What We Eat Matters
We all know the old saying: “You are what you eat.”
Truthfully, if we thought about that too hard and too literally, we’d probably be pretty alarmed by the images. Am I really a bag of corn chips, a jar of salsa, and nearly a gallon of soda? Eek.
As scary as that idea is, it’s true that our food choices affect our health. And not just our physical health—though that is certainly an important part of the equation. Good eating habits are also essential for our mental health. Quality decisions about food can help you maintain your mental health.
It often seems as though the world is full of competing voices about what we should and shouldn’t eat. There’s advice about calorie counts. Any number of diets promise weight loss. You can find contradictory advice about a wide range of foods, from wine to chocolate to meat to dairy products. Truthfully, it is overwhelming, and it can be sorely tempting to simply eat whatever you think sounds good in the moment.
Fortunately, despite all the noise about food options, it really isn’t that difficult to make smart choices and enjoy healthy eating. Here are some basic guidelines that can help get you started.
Let’s Start With Beverages: Drink Water
Long and short: When it comes to choosing what to drink, water is your best option. Staying hydrated is extremely important, and no beverage keeps the body hydrated as well as water does. That said, herbal, white, and green teas can provide some health benefits and are generally low in caffeine.
Speaking of caffeine—that staple of wakefulness found in coffee, tea, and soda—it can be particularly problematic for people in recovery for addiction. Sugar and caffeine provide a quick rush—and that rush can be reminiscent of the rush of using drugs. In turn, that reminder can serve as a gateway to relapse.
And frankly, sugar and caffeine are not the best for our bodies in any event. So, again our suggestion is simple: when you are thirsty, think of water first.
Next Up, Protein: Keep It Lean
Some people believe that healthy eating means giving up red meat. But that isn’t true. Our advice is to eat red meat in moderation while getting a significant amount of your protein from leaner meats like turkey, chicken, or fish. You can also get your protein from beans or nuts (this is particularly important if you are a vegetarian or a vegan). When choosing nuts, make sure they aren’t heavily salted or high in saturated fat from being cooked in oil.
The Skinny on Fat: Separate the Good From the Bad
Figuring out what to do about fat has been the subject of much debate over the years, but the facts about fat turn out to be these: there’s good fat, and there’s bad fat. It perhaps goes without saying that you want to find the former while avoiding the latter.
Good fat can be found in fish, eggs, avocados, and even dark chocolate. This good fat provides Omega fatty acids that help repair damaged tissue in the body. They also bind various nutrients together in beneficial ways.
Meanwhile, the fats to avoid are frequently found in processed foods, so it is a great idea to choose whole foods whenever you have the option.
Get Your Grains & Carbohydrates: Embrace Wholeness & Complexity
We just noted that whole foods are your best options when focusing on healthy eating, and whole grains like whole wheat flour or whole wheat pastas offer the best nutritional benefits. You want your carbohydrates complex, which means focusing on starches and unrefined sugar like brown rice or quinoa (instead of, for example, white rice or potatoes without their skins). Keeping unrefined sugar and flour out of your diet as much as possible is a good move for your overall health.
It’s Pretty Easy Eating Green: Get Yourself Some Leafy Greens
A diet that includes spinach, kale, arugula, and any of the lettuces (other than the water-heavy iceberg lettuce) is high in nutrients and low in calories. That’s a winning combination as you create healthy menus for yourself. But green isn’t the only important color when it comes to eating right.
Nutrition at the End of the Rainbow: Colorful Produce Is Perfect
Head out to the farmer’s market or the produce section of the grocery store and pick up a wide array of colorful and nutritious options. From apples to zucchini, you can’t go wrong with fresh fruits and vegetables. You can eat them raw anytime or prepare them in an endless number of delicious ways.
Try Something New: An Adventurous Eater Is Never Bored
Sometimes we need to break out of our normal routine to make any sort of lasting change. When it comes to making decisions in the kitchen, a spirit of adventurousness can help make healthy eating fun.
For example, you could decide to work your way through a cookbook (as long as it has plenty of healthy options). You could try restaurants that serve cuisine from around the world and learn to make your new favorites yourself. You could trade recipes with friends, try new cooking techniques, or even come up with a new recipe all your own. As long as you are having fun and eating well, you are headed in the right direction.