7 Ideas for Healthier Eating

If we’re going to alter the macro structures in our society, we need to start small for what is any system but the sum of its parts? Whether it’s government, financial markets, big businesses, healthcare, education, or organized religion. Every societal structure is not only made by man, but made up of man. 

So it’s important that we understand ourselves and how our day-to-day lives are neither insignificant nor beholden to systems we have no control over, but rather our lifestyles make these systems possible. If we change our lifestyles and our values then we change structures.

And He said to them, “Because of the littleness of your faith; for truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you..” – Matthew 17:20

Many health related issues stem from our vices.  Whether it’s our sloth like lifestyles where we’d rather go through the drive thru, sit on the couch, not exercise regularly or if it’s our gluttony where we get super sized portions and we overindulge, much of our personal health problems develop as a result of our personal choices.

It goes back to the idea of a value void. When it comes to health and fitness, our society pushes us toward gluttony and sloth whether it’s one day delivery or a super sized meal. As society has embraced vices, we have to work even harder to make sure we embrace virtues in our daily lives. 

The opposite of gluttony is moderation. It’s not supersized meals. It’s smaller portions. The opposite of sloth is getting up and moving around. It’s not drive thrus, and take out dinner. It’s walking into the store and making dinner at home.

We’ll get into the macro structures of food systems, big pharma, and healthcare later on, but one thing’s for sure in the United States today: our food systems, our infrastructure and our healthcare are not helping poor, working class, and even middle class Americans. If anything our diets and lifestyles are making us sick.

For example, many small business owners, like my veterinarian, forgo health insurance for themselves and their families because the premiums are too high. Or in the North Side of Flint, Michigan, they consider it a food desert because grocery stores won’t set up shop there so it leaves the residents with hardly any fresh or healthy food options close to home. Or the office workers who work 9-5 and find themselves eating out, heating up premade meals, and not having the time or energy to take care of their personal health, which leads to anxiety.

The current systems aren’t doing us favors in the way of our personal health and well being, but we can still make small adjustments in our daily lives to help us be healthier and feel better.  If we don’t take care of our personal physical, mental and emotional health, we won’t be able to live our best lives and sometimes it can even hinder us from loving or helping others. And if we’re going to start tackling other issues whether it’s on the micro or the macro level, we need to be feeling physically and mentally fit and energetic. If we aren’t, then we’ll struggle to deal with any problems, however small or big, that arise.

While life expectancy across other developed nations is extending, life expectancy in the United States is on the decline. If we take a few minutes to look at some facts and figures, it doesn’t take long to see that we’re sick. We’re physically unhealthy with our diets and our exercise, and we’re mentally unhealthy.

  • Approximately 38.4% of men and women will be diagnosed with cancer at some point during their lifetimes 
  • 610,000 people die of heart disease every year
  • 9.4% of Americans have diabetes 
  • 34.9% of US adults are obese
  • In 2016, health care providers across the US wrote more than 214 million prescriptions for opioid pain medication—a rate of 66.5 prescriptions per 100 people.
  • The number of people using antidepressants between 1999 and 2014 grew by 64%
  • 40,000,000 Americans have some sort of anxiety disorder
  • 47,173 Americans committed suicide in 2017, but that pales in comparison to the 1,400,000 suicide attempts.

So how can we start to get to better?

1. Eat less (overly) processed food

Sounds simple, right? It can be more challenging than you think though since our large scale food system in the United States consists of players that over process foods: Kraft, Nabisco, Pepsi, Coca Cola, Tyson, General Mills, and so many others. Many of the big brands that we see in our grocery stores are controlled by a few big companies who try to cut costs on their production to make more money in profits. The result is overly processed food that is often low in nutrients and not great for our health. But these foods tend to be the lower priced option.

Not all processed food is bad and having some processed food on occasion isn’t the end of the world, but when it becomes a large part of your diet it’s no good. It’s the more heavily processed foods, snacks and meals high in added sugars, sodium and unhealthy fats that are the “problem” processed foods, as consuming too many of them can lead to health problems.

2. Get more proteins from plants

Meat isn’t the only place to get protein. Plants offer a lot of protein and fiber and often times for a more affordable price. Think about substituting a few meat based meals per week with protein rich plant-based alternatives. Here are some plants that are high in protein: mushrooms, quinoa, lentils, seeds and nuts, beans, 

3. Canned and frozen vegetables aren’t terrible

Canned vegetables are higher in sodium than their fresh counterparts, but they are still packed with nutrients. If you rinse the canned foods before preparing or eating them, then you will rinse away some of the sodium. Although they are considered a processed food, they are a lightly processed food that is actually good for you. They are affordable as well and easy to store. But one thing to keep in mind is that they do have the potential to expose you to BPA.

4. Try to do meal prep

One of the biggest deterrents that keeps people from eating healthier is time and convenience. After a long day, many people don’t want to cook or when rushing out the door in the morning to get to work, many people don’t have time to pack a lunch. Meal prep and planning is key. If you can carve out a couple hours a week to do meal prep, then you can store your meals for the next few days. For example, if you work Monday-Friday 8am-5pm, then maybe try to do meal prep Sunday and Thursday. One of the best investments  you can make is a good set of cookware and Tupperware to store your meals.

5. Gardening

There are a few ways that you can get involved in gardening. Whether it’s volunteering at a community garden or starting your own garden. Even if you live in an apartment, you could grow a few plants inside.  There is something priceless about getting your hands dirty and seeing a plant grow and produce vegetables or fruit that you eat. It reconnects you to the process of growing food, a process that we’ve been so disconnected from. Some plants that are easy to grow inside: lettuce, tomatoes, dwarf lemon trees, kale, carrots, and herbs just to name a few.

6. Intermittent fasting

The idea behind an intermittent fast is you consume very little or no calories for a period of time. Usually 12-14 hours. So you would stop eating at 8pm and not eat again until 8am or 10am. This is something that many of us could easily do with a little self control and as long as our physical health allowed for it, and the benefits are vast from reducing the risk for alzheimer’s, parkinsons, and diabetes to helping combat obesity. 

7. Apple cider vinegar, golden paste and honey

These are some foods that have been around for a while and weaving them into your diet is a great idea. Apple cider vinegar (ACV) has a lot of benefits like lowering blood sugar levels which helps fight type 2 diabetes, helps with weight loss, can help lower cholesterol and improve heart health, and might have protective effects against cancer. ACV has been hailed as a pharmacy in a bottle by many people.

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