By AFM Contributing writer, Cheryl Conklin
With all the conflicting health and fitness information out there, it is easy to become overwhelmed. How do you know what actually works when there are so many options? If you are currently experiencing information overload with regards to healthy eating advice, keep reading. The following article from Amherst Farmers’ Market offers easy tips for healthy eating that will benefit everything from your mental health to your physical health to your dental health.
If you read healthy eating blogs, watch the news, or skim magazines, there is always some tidbit of information on healthy eating. One day you may read that pasta is good for you, the next day it might be deemed the worst possible food. With all this competing information, it’s easy to become overwhelmed. One consistent recommendation across almost any meal plan is to avoid processed food. Stay away from foods with lengthy ingredient lists or high levels of trans-fats, salt and sugar. Likely, you will feel healthier, more confident and better equipped to tackle day-to-day tasks.
Focus on How You Feel
If you’ve ever heard the phrase, “you are what you eat” you already have a basic understanding of how food affects your mind and body. Focusing on how certain foods make us feel is one of the easiest ways to determine if what we are eating is good for us. For example, some people can eat cheese and bread and feel great, while others may feel lethargic, moody or even sick. There is no perfect diet for everyone, so being vigilant about how your body responds to certain foods is fundamental for meal planning.
Eating high levels of processed foods has been connected with increased rates of anxiety, depression, stress and sadness. Additionally, consuming high amounts of sugary foods and beverages can result in serious oral health issues. On the other hand, eating whole, unprocessed foods comes with a myriad of mental health benefits including mood stability, higher energy levels and better sleep. The process of thinking about how food makes you feel is referred to as “mindful eating” and can be used to help create a personalized eating mantra.
Shop the Perimeter
One easy way to avoid processed food without reading endless labels is to simply shop the perimeter of your grocery store. Almost every grocery store is shaped in a square/rectangle with meat, dairy, produce, and bread making-up the four sides. The inner isles generally contain items such as cereal, granola bars, jams and junk food. If you want to stick to a healthy, whole meal plan without the hard work, plan your diet based on items found on the outskirts of the store. When you do venture into the middle aisles, focus on foods with limited ingredient lists such as quinoa, canned legumes and nut milk. Shopping the perimeter of the store is an easy way to avoid temptation, diversify your diet and consume more whole foods.
Eat More Plants
Following a plant-based diet is one of the best ways to ensure your body is getting enough vitamins and minerals. Additionally, a diet centered on whole, unrefined plants helps eliminate processed foods associated with obesity and heart disease. Vegetables, fruit and legumes also contain high percentages of water, helping you stay full and hydrated for longer. While you may think a plant-based diet would rack-up your grocery bill, there are a number of plant-based foods that are relatively cheap. For example, a head of lettuce costs about $2.50 while a box of sugar-packed cereal can sell for upwards of $6. To help reduce the financial burden of a plant-based diet, purchase fruits and veggies that are in season and on sale.
Eat for Your Teeth
When too much processed food is consumed, it can wreak havoc on your teeth. An abundance of sugary soda, sweets and unhealthy snacks increases the risk of tooth decay. By building a diet based on healthy, whole foods, you’ll not only eliminate health hazards, but you’ll also give your pearly whites an advantage.
In addition to eating more fruits, vegetables and whole grains, be sure you’re brushing and flossing properly. Try to brush your teeth after every meal to ensure you’re removing anything that could lead to increased plaque or bacteria. If food keeps getting stuck between your teeth due to misalignment, you should take extra measures to ensure a healthy smile since crooked teeth can significantly impact oral health. Talk to an orthodontist about the best treatment to straighten your teeth. While braces are certainly an option for adults, you may feel more comfortable with clear aligners. Compare some of the popular alignment systems to determine which treatment option fits your alignment needs, your timeline and your budget.
Healthy eating doesn't have to be confusing. By eliminating processed foods, eating more plants and focusing on how you feel, you can create a healthy eating plan specific to your body. Today is the day to start eating nutritious meals, feeling better and taking control of your health and well-being.
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