10 Nutrition habits that should be common sense (but aren’t!)
If you consider traditional diets from around the world, you’ll notice they were developed to keep us healthy. Eating wasn’t complicated and didn’t lead to obesity or eating disorders. Today, food marketing leads us to make bad food choices, along with obscure government nutritional guidelines that inform us about how we’re supposed to eat, as well as the fact that it’s common to have processed food as a part of our everyday diet. Our environment also shapes the way we eat, and often we turn towards quicker, easier options that aren’t necessarily the best.
Here are 10 habits that should be identified as common sense to maintain good nutrition.
1. Recognize how food makes you feel
If a food makes you feel anything less than good, it’s probably because there is something about it that’s difficult for your body to digest; like not having the correct enzymes to process grains or dairy. Perhaps your liver isn’t functioning optimally and you’re unable to metabolize fat efficiently. Maybe you have insulin resistance and you aren’t able to tolerate carbs very well. If food makes you feel sick, tired or bad in any way: avoid it.
2. Every meal should contain proteins, fibrous vegetables, and fat
People think of foods in categories as such; breakfast, lunch and dinner. In between, they will try to fill in the gaps with “fat loss” types of foods, instead of healthy snacks. Just because you’re eating lunch, doesn’t mean it needs to be different from what you eat for dinner. Another myth is believing that a high carb option like cereal or a bagel for breakfast is a good idea.
Following this cultural norm is the reason we have an obesity problem and high chronic disease rates. Instead, plan every meal around proteins, fibrous vegetables and fat. Fat provides bioavailable vitamins and improves satiety. Veggies provide fiber and phytonutrients, while protein contains amino acids which are the building blocks for tissue and bone repair. Eating this way will also help you avoid hunger by improving gut hormone levels involved in keeping blood sugar levels steady.
A balanced diet is one that provides all the macronutrients and the greatest nourishment for the least amount of calories while minimizing hunger.
3. Taking care of your gut is a top priority
Your GI tract is the control centre of the entire body. The bacteria in our gastrointestinal tracts affect brain function, thinking patterns, and how many calories our bodies absorb. Functioning correctly, your gut can keep you looking lean, stay healthy and help you avoid getting sick. In fact, one of the leading areas in helping fight obesity and curing chronic disease is by improving bacteria of the gut.
4. Avoid Processed foods
Unfortunately, no matter how many nourishing or healthful marketing slogans are used, processed foods contain chemical preservatives, artificial sweeteners, food dyes, man-made fats and sweeteners that the human body is not designed to metabolize in large quantities.
5. Don’t trust the media headlines, they’re just entertainment.
The media create a lot of the nonsensical habits we have with food. Media outlets are businesses and their goals are to sell ads and increase readership, not to analyze respected scientific journals for relevant food and health information that will actually keep you healthy.
Headlines do a great job at catching our attention and often find some bizarre half-truths that could apply to us and use evidence that has been taken out of context. Instead of keeping things extraordinarily simple, by following some of the basic strategies being outlined in this article, the media will find ways to confuse your thinking and try to pass it off as science.
6. Monitor your eating when stressed or sleep deprived
Lack of sleep has a profoundly negative effect on eating behaviour, leading us to eat high-fat, high sugar foods. Lack of sleep also leads us to eat significantly above our average norms and reduces our overall average caloric expenditure by moving less. Those who sleep less are shown to have a higher risk of obesity. It can also cause poor blood sugar and reduced insulin sensitivity, leading your body to favour fat storage.
To counter this, you need to make ideal food choices and try to stay active. When you’re sleep deprived, make the extra effort to get a lot of protein, water, and fibrous vegetables. Track your food intake, and put in the extra effort to make sure you are hitting your training sessions.
7. Eat animal products that provide key nutrients that can’t be obtained from plants
The mainstream view of nutrition is that meat and other animal products are unhealthy and should be avoided. This, however, isn’t supported by some of the largest and most rigorous studies. Overall, processed foods are going to be the biggest contributors to heart disease, diabetes, and cancers. It’s most likely that the overall composition of your diet plays the biggest role in dictating health outcomes.
For example, in Asian countries, where the diet is vastly different from the typical western diet, meat consumption, including red meat, has been found to be associated with a lower risk of mortality, and a lower risk of heart disease and cancer.
8. Have a set meal frequency
Recent studies show that time restricted eating in which you only eat within a 10 - 12 eating window is better for body composition and health than eating all hours of the day and night, which many people often do. This also improves our circadian rhythms and enhances our sensitivity to the satiety hormone, leptin.
Frequent meals every 4 hours during the eating window appear to yield the greatest satiety and the least hunger for the majority of people.
9. Have an eating ritual: chewing, thanking, being aware of what you’re eating...
Mindful eating may seem like a cliche, but the truth and reality is that it pays off. Studies have shown that people who take the time to be actively aware of the process of enjoying their food, have more satisfaction from their meals and eat less.
Along with the body taking a significant time to tell you that you’ve had enough to eat after swallowing your food, mindfulness practices have shown to improve the release of gut hormones that reduce hunger. Another practice that has shown to have a similar effect is to chew each bite thoroughly instead of swallowing your food in huge chunks. Proper chewing also has the added benefit of improving digestion and assimilation of nutrients.
10. Continuing to count calories when it hasn’t worked before
Calorie counting has a fundamental place in a nutrition program, but surprisingly shouldn’t be the primary focus. What’s more important, is understanding the laws of thermodynamics; that energy can’t be destroyed, and can only change the form, which ultimately means that if we take in more calories than we expand, we will gain weight.
Different foods affect metabolic rates and hormone levels differently. Therefore, use the effects of these foods to your advantage. For example, when you cut calories, the stress hormone cortisol is elevated in order to free energy stores and the hormone ghrelin is elevated in order to stimulate appetite and food intake.
If you plan meals around proteins, fibrous vegetables, and healthy fats, you’ll avoid having your cortisol rocket sky high and you’ll keep ghrelin low so that hunger is avoided. This will also keep insulin low so that calories are stored as glycogen instead of fat.
With that, you can decide not to conform to the mainstream unhealthy ways of eating. Your diet can be influenced by lesser yet much more sensible habits in order for you to be the strongest and healthiest version of yourself.