Nutrition First. Fitness Second.

Eat right. Exercise. Simple, right?

Not so much. I see and hear this all the time when people talk or write about health. It seems so simple in principle, but it is so hard in practice. It’s hard to learn about nutrition and fitness all at once, you’ll most likely overwhelm yourself with information, and the drastic change in diet and exercise (if you’re not fit already) can make it difficult to start forming good habits.

About 2 years ago I tried to do everything at once, and learn as much about fitness and nutrition as I could. I did ok for a couple of months, but I was so overwhelmed that I felt helpless to do everything I was supposed to in order to truly be healthy. That’s why I chose to focus on nutrition first. I put exercise on the back burner for a while, as well as many other things, like sustainability practices in my home. I read books, research articles, watched a lot of documentaries, and started taking action.

But I took small steps. The first thing I did was switch out my conventional produce for organic. I knew at the time that wasn’t going to be everything I needed to do, but it was a good start. Here are some other small steps you can take to start making nutrition and health an important part of your daily life:

  • Start reading. Get your information on a topic from more than one source. If you see a lot of good evidence for something, put it into practice, don’t just ignore it.
  • Find local farmer’s markets. Many cities don’t have these, but if you can find one, try going once and getting something yummy and nutritious for yourself.
  • Start making rules for yourself when you go out to eat. Eat half of what you order and take the rest home, order salad if everything else looks super high in calories, choose fish over other meats, etc.
  • Many farms will ship or deliver their products to your home if your city doesn’t have farmer’s markets, or they may sell their local products at grocery stores near you. Start with some internet searches.
  • Start keeping a food journal. Keeping track of what you’re eating will help you understand where your calories are coming from, and how many fruits, vegetables, and whole grains you’re eating every day.
  • Try to add vegetables and/or fruits to every meal. If you really want to challenge yourself, try to eat nine servings a day. It may seem tough, but the reality is that even our fruit has gotten larger over time. Many apples nowadays can actually be 2-3 servings of fruit, and bananas now are usually 2 servings of fruit.
  • Don’t give up if you slip up! I don’t always eat with nutrition in mind– no one does. The difference is that you get back on track as soon as you can, and don’t be down on yourself if you have a meal, a day, or even a week that you get off track.
What are your challenges to eating more nutritiously? 

Friday Food News

I’ve been trying to catch up on all the interesting food news this week—there’s certainly been a lot this week on genetically modified organisms (GMOs).  Here are some interesting stories for your Friday’s Food News:

  • If you haven’t already heard, the Corn Refiners Association is being sued by a group of sugar farmers and refiners over the potential name change from high fructose corn syrup to corn sugar.
  • Bisphenol A (BPA), a common chemical found in plastics, has been linked to neurological defects, diabetes, heart disease and cancer. A review of the studies done on BPA that showed the chemical was safe has now discovered that those studies were actually funded by the chemical and plastics industries, or conducted by those who benefited from these companies.
  • Think you know everything there is to know about oats? Think again.

What food/nutrition stories have you been reading this week?

Twinkie vs. Carrot: How Much is Your Food Worth?

If you want to learn more about nutrition, you have to not only start thinking about what you’re eating, but also where you food comes from, how much you are paying for it vs. how much it’s actually worth (not just in terms of the money you spend, but the health costs as well), and what you can do to make it easier to get more nutritious, whole foods for yourself, your family, and your community.

Here is a short video from Nourish: Food + Community, by food author and journalist, Michael Pollan. This is a great little introduction how our country subsidizes cheap food that makes us fat and at the same time condemns the obesity epidemic, more of which you’ll hear from me in later posts.

Also one of my favorites is this short video on the amount money we spend on quality food vs. how much we now spend on our health care, compared to the rest of the world and how much we used to spend:

I spend about 14-15% of my monthly income on groceries, and most of that is food just for myself. This is likely how much a family of 4 now spends on food for their entire family.

See if you can calculate how much you spend on groceries every month. Could you spend more on more nutritious and sustainable foods, like organic fruits and vegetables instead of prepackaged snacks? What is food worth to you?

Use your measuring cups!

Portion control is incredibly annoying. I hear something different from various sources about what a “proper” portion is. Obviously, the portions you get at most restaurants are way too much for anyone, but how do you know when you’re eating too much of something? Portion control depends on many factors: your height and weight, how much you exercise, your gender, and probably a few others, which is why it can be so confusing.

About a month ago I attended a cancer survivor’s conference and decided on the nutrition lecture as one of my workshops.  I’m so glad I did, because I learned one of the most important lessons about nutrition and portion control that I think about now every time I assemble my meals on my plate: you were made with your very own measuring cups—your hands. Each meal you have should be no larger than the size of your two hands together (just like the picture). The next question you should be asking is, “How high can I pile my food onto my hand?” The answer is, no higher than a deck of cards. One of your cupped hands is a snack-sized portion. This is how big your snacks should be. You don’t actually have to put your food in your hands to measure though, just hover them over and beside your plate to see if you’ve got it.

Try this a few times and see if you can start getting an idea of how big your meals and snacks should be. One final rule though—please refrain from borrowing someone else’s larger measuring cups– that’s just cheating!

Quick Tips – Yummy Smoothie Extras

I love making fruit smoothies—they are a healthy, filling, quick meal or addition to your breakfast. But, sometimes I think they need a little jazzing up, or a little extra protein to keep me going.

Here are five yummy extras you can add:

  1. A small handful of quick-cooking oats – adds fiber and protein, and you can get a serving of whole grains in! It also tastes more like a delicious breakfast shake.
  2. Zest from any citrus peel – my favorite peel to grate into my smoothie is lime, but I also like lemon, orange, and grapefruit. This really gives smoothies a nice, refreshing kick.
  3. Fresh mint – also adds a very refreshing depth of flavor.
  4. Nuts – I’ve only tried almonds and almond milk, but other nuts will certainly add different delicious flavors.
  5. Flaxseed – good source of omega-3 fatty acids, and is high in fiber.

I’m also trying to come up with my own delicious banana coffee smoothie… recipe soon! What do you like to add to your smoothies?