Healthy eating provides the nutrients that protect your mind and body from the ravages of stress. You cannot be at your best when stress is dragging your down.
An unhealthy diet is a major factor in stress overload. It hurts you physically and mentally, weakens your system, and puts you at risk for all kinds of health issues. A poor diet also depletes your energy and makes you subject to depression.
You must eat well to enjoy a healthy, productive life.
Plan Meals Ahead
Mindless eating, grabbing the easiest and most convenient food available is a sure way to fill your body with empty calories, limited nutrients, and massive amounts of additives that poison your body.
Healthy eating requires planning ahead. When you plan your meals in advance, you have much more control. Planning meals for several day and creating a shopping list makes sustaining a healthy diet much easier. (And, prevents impulse buying of unhealthy snacks.)
If planning meals in advance is a new idea or if you are always pressed for time, there are some good meal-planning sites to help you.
Caffeine is dangerous to your health! If you need caffeine to start your day and/or to keep you going throughout the day, you are addicted. The best thing you can do for yourself is to STOP – cold turkey!
Take off a few days from work and don’t have a single drop of caffeine (coffee, cokes, tea (except for herbal), energy drinks, and chocolate)! Time off from work is not possible? The next best choice would be to cut down slowly over 30 days.
Be committed and diligent. Cut out at least one cup or “power drink” each day until you have stopped completely. If your addiction is strong, you may have some withdrawals like headaches, foggy brain, or even the shakes.
Maybe you simply like the taste of coffee. In that case, enjoy your morning cup; but, switch to decaffeinated and limit yourself to one cup a day. It tastes the same and has very little caffeine.
Limit Your Alcohol Intake
A glass of wine with dinner or just before bed is not a big deal, but drink a normal 4-ounce serving, not a large tumbler (or two) filled to the brim. Choose dryer wines to avoid a sugar kick.
If alcohol disturbs your sleep – you wake up in the middle of the night and can’t go back to sleep; or, you wake up the next morning with a headache or dehydrated, you may want to limit your wine intake to an occasional occurrence rather than a nightly routine.
If there is ANY possibility that you are an alcoholic, do what you need to do to take care of this disease before it ruins your life.
Stop Self-Medicating with Food
People often use food to make themselves feel better. It is their drug of choice. If you think (or know) you are a stress eater, start paying attention to your eating patterns and identify your triggers.
Do you . . .
- Always eat at certain times of the day?
- Have cravings that you always satisfy?
- Think about food all the time – especially when things are not going well?
- Use food to soothe your angst or disappointment?
Rather than trying to fight the urge to eat, replace the junk food and sugary snacks with something healthier like fresh fruit or nuts. Don’t believe the rumors that fruit is bad for you. Yes, canned/bottled fruit juice is bad for you. It is basically colored sugar water, but fresh fruit is loaded with nutrients and is an excellent snack.
Most people, even diabetics, can find some kind of fruit they enjoy and can eat. There are some delicious, low-sugar fruits such as berries, peaches, and cantaloupe that you can munch on, satisfy your hunger, and thoroughly enjoy without loading on the calories.
Nuts are another excellent snack. They are filled with nutrients and calm the hunger pangs until its time to sit down and enjoy a meal. A small healthy snack of 10 raw almonds will appease you hunger and help you break the habit of grabbing junk food to keep you going until meal time.
Get in the habit of carrying small bag of nuts (almonds, walnuts, pecans, pistachios, etc.) for emergencies when there isn’t time to eat a good meal.
Make Mealtime Stress-free
Home should be a quiet, safe-haven where meals can be enjoyed in a peaceful, loving environment. If your meals are eaten standing up with everyone rushing around, yelling at each other, with general unhappiness prevailing, your digestion is going to suffer.
Set up some ground rules: No TV; no cell phones; no answering calls during meals; and everyone sits down together for dinner. Work with the family to get their buy-in.
Make mealtime something to look forward to. Prepare healthy, tasty meals. Get the children involved in the planning and preparation.
Set a nice table and have everyone cooperate for clearing and clean-up. When everyone contributes, it is more fun and no stress.
Eat Plant Foods in Their Natural State
For maximum health benefits eat a primarily plant-based, nutrient-rich diet. Plan your meals around fresh fruits, vegetables, beans, lentils, whole grains, nuts and seeds. Buy organic if possible.
This type of diet builds and sustains the healthiest version of your body. You will lose or gain weight, as needed, lower your cholesterol, and minimize the risks of other serious health issues.
On this type of diet, supplemented with healthy meat, fish, eggs and dairy – nutrition is a given, healthy eating will be your norm.
Eliminate Processed Foods
Learn to read labels and don’t buy anything that contains additives (if you don’t recognize the ingredients or can’t pronounce them, don’t buy it).
Avoid white sugar and white flour products, pre-packaged dinners, and all fast foods. These types of foods are filled with empty calories and contain practically no nutrients. They are more harmful than helpful for your body.
Drink Plenty of Water
Staying well-hydrated is critical for good health. You can live for weeks without food, but you can only last a few days without water. You can stay hydrated by drinking lots of water and eating water-rich foods. The amount you should consume depends on climate conditions, height, weight, body mass, activity levels, and more.
The consensus is the average adult should drink 8 – 10 eight-ounce glasses of water a day. The best guide, however, is if you are thirsty – DRINK! Soda and coffee are not acceptable substitutes for water.
Eat the Right Amount of Food for YOUR Body
The best daily caloric intake for you will depend on your height, weight, muscle density, and activity level. Health issues can also affect the number of calories you should eat each day.
As a basic guideline, women should eat at least 1500 calories a day and men about 2000 calories per day. Use this easy Calorie Calculator to determine the healthiest number of daily calories for you.
Eating less than what your body needs puts stress on your body and can cause problems such as low energy, headaches, and a higher risk for disease.
Take Supplements When Needed
Because of the heavy use of pesticides and the need to scrub fruits and vegetables, most people need to supplement their diet with Vitamin B12. A deficiency may take years to show up, but it can cause permanent neurological damage. Ask your doctor for a blood test to see if you are deficient. If so, s/he will prescribe a supplement for you. I get mine as a monthly injection, but there are other choices if you do not like injections.
Vitamin D is another nutrient for which you should be tested regularly and supplemented, when necessary. This deficiency exists primarily because the average person doesn’t get enough sunshine.
Calcium is another common deficiency, especially in women as they get older. Calcium levels should be checked regularly. Your doctor will probably recommend supplements if it is low – or if there are indications of osteoporosis developing in your body. Calcium supplements are usually taken with Vitamin D for better absorption and functioning of calcium in the body.
Pay attention to your body and how you are feeling. Have a running dialog with your physician about the possible need for supplements.
Implement Healthy Eating Practices Today
Eating healthy is simple and totally within your control. If you have issues with getting meals on the table at night without pulling your hair out, you need a plan to follow. Create menus that enable you to minimize your shopping trips.
For example, go shopping every two weeks instead of weekly. Try to prepare some portions of your meals in advance so that at meal times you only mix a few ingredients together to make a meal.
Example: Make a big pot of brown rice or quinoa each week that can be combined with different ingredients to make meals such as rice and beans, stir-fry, wraps and other dishes.
If you can afford it, consider joining one of the meal delivery plans where the food comes to your door and you prepare it per the directions. Many of the meal delivery plans are very healthy, easy to prepare and can save money in some cases. They are particularly nice if there are just two of you.
Make a committment to changes habits that are taking a toll on your mind and body.
Healthy eating is critical or a healthy life.