March is National Nutrition Month, which is a great reminder that with a little practice, simple daily choices can become healthy habits for life. Why not work on a few at a time and gradually build them into your repertoire?
Here are some ideas to inspire you.
1. Enjoy produce at every meal
To increase your daily intake of wellness-boosting vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytonutrients and fiber, include fresh fruit and veggies with each meal. This also helps “crowd out” processed/refined foods that feature empty calories over nutrients. For example, you might add more fruit to your breakfast shake, oatmeal, or parfait. Or try this gorgeous breakfast sundae.
As for other main meals, why not make a large, filling salad the star of the show? Additional produce-centric main courses include soups, stews and stir frys, or simply add colorful veggies generously to any entrée. Tip: garnish savory dishes with slivered green onions and plenty of fresh chopped herbs like parsley, cilantro, mint and basil for extra flavor and nutrients.
2. Practice mindful eating
Mindfulness is about focusing intentionally on the present. The practice of mindful eating allows you to take a moment for soul-nourishing gratitude before savoring your food. Dining this way also slows down your intake, which helps discourage overeating since it takes at least 20 minutes for your brain to register that you are full. Food expands inside after you consume it as well, so by slowing down, you will attain a feeling of satiety without getting uncomfortably stuffed.
Along with easing your pace, research suggests that less food is more for optimal health. In fact, eating to just 80 percent full is a common practice in long lived cultures, such as in Japan, where it is called Hara Hachi Bu. This doesn’t mean leaving the table hungry, but it does help prevent over-indulging, which is far better for your digestive organs (and your waistline) than filling your stomach to full capacity.
3. Fortify your gut daily
It’s been said that we are only as healthy as our gut. And indeed, much of our immune system resides within our intestines. To nurture gut wellness, take advantage of fermented/cultured foods and beverages daily, such as kombucha, yogurt and kefir, sauerkraut, kimchee and miso, to name a few. Ever try flavor-packed kimchee sauerkraut?
To more fully activate the beneficial probiotics fermented items offer, pair them with high-fiber foods such as whole grains, fresh produce and nuts/seeds, all of which contain prebiotics which feed friendly bacteria. Learn more about the top fermented foods for good health and how to make your own cultured pickles in a snap here.
4. Simplify your meals
Preparing whole food entrées often requires planning, which explains why many busy people grab take-out fare more often than they might like. And yet, making healthy food at home can be easy if you keep it simple. Take one-dish meals for example. Instead of several courses, opt for “all in one” entrées, such as big, filling salads, stir frys, soups and casseroles that boast the winning trifecta of protein, colorful produce and healthy fat.
As spring approaches, one-dish salad meals can be the perfect main course for lunch as well as dinner. Learn here how to build delicious, filling, nourishing salads from whatever you have on hand. Tip: top any entrée, sweet or savory, with nutty-tasting, raw hemp seeds for a burst of complete protein and essential fats.
5. Dine smart
Eating for brain wellness is about as clever as it gets, no? To do so, target foods and supplements that offer omega-3 essential fats. These are found not only in fish and fish oil, but also plant-based sources such as flax, chia and hemp seeds and their oils, sacha incha seeds and oil, walnuts and microalgae oil.
Another way to eat “smart” is to consume meals and snacks at regular intervals to ensure your mind is fueled. Learn from experts why maintaining healthy blood sugar levels is imperative for your grey matter, and snag some great ideas for easy, tasty, brain-boosting snacks.
All these small changes offer big rewards, so dig into the ideas that appeal. Here’s to a healthy, happy spring!