10 Food Upgrades You Need to Incorporate, Like, Right Now
I have been through a year-long holistic health program that taught over 100 dietary theories. I am a voracious reader and have read countless books, articles, social media posts, and blogs about health, the best diets, and nutrition. Many of them contradicted each other, vilified certain foods, praised those same foods, and have proclaimed that “this” diet or “that” diet are the best. Quite honestly, at many points I was thinking, “WHAT THE HELL AM I SUPPOSED TO BE EATING!?!” I am obsessed with holistic health, so I pressed on, but I can only imagine what the layperson thinks when they read the latest fad. Health seems like a very technical, complicated, cerebral obstacle if you listen to most of the media out there. No wonder people say, “screw it” and keep pounding the junk food. Health seems freaking HARD!
I have waded through the piles of information, swam through the wreckage of internet material, and have come through the other side, victorious. I’ll let you in on a little secret- health isn’t that hard. We have just been made to think it is. Set aside all the marketing claims and propaganda promoted by the big food companies, and I will tell you 10 simple upgrades you can make that will dramatically increase your health. And don’t tell me you can’t do it. I’m sure you have spent more time beating video game levels or trying to wax your own body hair, or stalking your ex’s photos on social media. Giddy up.
1. Coffee swap
Before you start crying and walk away in a huff thinking how dare I steal your precious coffee time, hear me out. Would you like to wake up by someone blowing an air horn in your ear or getting cold water dumped on your head? It doesn’t sound that pleasant. When you give your body coffee the first thing in the morning, you are jolting it awake with a beverage that is dehydrating, very acidic, and taxing on your adrenal glands. You are making your body create energy that simply isn’t there. Right when you wake up, take 30 seconds to heat up some water and squeeze half of a lemon in it. This is a nice, gentle, loving wake up for your internal organs. It helps detox, which will promote healthy bowel movements, alkalinizes the body to help balance internal pH levels, gives you a dose of vitamin C to help with immunity, and you will start your day off by hydrating yourself. If you are desperate for caffeine, make it later in the morning, and even then I recommend switching to naturally caffeinated green or yerba mate tea, as you will also be ingesting high levels of antioxidants.
2. Breakfast boost- say bye bye to kid’s cereal
First of all, if you aren’t eating breakfast- start now. If you aren’t that hungry, grab a piece of fruit. No, cherry Pop Tarts don’t count. Excuse proof fruit- bananas, apples, grapes, blueberries. If you think peeling a banana is too much effort, you should probably stop reading now. We will never get along. If you have cereal in your cabinet with cartoon characters on it, pick it up, give the furry guy a kiss, and throw it away. It undoubtedly has way too much sugar, artificial colors, and zero nutritional value. I give the exception for Barbara’s Puffin cereals. Check out a good list of healthier cereals here.
3. Sayonara, soda. Have you met my friend, kombucha?
I could write a whole post on the Satan’s bathwater that is soda, but I will keep it short and simple. Pop has no redeeming qualities. None. If you want a beverage that will erode your intestines (Coca cola can take rust off of metal), give you 17 packets of sugar in one 20oz serving, and send you into an early, cavity ridden, diabetic grave, keep chugging! Now that I have properly shamed soda, I would like to introduce you to one of my dear friends, kombucha. I know it’s a weird name, but kombucha is a fermented tea drink that not only gives you a fizzy, flavor experience that will help you replace pop, but it is also an amazing dose of gut healthy probiotics. They can be found in any grocery store in the health food section. My favorite brand is GT’s Kombucha. Besides water and tea, it is the only other beverage I will drink during the day. If you try kombucha and you find you don’t like the taste or don’t like fizzy drinks, a probiotic supplement can be really helpful getting your gut help back into shape. They can aid with digestion and improving immunity. Many of the bad foods we like to eat wreak havoc on healthy gut flora, and this is devastating to the body! There are a ton of supplements out there, so I would recommend checking out this link from reviews.com where you will find reviews for the best probiotic supplements.
4. White bread? Fuggetaboutit
As much as I love to reminisce on my youth when my grandma would feed us baloney sandwiches with Kraft singles on Wonder bread and I would have to work for 5 minutes to extract a wad of sandwich goo off the roof of my mouth, I realize now that grandma was leading me astray with the white bread. A slice of white bread has roughly the same nutritional value as a stack of tissues. If you want a powerhouse bread that will actually do something good for your body, it’s time to upgrade your bread. If you are coming from straight white bread, please at least upgrade to a whole grain wheat bread. They still aren’t the best, but it’s a definite step up. If you want to go for the mecca of breads, switch your sandwich loaf to Ezekial sprouted grain bread. It is in the health food section freezer, and that location speaks volumes. It has to be in the freezer because it has no preservatives and will actually go bad if left out on a shelf for weeks. The way the grain is sprouted retains the nutrient content in the grain, unlike many wheat breads where the nutritional part of the grain is stripped out. It is also higher in protein and fiber, and has less gluten than regular bread. Note: I am not getting paid from Ezekial to promote their bread, although if an Ezekial employee happens to read this post, email me 🙂
5. Salad bar makeover
Salad bars are great. They have the best of intentions. However, the product of a salad bar usually ends up being iceberg lettuce slathered in shredded cheese and ranch dressing with a few rogue peas that fell into the bacon bits container. Swap your iceberg for romaine or spinach, load up on the extra veggies, ditch the cheese and add seeds, and top that baby with a vinaigrette or olive oil and balsamic. Boom, a more filling, more nutritious, sexier salad.
6. Meat, dairy, and eggs- go organic, or go home
This one is not going to be a fan favorite, but I am adamant about my conviction on this point. It is a personal choice to consume or not consume animal products. I believe that if people choose to consume animal products, they should choose the best quality possible. 99% of meat sold in grocery stores comes from factory farms. Besides the extreme cruelty and shocking treatment of the animals, the conditions in these large operations is a breeding ground for nasty sh*t to end up in your food. Literally. When you buy meat and dairy from the grocery store you are likely eating: poop, antibiotics, superbugs, growth hormone drugs, and other atrocities. Not only do the animals suffer, but the workers in these factory farms are subjected to dangerous, unsanitary, and hazardous conditions. Don’t believe me? Check out more information here, here, here, and here. The best animal products are free range, organic, and local. This website is a great resource to finding a famer near you that can help you out with your animal product needs.
7. Fast Food? More Like Highway to Bad Health
Still hitting the drive thru for some of your weekly meals? Stop! In the name of loooove (for your body). You probably already know that this isn’t the best option so I won’t go on and on about the shockingly low quality of ingredients, high cal, low nutritional value slop that you will receive in the drive thru. If you honestly feel that you are so pressed for time in the morning that you don’t have time to eat an apple, make a quick peanut butter sandwich, or no time to pack your lunch or a snack, at least have a better option to grab and go at your house. I really like Amy’s brand of organic, convenience meals. Instead of resorting to fast food, you can pop an organic breakfast burrito or steel cut oatmeal bowl in the microwave for a minute and be on your way. They can be found in your local grocery store in the health food section. Check out their website here for breakfast and other easy, better than fast food options. Note: this is not a free pass to eat frozen, microwave options for every meal. This is just a better option for grab and go items when you are in a pinch.
8. Sports Drinks Stink
If you are hitting the gym (yay!), going on run (yay!), taking a hot yoga class (yay!), or strolling with your pooch (yay!), you may think the best option afterwards to stay hydrated and balance electrolytes is to grab a Gatorate or Powerade. Unfortunately, we have been duped. Conventional sports drinks contain high amounts of sugar, artificial colors and flavors, and high fructose corn syrup (see this article). Treat your body better by drinking this awesome fluid- plain water! Whoa! Shocker! Also, an amazing natural electrolyte drink that contains high levels of potassium is pure coconut water. Be careful buying the flavored kinds as they will have added sugars as well.
9. Get a Better Buzz
I won’t be so obtuse to think that you won’t get slightly tipsy or even hammered every once in awhile. I will preface this by saying that if you are trying to maintain a trim waist, excessive alcohol is not your friend. It’s called a beer gut for a reason. However, if you want to hit happy hour with your crew and want to do the least amount of caloric damage, stay away from these drinks. Check out some better alternatives here.
10. Packaged Food = Chemical Sh*t Storm
I know you have seen magical phrases shouting at you from the food on grocery store shelves “High Protein!” “Low Fat!” “No Sugar!” “Whole Grains!” “High Fiber!”. Here’s a little secret- if food needs to brag about how awesome it is, it’s probably full of crap. It’s like seeing a girl who has on 3 inches of make up, fake nails, high heels, bleached hair, reeks of perfume, and is showing cleavage and a lot of leg in the middle of the day. You just want to say, “Oh honey, you are trying way too hard”. The real nutritional powerhouses don’t have to brag. They know they’ve got swag. You will find them in the produce section, sitting back playing hard to get, just waiting for a hot stud like you to pick them up.