You have probably heard the phrase “balanced diet” or “balanced nutrition” about a hundred times in your life and you’ve been wondering “What exactly does a balanced diet consist of? How do I start on my way to balanced nutrition?” If you are at this point then accept my congratulations because you are already on your way to a balanced diet. You are a great and awesome person because you realize the importance of balancing your diet and this balance goes beyond your stomach. This is a balance of your entire body, the balance of your mind and soul and balance with the world around you. In this the phrase “You are what you eat” becomes almost a motto of a modern society.
Just a few days ago I came across a great picture show called “You are what you eat”. Frankly speaking, the snake in the fridge and that enormous amount of meat freaked me out a little bit :-). It made me look at my own fridge from a completely new perspective. What would people think about me if they saw the contents of my fridge? Well, here is how it looks and you may decide for yourself.
Our food reflects our lifestyle and at the same time it affects our lifestyle. Certain foods will make you feel energized and ready for action and certain foods will make you tired and bloated. I can’t imagine going for a jog after a PizzaHut pizza and especially after a Hardee’s Monster Thickburger (108g of fat in one of those things….uuuuggh!) whereas whole wheat cereal or oatmeal in the morning will make me ready to face any challenges of the day and be agile and full of vitality throughout the day.
Unless you are a nutrition specialist or spend all your time sifting through millions of articles about proper diets then you are probably lost in the ocean of information available today. One day you will hear that you have to give up all dairy products because your body cannot process lactose, the next day the same experts say that dairy contains nutrients that your body cannot function without. One day eggs are our biggest enemies, the next day they are actually very good for you. I personally get lost in all these facts and findings all the time and keeping up with all of them is a really hard work. This is the exact reason why I use small steps to balance my diet every day. No matter if you want to lose weight or just start feeling better balanced nutrition will help you.
If you want to balance your diet then you probably want to see results as fast as possible while making as few changes as possible. Today I asked myself “If I knew that I could make only two changes to my diet that would bring the most benefits, what would these changes be?” I can’t say that it was an easy question and I had to scratch my head for quite a while in search of an answer. But if you are ready for just two changes then here you go.
Ban trans fats
Let’s put it simple: trans fats are bad for you from every angle that you look at them. Most of the trans fats in your diet come from partially hydrogenated oil that is added in almost any type of baked or fried food (especially the ones that you buy at the store). Here are a few reasons why you should ban trans fats from your diet:
trans fats seriously lower your good (HDL) cholesterol and dramatically increase your bad (LDL) cholesterol that leads to major artery clogging and cardiovascular disease;
trans fats cause or contribute to type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance;
trans fats make you fat. Consuming trans fats leads to redistribution of fat tissue in your body forming the dreaded tire shape fat ring that so many of us have around our midsection. Trans fats also cause you to gain more weight than a diet without trans fats (when total caloric intake is equal).
There is a new study that comes out about the harm of trans fats almost every month and each of these studies just shows one more area of your life and your health that is affected by partially hydrogenated oil. I once read that trans fats work like glue in your arteries: once they get there all the bad stuff starts sticking to them and filling your body with junk (that’s not the most scientific explanation but it makes you understand what these fats do to your body). No matter if you want to lose weight or if you want to lower your cholesterol, if you want to prevent diabetes or if you want to keep your ticker going strong for many years, eliminating trans fats (partially hydrogenated oil) out of your diet will be the way to go.
How to ban trans fats: START READING. The next time you go to the store read all labels and make sure that groceries that you buy do not contain this junk. It might be difficult at first to give up your favorite cookie (good news: Oreos are perfectly healthy from this point of view :-)) but you will find much better alternatives. You can find a few trans-fat free products at the end of this article.
Forget about High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)
There is still a debate going on now whether HFCS is really bad for you or just moderately bad for you. Even search engines seem to have different opinions on this issue. If you type in “high fructose corn syrup” in Google and Yahoo then Google will give HFCS-friendly results while Yahoo will give you all risks of this sweetener. That’s funny from my point of view and I like Yahoo better anyway
The proponents of HFCS say that it is basically liquid sugar that poses the same risks as regular sugar. Modern research however proves that HFCS contains mercury (a compound that is toxic for your body), it alters the feeling of satiety (your brain does not get the signal that you are full), contributes to high blood pressure, obesity, inflammation in the arteries, heart disease, stroke and kidney disease. Well, it may not be true according to some researchers but other say it is. Either way I do not want to be a part of an experiment and do not want to live my life thinking “Am I not feeling well because of HFCS or not? Am I going to have heart disease caused by HFCS at 50 or not?” Another reason to give up high fructose corn syrup is because it will help you cut down your overall intake of sugar (and it is not healthy for you anyway). Most sweet products today contain HFCS and if you decide to ban HFCS from your diet then you will probably decrease your sugar intake by at least 50% (this is my personal assumption).
How to ban HFCS: the advice is the same - START READING. If the product that you pick up at the supermarket contains high fructose corn syrup as one of the first ingredients on the list (syrup, most jellies, chocolate syrup, soft drinks, sugary cereal) then you should definitely put this product right where you’ve found it. It’s not the best addition to a balanced diet. Check out HFCS-free products at the end of the article.
The first two steps to a balanced diet will be the most difficult ones simply because you will have to get ready for changes. After you are done with these two steps everything else will be a hundred times easier. Be gentle to yourself and give yourself some time for the transition. It might take you a week or it might take you a month to ban trans fats and high fructose corn syrup from your diet but after you are done the biggest part of the balanced nutrition challenge will be over with. Remember You are what you eat and this saying has never been more realistic than today!
Keep it balanced!
P.S. Here are a few balanced diet foods (no trans fats or HFCS)
Nature’s Path Crunch Kashi Black Currants and walnuts Cheerios Quaker Oatmeal Nature’s Path Waffles Stonyfield farm Low-fat Yogurt Organic real maple Syrup (it’s expensive but it’s well worth it)
Hormel Natural Choice Ham JFG Real Mayonnaise Nature’s Own Double Fiber Bread Nature’s Own 7 Whole Grain Bread Campbell’s Select Harvest Italian Style Vegetable Campbell’s Select Harvest Southwestern Style Vegetable Campbell’s Select Harvest Maryland Style Crab Campbell’s Select Harvest Savory Chicken with Vegetables Famous Amos Pecan and Chocolate Chip Cookies Famous Amos Oatmeal Raisin Cookies Oreos Fig Newtons
I am not a big fan of frozen dinners and most of the time I use all natural ingredients to cook supper (check out my cheap and healthy grocery list ). However when I am pressed with time here are a few options that are healthy and fast at the same time:
Kashi Lime Cilantro Shrimp Kashi Chicken Pasta Pomodoro Newman’s Own Margherita Thin & Crispy Pizza Rice-a-Roni Whole Grain Blends Chicken and Herb Classico Rice-A-Roni Savory Whole Grain Blends Roasted Garlic Italiano Newman’s Own Marinara Sauce Breyers All Natural Ice Cream
Not sure how to cook healthy and easy meals at home? Check out my 4-week healthy cooking challenge:
This is definitely not a complete list of healthy meals and ingredients for your entire health diet but it will help you with your first few steps towards a balanced diet. These are just a few things that you can find in my fridge and pantry at all times and that help me stay away from trans fats and high fructose corn syrup. I will be happy to hear what trans-fat-free and HFCS-free products you use in your diet and I will definitely add those products to my list. Don’t be afraid to leave a comment and share your experience of balanced eating.
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