A Healthier You in 2010

On a routine basis, I converse with countless numbers of people wondering why they are unable to follow a consistent healthy eating plan. They always make excuses such as: “I do not have time to prepare healthy fair. It is too much work.” Another common excuse: “Healthy food tastes terrible.” To those responses, I usually answer, “I think you have it backward. In fact, you do not have time to eat like crap”; and “You must be eating the wrong healthy foods, or not giving them much of a chance.”

The few extra minutes a day it takes to choose and prepare healthier meals and snacks most likely will keep you years out of the grave. You undoubtedly will feel more energetic and enthusiastic about life in general once your body adapts to the newfound sustenance. Additionally, eating healthy takes less and less “work,” as you learn which foods you enjoy most, and how to prepare them.

My own strategy involves preparing my favorite meals in bulk on Sundays. That way, I do not have to cook the entire week. Make a bag of grilled chicken Sunday night, and you can use it in various recipes throughout the week: maybe chicken salad on Monday, chicken with baked sweet potato and asparagus on Tuesday, grilled whole wheat barbeque chicken tortilla wrap with cheese and bell peppers on Wednesday, etc. Trust me when I say that the whole idea of healthy eating taking too much time is a complete myth.

As far as taste goes, you can find healthy foods you love regardless of taste preferences. You just have to be somewhat patient to find what satisfies your cravings. The healthy world has just as many, if not more, taste combinations as in other foods. Sweet, sour, bitter, salty, and umami (if you are into that sort of thing)—they all are here, and you just need to find the mix of them in the healthy world that fits your preferences. Explore. Go exotic. Take a risk. Life is too short to limit your aesthetic horizon, and you just may expand your lifespan by finding a healthier you.

What foods do I consider healthy? Well, you will get a different answer to this question from just about every health professional. Oh, excuse me, I meant, a different answer from just about every nutritionist (i.e., confirm your doctor’s recommendations with a nutritionist as physicians have very limited training when it comes to nutrition).

Foods I would eat tons of include eggs; leaner meats (chicken, 95 percent lean beef, bison/buffalo, pork loin, fish/seafood, etc.—note that grass-fed is always better); fat-free/low-fat dairy products (cheese, yogurt, milk, cottage cheese); fruits and vegetable; 100 percent whole grains (not just “with whole grains”); and beans/legumes.

Foods I would eat often but in moderation include nuts; nut butters; and healthier oils such as olive oil. I actually consider wine a health food when consumed sparingly (i.e., one 4 oz. glass a night at most). Take in a square of dark chocolate with no added sugar and coffee for dessert. Your palate and waistline will thank you.

Just about any food has a leaner version, and the technologies for making them taste like the originals are getting better every day. Sure, it may take you a few weeks or months to get used to new foods, but once you do, your mind and body will appreciate it. You will have a better appearance, find more energy, and feel better about yourself. Share the commitment with a partner or friend to make things easier, and give each other support.

I honestly can say that healthier versions of most foods taste better to me than their fatty, artery-clogging counterparts. This was not always the case. Most of us are “trained” and unwilling to change our eating habits, because we like what we eat, and do not want to take the time to explore and change the pattern. What we do not realize is that we can eat healthier, and still enjoy everything we eat.

I am not saying to rush into a healthy lifestyle 100 percent, and change everything at once. Make it a gradual process. Alternate healthier meals with your usual diet to start off, and then gradually work your way up to a 90 percent healthy/10 percent “unhealthy” diet. It is unrealistic to expect to eat healthy 100 percent of the time, and you do not have to give up any foods to make the switch. However, most of those “junk” foods you may be used to eating on a daily basis need to be limited significantly (maybe once a week or month).

Be proactive this year. Make the change. Your body and mind will love you for it.

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