Imagine taking a chocolate-loving woman (so, that would be pretty much any woman) to some incredible chocolate store, perhaps in, say, Belgium. The shelves and counters are lined with incredibly decadent, melt in your mouth, sweet perfection and goodness. Chocolate truffles, chocolate covered cherries, chocolate toffee, hazelnut chocolate pralines, chocolate ganache.
As she stands there, taking it all in and salivating at the delicate smell wafting through the air, she is bluntly told, “Alright lady, take your pick. You get 3. That’s it. No more, no less. Just 3.” Can you feel her agony as I do?
So that’s sort of how I felt when Judy so graciously asked me this:
I love all these posts on nutrition and healthy eating — but I am SO overwhelmed of where to begin. I guess I must unlearn 45 years of grocery shopping and food preparation. I do some of the obvious — 100% pure juices — some organic grains sprinkled in here and there. I used to think Soy Milk was good but then I thought somewhere you might have said it isn’t. What would be your top three areas that I could begin to focus on? and/or eliminate from our diet.
Three?!? I can only choose three?
Ok, calm down. Stop shaking. You can handle this. It’s a simple question really, and all it needs is a simple answer. She’s not asking you to never post about anything important ever again, she’s just asking for a starting place. You can do this.
Deep breath. Here goes:
1) Move away from processed foods, towards a whole foods diet
I say this, knowing that it is a large step, but it starts in small ways, and that is all that I’m suggesting. Really, truly. It starts by choosing 1 or 2 processed foods that you regularly buy, and starting to learn to make them from scratch or to substitute a whole food in it’s place. Don’t even worry yet about whole grain, organic or natural, pasture-fed, etc, etc. Just concentrate on foods that are as close to their original state as possible.
This can be as simple as forgoing the pasta mix (like Lipton side noodles, Kraft dinner, or even a Prego sauce) that you like to purchase, and try making your own sauce to pour over some noodles. It could be attempting to make some homemade bread or muffins instead of buying them from the grocery bakery. It could be learning to make homemade white sauce or trying out some new soup recipes in lieu of canned soups. Chopping and steaming your own fresh veggies instead of the usual canned or frozen ones. Try battering and baking or simply seasoning your own chicken or fish, instead of buying frozen, deep-fried chicken strips or fish sticks.
2) Switch over from a reliance on vegetable oils and margarine, to truly good-for-you fats
What goes: Margarine or any half-half mix or imitation butter spread or spray, canola oil, sunflower oil (this one can still be used minimally, but really, keep it minimal), safflower oil, corn oil, generic vegetable oils, Crisco, Pam, all hydrogenated or partially-hydrogenated oils (look in the ingredients on many packaged foods to find these)
What to add: Honest-to-goodness butter, coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, palm oil, flax oil (not for cooking), and even animal lard or tallow
(For more on this, see these posts, Part 1 and Part 2, for more on cooking oils, and this post on butter)
3) Start to decrease and move towards eliminating refined sugars from your diet
There are just so many good reasons to cut out refined sugars entirely:
- They contribute to weight gain and obesity
- They contribute to blood sugar imbalances and Type II diabetes
- They are empty calories and actually rob your body of needed nutrients
- They damage your teeth
- They are addictive (I kid you not!)
- They are a major cause of hyperactivity and an inability to focus and learn well in children
- They cause your body to be highly acid, rather than slightly alkaline as it should be, which contributes to disease
- They feed cancer cells (did you know that one of the most effective cancer scans looks for cells that are uptaking glucose at a fast rate?)
Do we really need any more reasons to get rid of them? Work towards this by slowly finding replacement snacks and foods for the more sugary things you have a habit of eating (pops, store-bought baking, sugary beverages, candy, cereals, granola bars and many other processed foods- look at the ingredients!). Try having one or two days a week where you don’t have any refined sugar at all, and gradually cut it down more and more. Learn to use natural sweeteners in your own baking and treat-making at home.
(And if you really want to know, the other suggestion that I really strongly considered was to add in a Cod Liver Oil supplement- it gives you crucial essential fatty acids like EPA and DHA, plus high amounts of Vitamin A and D, which most North Americans are lacking in but are vitally important to good health. So if you’re struggling with one of the above suggestions, consider Cod Liver Oil another good step to take instead.)
Phew! That wasn’t so hard… 🙂 Think I’ll go have a piece of chocolate now. (See, there’s that addictive thing I told you about!)
Aren’t you proud of me for not mentioning soaking and sprouting your grains? And working to avoid food preservatives, dyes, MSG and other such chemicals? And adding more fermented and cultured foods to your diet? And drinking raw, not pasteurized, milk? And trying to buy more organic or unsprayed produce and learning to wash and peel to avoid pesticides? And finding a good source of…
I could have mentioned all of those things, but aren’t you glad I didn’t?
Truthfully, I don’t know that it matters where you begin. The point is simply to start somewhere. Anywhere! These are just my suggestions, to give you a few points to focus on, and I hope you find it helpful! Blessings as you begin to make these positive changes for you and your family!
For those who have a long ways to come yet, do these 3 suggestions sound possible? Could you begin to implement these 3 things, and allow yourself to not feel guilty or stressed out or overwhelmed by the other things that you aren’t doing? What are some of the simple, beginning steps that some of you have already been taking?
What are some of the small, baby steps that you have begun taking in the area of nutrition? Do these 3 things sound like something that you could do?