Monday, January 11, 2010

18 Ways to Dramatically Improve Your Diet

Now that the decorations are put away, the cookies are eaten, and our lives are devoid of the hustle and bustle that took place just weeks ago, it seems like a good time to replenish our energies, restore our health, and look forward to the longer days and sunshine ahead. Of course, those of us who live within just a couple of hours' drive from Canada will have to wait just a little longer than the rest of you!

In the spirit of this rejuvenation, here's a list of what you can do now to contribute to your health and wellbeing as we begin 2010! :   (In no particular order...)

  1. Decrease your consumption of animal protein, and eat more greens and raw fruits and vegetables.
  2. Buy as much organic food as you can, especially for the dirty dozen.
  3. Eat only organic/free-range/grass-fed meats and eggs.
  4. Don't buy commercial milk. --Learn to make your own nut milks (It's easy!).
  5. Have a green smoothie every morning for breakfast.
  6. Learn to make your own salad dressings, using organic extra virgin olive oil.
  7. READ LABELS. If you don't understand the ingredients, don't buy it.
  8. Replace canola or "vegetable" oils with organic extra virgin olive oil (for dressings) and virgin coconut oil (for cooking).
  9. Eliminate all genetically modified foods. These depress the immune system and cause a host of other problems, most of which have not even been recognized yet. (Look out for PLUs starting with 8). Avoid these common GMO ingredients: corn, canola, cottonseed, soy.
  10. Eat only organic fermented soy: tamari, miso, tempeh, for example, and only on occasion. Don't eat soy substitutes, i.e. veggie burgers, soy milk, soy ice cream, etc. Soy messes with hormones and depresses the thyroid, among other things.
  11. Eat a big salad of organic leafy greens every day. Add different fruit and vegetable combinations to keep it interesting.
  12. Avoid SUGAR in all forms! White sugar (and brown sugar) is a drug. See William Dufty's book "Sugar Blues." Natural sweeteners are an improvement (maple syrup, honey), but are best eliminated for several months before added back in moderation. For your sweet tooth... try different kinds of fruit. Have you ever had a persimmon? a pomegranate? a dragon fruit? Have fun discovering new things!
  13. Eliminate gluten (this means wheat, rye, barley, spelt, kamut, triticale, and oats unless labeled "gluten-free") from your diet. It is one of the most common allergens. Unfortunately, these are very prevalent in the standard American diet (SAD). Look out for pizza, pasta, crackers, breads, cereals, etc. There are gluten-free substitutes, but the healthiest way to consume any grain is in their "whole" form. Some gluten-free options include amaranth, buckwheat, millet, quinoa, brown rice, and corn.
  14. Start weaning yourself from caffeine--especially coffee. Try Teeccino, Roma, or other natural coffee substitute. If you need that "lift" or mental focus try Yerba Mate tea, green tea, or Think O2 from Traditional Medicinals.
  15. Avoid alcohol... at least for now. You can always add back some organic wine down the road for special occasions.
  16. Avoid restaurant food. There's more in it than you'd ever want to know. It's easy to bring a salad for lunch, or pick up some organic fruit to grab on the go.
  17. Instead of candy bars or even protein bars, try a Larabar. It's made of basic ingredients like dates and other dried fruit, nuts, and spices. You can even find a recipe to make your own! (just Google it)
  18. When there's not much in season in the produce section, don't forget about frozen foods. You can get frozen asparagus, broccoli, peas... etc. Frozen is the next best thing after fresh. Avoid canned food!
This may seem overwhelming, so I recommend doing it a little at a time. Each week, pick one thing to work on. By summer you'll have made excellent progress and will likely reap benefits that come from eating healthy foods and eliminating the toxins so prevalent in our food supply. If that seems like too much to think about right now, start with this: Buy some buckwheat groats (they're gluten-free!) and make the buckwheat porridge pictured above. Here's the how to make it:

Buckwheat Porridge
(serves 1)

1/2 cup whole buckwheat groats
1/2 to 1 whole banana
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 to 1 tsp vanilla

Soak buckwheat groats in water overnight. Drain and rinse in the morning. Pour into blender. Add other ingredients and blend until smooth. Pour into a bowl to serve, and top with fresh (or thawed frozen) berries or fruit, perhaps sweetened with a bit of stevia. Enjoy!

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