Everyone remembers being told to eat their vegetables when they were kids. When you asked “Why?” you were told “Because they are good for you.” But healthy eating is more than just something to do because you have to or because someone said it was important.
A report by the Food and Agricultural Organization reported that the obesity rate in the United States is at 31.8%. This means we have the second highest obesity rate in the entire world. Additionally, a report done by Harvard notes that teens and young people in high income families are less likely to be obese than those in a lower income bracket.
This report is bolstered by statistics indicating that 26.5 million Americans live in a “food desert” – meaning an urban area where it is hard to find or buy affordable or high-quality fresh food. These areas primarily have access to fast food, convenience stores, and pre-made or processed food. Areas like this widen the obesity class gap and increase the staggering statistic that a full one fourth of all deaths in America are caused by heart disease – an illness often related to obesity.
Statistics like these can make the situation seem pretty bleak and difficult to wrap your wits around. It can be summed up in these simple words from urban gardener Ron Finley, “Food is the problem and food is the solution.”
Five Tips for Healthy Eating
This brings us to the second question: What is healthy and what is unhealthy? Most people agree that fast food, food that is literally boiled in fat like doughnuts and candy are unhealthy. These are pretty obvious. But after this point, things can get pretty confusing. Some people feel that only eating fruit and vegetables is the right way to go while others believe that a high protein diet is the only way to be healthy. Who is right and how can YOU get healthy? Here are five tips for healthy eating that you can adapt to your life:
1. Eat something fresh and uncooked every day.
While the old saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” isn’t completely true, eating fresh fruits and vegetables every day can certainly help keep you healthy. Canned, freeze-dried, and frozen foods are usually precooked and pre-seasoned. This means you aren’t getting all the nutrients that could be available out of those foods when you eat them. So, try to go for at least one fresh and raw fruit or vegetable every day – an apple, an orange, a fresh salad, a handful of carrots. NOTE: You don’t have to limit yourself to one. You can pretty much splurge on fruits and vegetables.
2. Prepare your own food.
Fast food and premade foods are easy to find and convenient, but they are unhealthy. For example, one package of Hungry Man Classic Fried Chicken has 1,610 milligrams of salt in it. That’s over half of the recommended daily intake of salt.
Another example is a McDonald’s Big Mac, which contains over half of an average man’s total recommended grams of fat per day. That’s not even counting the fries, which contain about a quarter of an average man’s total recommended grams of fat per day. Basically, a Big Mac and small fries has almost all the fat a man should eat in one day – and they contain the entire recommended daily amount of fat a woman should eat in a day. McDonald’s and other fast food chains also add large quantities of sugar and chemicals to almost everything they serve.
When you prepare your own food using fresh ingredients, you know what’s going in there and you have control over what you are eating.
3. Grow your own food.
No matter where you live and what size your home is, you can grow at least one edible thing yourself. All you need is a pot, a couple seeds, soil, sun, and water. Plants like lettuce, kale, spinach, arugula, and spring onions can be grown indoors almost any time of year. Just follow the instructions on the seed pack and you can grow something you know is organic and pesticide-free.
If you have kids, try getting them involved in the food growing process. As Ron Finley says, “If kids grow kale, kids eat kale. If they grow tomatoes, they eat tomatoes.”
4. Get tested for allergies.
There is a large amount of wheat and milk in the “modern” diet. But it is also very common to be allergic to gluten (a mix of two proteins found in certain grains like wheat) and lactose (a sugar found in milk). There are other foods that people are commonly allergic to, like shellfish or peanuts. Food allergies, as well as allergies to things like pollen and airborne mold spores, have been found in many cases to be underlying causes of not just physical symptoms, but mental reactions as well. What a doctor lazily calls a “disorder” could factually be the result of an allergic reaction. So, it’s a good idea to find out what your body can’t tolerate and also get your kids tested for allergies by a physician who knows what they are doing. The results may surprise you.
5. Try something new.
It can be scary to try new things. But you can find a recipe containing just about anything online. So, pick up that parsnip, try some chard, or scoop that bulgur. Kale chips can be expensive, but you can also make and season your own kale chips for far less money. Get creative. You’ll find a way to prepare it and maybe it’ll become your new favorite food!
Lack of nutrition is the cause of countless physical and even psychological troubles. A poor diet and lack of exercise often lie beneath depression and anxiety. By eating healthy foods and exercising regularly, people report a significant rise in energy and a vastly improved mental outlook. You just feel better. You are also far less susceptible to diseases associated with poor diet and general lack of movement such as diabetes and cardiovascular disorders. So, make the effort. You’ll thank yourself for it.