fiber optimizes intestinal health and supports digestion and bowel movements.
Quick tip. Add more fruits and vegetables to your routine using the tips from above. Consider replacing white rice with brown rice, or a combination of the two. Add extra fiber to your salad by adding bulgur wheat, edamame, chickpeas, or kidney beans. Add artichokes to your pasta or pizza. Enjoy oatmeal with blueberries and chia seeds for breakfast. See sidebar for high fiber foods.
Reduce your intake of sugar and sweets
Why it matters. A high-sugar diet can contribute to decreased oral health, increased triglycerides, increased inflammation, an increased risk of chronic diseases like cancer and diabetes, and weight gain. Sugars are empty calories, which means they contain little to no nutrients. Sugar will not fill you up and will cause your energy levels to spike and crash. Sugar can also contribute to headaches. For all of these reasons, sugar is not good to eat in large quantities. How to reduce your intake.
When you’re hungry, you tend to go for the sugary treats that provide instant energy. Sugar cravings are generally highest between 3:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m.
Quick tip. To better control your hunger, prepare a healthy afternoon snack already so the temptation to have a sugary snack is less. See the Fruits and Vegetables section for snack ideas. If you notice that you are getting hungry around 3:30 p.m., have a snack around 3:00 p.m. to reduce sugar cravings and control hunger.
Include sugar in your routine
All-or-nothing thoughts are common, and restriction can lead to binge eating and feelings of guilt, which can also lead to more sugar being eaten. Find the gray area when it comes to sugar.
Quick tip. Treat yourself to dessert at a social event once or twice a week. This way, you will enjoy the sugar without feeling guilty and will be able to participate in social activities. Allow yourself to eat some sugar throughout the week. Have a small, portioned candy like a small piece of chocolate or a mini ice cream bar a few times a week. An assigned amount and amount can help maintain the moderation and balance of sugar without feeling guilty and the binge factor.
Find rewards that have nothing to do with food
Stress contributes to sugar cravings and sugar consumption. When you are stressed, your cortisol (stress hormone) levels go up and your dopamine (happiness hormone) levels go down. Sugar increases dopamine levels, and your body wants to feel better when you are under high stress. The faster you feed yourself sugar, the more the brain associates it as a reward and coping tool when you are stressed. Hence, when you are stressed out or need to relax after a long, hard day, you tend to crave sugar.
Quick tip. To combat sugar cravings during times of high stress, establish rewards unrelated to foods that boost these happiness hormones and reduce stress. It is not easy to do, and it takes a lot of practice and time. Some alternative rewards might include deep breathing; Handicrafts such as drawing or knitting; do some type of self-pampering, such as a facial, massage, manicure, or pedicure; Exercise and exercise; swimming or walking; meditate planning a trip or adventure; Play music; read; Shopping online; take a warm bath; or watch a special show or movie. Basically, you should do something that is good for you.
One last thought
Do you feel overwhelmed by all of these possibilities? Take small, realistic steps to meet your goals. Pick just one or two tips to implement. Make these changes over the course of three to four weeks to keep the routine going. Once the routine seems to get more habitual, choose another tip to implement. Slowly, you will see how to develop strong, sustainable strategies and habits for better nutrition.
Expert’s nutrition tips for runners
Running is a very popular sport, thanks to its simplicity and many health and fitness benefits. It’s versatile and inexpensive, requires very little equipment, and it’s an excellent way to strengthen your cardiovascular health.
Nutrition plays an important part in optimum running performance. pexels
With the competitive nature of the sport, runners continuously challenge themselves and each other to improve. In addition to training, proper fuel for the body is vital for peak sports performance.
Noted medical and nutrition specialist Dr. Korakod Panich provided the five best nutrients for optimal running performance.
Nutrition is important for runners because it plays a vital role in overall health and can also support performance. A balanced diet for healthy runners should include these five key nutrients:
Carbohydrates—which can be found in food such as fruits, dairy products, and starches such as rice, bread, and pasta—are the most important source of energy for the body.
For runners, a small meal, taken an hour before running, consisting of carbohydrates and a bit of protein can provide the energy needed to run effectively. A smoothie made with milk and fruit, or some yogurt topped with berries, provides the nutrients needed and is easily digested before a workout.
Consuming the right amount of carbohydrates before exercising can help you maximize your workout.
Protein—found in meat, milk, eggs, and soy—helps repair and rebuild tissues and muscles that could be affected during physical activities. With the proper amount of protein and adequate sleep, muscles repair, rebuild, and become stronger.
Soy is a good protein source as it is one of the few complete plant-based proteins containing all of the nine essential amino acids that the body cannot produce on its own. Runners should consume a combination of carbs and protein 30 to 45 minutes after exercising.
Carb to protein ratio should be 2-3:1, with 20 grams of high-quality protein after a workout and between 40 and 60 grams of carbohydrate. A sandwich on whole-grain bread with a piece of fruit or a high-protein recovery shake would fill the bill.
Fat serves as an essential energy source. It is often used as fuel, particularly during moderate-intensity exercise that lasts for an extended period, such as a moderate jog lasting at least 30 minutes or so. The body will utilize more fat than carbohydrate for fuel in an attempt to conserve carbohydrate that is stored in the liver and muscles.
Choose beneficial fats—such as those found in olive oil, avocado, and nuts—and avoid saturated fats¬¬that can raise the risk of heart disease. This means staying away from fatty red meats, and ultra-processed foods, such as fast food or bakery items.
4. Vitamins and minerals
There are different kinds of vitamins and minerals that help maintain the balance in body system functions; fruits and vegetables are the best sources to obtain them. During exercise, the body excretes waste in the form of sweat, which also removes important minerals from the body. If you opt to exercise for more than one hour, energy and mineral drinks are highly recommended to replace lost fluids and minerals.
The human body is made up of 70 percent water, which is why staying hydrated is crucial. Water helps deliver nutrients to the cells and plays a significant role in eliminating waste. Runners need to maintain body water balance before, during, and after workouts because water provides nourishment that the body needs for almost every single function. It also helps limit changes in body temperature.
Make sure not to lose more than two percent of your body weight in fluids during exercise, as it can reduce your strength and affect performance. If you exercise regularly, check your weight before and after a workout to keep track of water loss and be sure to replace those losses. For every pound of weight lost during exercise, replace with 2-3 cups of fluid (or 1 liter of fluid for every kilogram lost during exercise).
Nutrition and running style
Aside from understanding the importance of nutrients, it is also essential for new runners to learn the proper way to run. Running not just makes our bodies stronger; it also helps burn calories and fat, depending on the goal.
If you have little time and would like to burn calories and fat, you can do interval training, which alternates short work intervals (80-90 percent of maximum heart rate for 30-60 seconds) with rest periods (50 percent of maximum heart rate for 1-2 minutes). This helps improve circulation and enable the heart to pump blood and make it healthier while strengthening the muscles.
If your main aim is to burn fat, and you have some time, you can run slowly to raise your heart rate to 40-60 percent of your maximum, for at least 45-60 minutes.
Korakod Panich is a member of the Herbalife Nutrition Advisory Board.
Weekly Spotlight: Make the Perfect Spring Vegan Pasta Salad!
Pasta salad is a wonderful spring meal, plus it’s a wonderful plant-based meal that can easily be veganized! It’s a meal that you can add any veggie that you want to, making it super versatile for this time of year. When spring produces like arugula, garlic and some herbs are hitting their peak season, you might have extra veggies on hand or are looking for a way to clear out some veggies from your fridge. Pasta salad is also easy to whip up, and you can either do a simple dressing or a more involved creamy dressing to top it.
Depending on your time and how you want to enjoy your pasta salad, this guide splits pasta salad recipes depending on their sauce base. The simple oil and garlic type dressings are lighter in flavor, allowing whatever you hand (veggies or herbs) to stand out in your final pasta salad. However, if you’re looking for a creamier and more hands-on homemade dressing, we’ve got you covered too! These are topped with a dressing that uses a base of tahini, tofu, or even hemp seeds to create a delicious creamy dressing. The last group focuses on taking a traditional pasta salad adding a twist, like a clever flavor or mixing up the base grain!
We also highly recommend downloading the Food Monster app — with over 15,000 delicious recipes it is the largest meatless, vegan, plant-based, and allergy-friendly recipe resource to help you get healthy! And, don’t forget to check out our Weekly Meal Plan Archives!
Are you ready to have a week full of delicious, high-protein, whole-food vegan food that leaves you nourished and content? Let’s get started!
This week, we’re bringing delicious pasta salad recipes that are fully vegan and plant-based!
Pasta Salads that Use a Mayo, Sour Cream, or Simple Oil Dressing:
Source: Spring Pea and Arugula Pasta Salad
These quick pasta salads are great to throw together for the week! Their light dressing makes it excellent to eat on its own to get a variety of simple flavors and enjoy the fresher crunch of the veggies in these dishes.
Pasta Salads that Use a Tofu, Tahini, Homemade, or Cashew Based Dressing
Source: Easy Vegetable Pasta Salad
These creamy pasta salads are excellent to enjoy on their own, or if you’re looking to add even more veggies, you could enjoy these over a base of greens for an extra crunch of texture! There are so many ways to make a creamy pasta salad with vegan ingredients; you could use cashews, tofu, tahini, or even hemp hearts to get a creamy sauce.
Pasta Salads that Are a Twist on a Classic Dish:
Source: Greek Pasta Salad with Tofu Feta
Cacio e Pepe as a pasta salad? Using orzo instead of pasta? There are so many ways to change up the flavors and inspiration you use for your pasta salads. If you’re looking for a way to enjoy a new way of eating pasta salad, this is your list right here!
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Learn How to Cook Plant-Based Meals at Home
Reducing your meat intake and eating more plant-based foods is known to help with chronic inflammation, heart health, mental well-being, fitness goals, nutritional needs, allergies, good health other more! Unfortunately, dairy consumption also has been linked to many health problems, including acne, hormonal imbalance, cancer, prostate cancer, and has many side effects.
For those interested in eating more plant-based, we highly recommend purchasing one of our many plant-based cookbooks or downloading the Food Monster app which has thousands of delicious recipes making it the largest vegan recipe resource to help reduce your environmental footprint, save animals and get healthy! And, while you are at it, we encourage you to also learn about the environmental other health benefits of a plant based diet.
Here are some resources to get you started:
For more Animal, Earth, Life, Vegan Food, Health, and Recipe content published daily, subscribe to the One Green Planet Newsletter! Lastly, being publicly-funded gives us a greater chance to continue providing you with high-quality content. Please consider supporting us by donating!
Food Therapist Debunks Myths About Veganism
Veganism is a lifestyle that is based on the ideology that humans should not exploit animals or the environment for their needs. Vegans refrain from utilizing any kind of animal products for food, clothing, or work, among other things, and they do not differentiate between any species as they consider all animals equal. Simply put, veganism is the practice of avoiding the use of any animal products—particularly in our diet—including meat, eggs, and dairy products.
Myths about veganism
Additionally, there are countless myths, misconceptions, and assumptions about being vegan from all corners. We got Nidhi Nahata—Founder, Justbe Resto Cafe, Bangalore, and food therapist—to debunk a few common floating speculations.
1. Milk has a lot of calcium
There is an existing misconception that only cow milk contains calcium. So, what is the optimal source of calcium? Like plenty of other nutrients, calcium is readily available in a variety of plant-based foods that are better absorbed by the body than dairy. Think broccoli, cabbage, kale, almonds, chia, beans, pulses, leafy vegetables, and more. Therefore, even if you are not vegan, having a wide range of calcium sources in your diet can be a healthier option.
2. Animal protein is more important than plant protein
Incidentally, the animals that are consumed for so-called protein are fed on a plant based diet, which basically means that we are consuming the same and/or processed protein through dead tissues or extracted produce from an animal. For those on the lookout for plant-based protein sources, there are plenty of options like soya, lentils, pulses, broccoli, seaweed, peas, spinach, beans, brown rice, whole wheat bread and pasta, quinoa, peanuts, cashews, almonds , pistachios, walnuts, oats, and seitan tofu.
3. Vegans have B12 deficiency
Vegans, vegetarians, or non-vegetarians—all could have deficiency because of vitamin B12, which is a bacteria found in nature. The sources of vitamin B12 are commonly questioned in reference to being vegan, since the most common source is assumed to be animals and animal products. But the reality is that vegans can achieve the intake needed through reliable sources, such as supplements or fortified foods.
Vitamin B12 is produced by certain microorganisms and is processed while consuming cobalt from a plant base. However, our modern day agriculture prevents these nutrients to be transferred into our bodies through either sources-–animals or plants. Therefore, vegans, vegetarians, or non-vegetarians need to normally be given cobalt or B12 supplements to attain suitable levels regardless of their dietary preference.
4. Vegan lifestyle is very expensive
The limited accessibility to vegan food and alternatives is one of the biggest restrictive misconnects prevalent in our society. The reality is that, similar to any diet, plant-based eating is only expensive if there are a lot of quick-to-eat processed foods, readymade meal preps, and products from vegan-specific brands. There are plenty of vegan foods and ingredients that are affordable in India, especially if the diet is centered around cheaper foods like fruits, vegetables, grains, lentils, beans, and several others. Good planning can make vegan diet more affordable than the ones that include animal products.
5. Pregnant women need milk and dairy
“You cannot be vegan when pregnant” is a common misconception for soon-to-be vegan parents. The basic fact is that pregnancy is a challenge for the body, no matter what diet you are on and usually requires additional nutrients. It is advised to be closer to iron and vitamin B12, which can be attained on a vegan diet as well. The tradition of milk being one of the most integral components of our diet has been prevalent for decades. We need to be mindful and bring logical reasoning in choosing food for soon-to-be parents as well as children.
6. Soy increases the chances of breast cancer
There is no convincing evidence that eating soy-based food increases the risk of breast cancer in humans. This misunderstanding, however, might arise from earlier studies conducted on rodents. Scientists of this study showed that when these animals received large amounts of soy-compounds called flavones, they showed likelihood to develop breast cancer.
A study published by the International Journal of Epidemiology, in February 2020, searched associations between soy intake and breast cancer risk by following 52,795 cancer-free women in the US for an average of 7.9 years. In the results, they found no substantial association between soy intake and breast cancer, but they did identify a link between dairy (milk) and breast cancer.
Soy as an ingredient is loaded with fiber and is a good source of protein, omega 3, and antioxidants. Research also suggests that soy has a good amount of protein which is well absorbed by the body, and the best way to consume it is in bean form, tofu, tempeh, and other such forms.
7. Veganism is a cult
Being compassionate and conscious can never be a cult. Veganism is a lifestyle that utilizes an ideology to bring people closer to their instincts. This means bringing us closer to eating what nature has designed and grown for us, rather than exploiting animals and other sentient beings.
Lead Image Credit: Alia Bhatt and Yami Gautam Dhar, Instagram
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