I am convinced that a whole foods, plant based diet gives one the best chance at a healthy, long, life. Some think that is extreme, and it requires giving up happiness which would make a long life less desirable. There are those that think happiness is not the correct target anyway, and we should look more towards a meaningful life. Being healthy is always part of the equation, regardless of your life desires.
What are some of the basic steps that can be incorporated into your daily life that makes your health better? Inflammation drives many diseases and ailments. Many people focus on getting more exercise as a way to feel better. But if our bodies are full of inflammation, we cannot exercise without a significant amount of pain. This is demoralizing and leads to more sedentary behaviors as well as over eating. Things continue to get worse. I am not saying that the road to regaining health is without a little discomfort. But the weekend warrior heading out for a 10 mile run often results in overwhelming soreness and even perhaps injury. Tackling the inflammation first is a great way to gain momentum without inducing more pain. Adding more fruit and colorful vegetables is a great way to start. If your breakfast was a bagel and cream cheese or a piece of toast and butter, changing to oatmeal and berries is a great way to start. Overnight oatmeal makes this a quick fix for those not having time in the morning to fix breakfast. Always keep frozen berries on hand and a variety of fresh fruit. Change the fruit according to the season. Fall is a great time to add pumpkin to your oatmeal. One half cup of pumpkin to the overnight oats with raisins, pumpkin pie spice, and dates makes for a great breakfast. Cranberries are coming into season. Adding them to the oatmeal is also a great change. Red, purple, and orange are the colors of phytonutrients and antioxidants.
The next meal to focus on is lunch. Take out the sandwich and add large colorful salad. Chop the vegetables and place in containers for a few days. Having beans, potatoes, and rice cooked ahead makes assembly of a nutrient dense salad quick the night before. Have a soup over a bed of greens as a warm alternative. You are on your way to reducing the inflammation in your body in no time at all.
Now get moving. Set aside 15 minutes in the am to get moving. Make it every day. Walk, run, bike, stretch or do calisthenics. But get in the habit every day. Keep it simple for the first month. The focus is to make it a habit. A little morning stiffness is not uncommon. Push through and by the third or fourth week, it will start to be part a your routine, and you will start to look forward to it. Keep your breakfasts and lunches simple and aim for color. Your energy will improve and your body will love the decrease in inflammation.
Don’t give all your day’s accomplishments up if you go out to dinner. You deserve to be healthy. You don’t wash your new car and then take it through a muddy field. Look at the menu for hidden treasures of health. You must take the lead when selecting your choices. We have cards in the office that can be given to servers listing the items we avoid eating healthy plant strong. Look for vegetables that are sides that might be choices to add to an entree. Hold the meat and cheese, and substitute more vegetables. Ask for beans or mushrooms in place of meat. Ask if the vegetables are prepared in butter or are they made to order. If you go to a chain restaurant you will be limited in your choices, so be prepared to compromise. That does not mean give up being plant based. A simple salad and baked potato can get you through a meal while maintaining your health. You do not have to eat the cheese. You do need to specify that you do not want cheese or butter. If it comes out with cheese, send it back. You must stand by your convictions. If you frequent the same restaurant, they will start to get it. If they do not, change restaurants. The best advise is to call the restaurant ahead and understand the choices before you go. That gives them time, and you time to make wiser choices. Remember, it is your health on the line. If you go out to dinner one time per week that is 52 times a year. In reality, if you travel, it is much more. That amounts to at least 15% of your nutrition. Add in a few take out orders, and 30-40% of your food could be outside of your kitchen. That is more than enough to derail your health. An additional 30 calories a day is an easy 3 pounds of weight gain a year. One meal out a week that can easily add 1000 extra calories (blooming onion and desert) can result in 14 pounds a year. That makes the salad and a baked potato a nutrient winner, and a lot less agony and pain in the long run.
Remember, most people are not happy or or experiencing a meaningful life if they are in pain and ill health. With just a few modifications, you can achieve big gains in your health.