We all know health starts with a healthy diet. But what exactly is a healthy diet?
Obviously, the choices we make at the grocery store or in restaurants have a major impact on our diet. But there are other factors as well. For example, there’s how we cook our meals—and whether we cook at all. More and more, we rely on prepared foods, although we know that taking the time to cook makes good sense. When we cook for ourselves and our families, we have far better control over the ingredients we use and the methods we employ to prepare them.
Then there’s how we eat. Do we sit calmly at a table, without distractions like television, computers and books—an approach that will optimize digestion? Or do we eat while standing at the kitchen counter, which creates stress, disturbs digestion and slows it down.
Consider too how we chew. Our saliva is rich in digestive enzymes that help break food down so our bodies can use the nutrients. But that’s not the only reason why it’s important to chew each bite 15 to 20 times. Eating slower gives the digestive system time to send a satiety signal to the brain (“Ok, that’s it, we’ve had all we need!”), which can help us control our weight. Think about it. Do you actually recognize hunger and satiety? Many adults eat because it’s that time of the day. Others eat at any time of day or night, which also disturbs the digestion.
But let’s get back to the basics. Here are the four first steps to healthy eating. All are relatively easy habits to pick up. All deliver big benefits:
- Eat five to ten portions of fruits and vegetables every day. These foods hold tons of phytonutrients and offer so many benefits we don’t know them all yet.
- Think Omega-3. Few foods provide it, but it’s available in fatty fish (like salmon and mackerel), walnuts and flax, hemp and chia seeds. Rather new on the market, are Inca peanuts (sacha inchi), which are also high in Omega-3.
- Choose foods that are as natural as possible—foods that have not been refined, transformed, doctored with synthetic substances, etc.
- For the best flavour and highest nutritional value, choose fresh foods that are local and in season.
Variety is also important. So try new foods, or rediscover some you haven’t had in a while. How about hemp seeds, quinoa, miso and seaweeds like hijiki and dulse? How about corn or broccoli sprouts? Browse the Internet to learn about new foods and to find recipes to prepare them.
In the end, the important thing to do is to set simple and achievable goals. Keep in mind even the smallest change can make a big difference and you won’t get discouraged. After all, achieving a healthy diet is a long-term project. Slow and steady wins the race!