There are many different “diets”. But what we need is a healthy way of life, not a temporary fix. Our “diet” should be a lifestyle where we choose healthy foods in appropriate portions. So, what does that look like? What is a healthy breakfast when you’re on the run and no time to cook? What about lunch? Where can we eat? Can we eat something besides salads all the time? And supper, the kids have activities and there’s just not much time to cook. Where does this lead us?

Let’s look at a healthy overall eating plan to fit into our lifestyle. We want to emphasize primarily plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts. These plant-based foods do many wonderful things for our bodies! To begin with they help lower blood pressure, help maintain safe blood sugar levels and provide vital vitamins and minerals to nourish the body. They allow you to eat more food but still lose weight. Plant-based foods help lower triglycerides and decrease the bad “LDL” cholesterol and reduce sugar cravings. They are high in fiber and are packed with anti-oxidant properties all of which strengthen the immune system to fight diseases like cancer, diabetes and heart disease to name a few. American Gastroenterological Association recommends total fiber intake of at least 30–35 g/day. Dietary fiber should be from all sources of fiber, including 5–7 servings of vegetables and fruits per day and generous portions of whole-grain cereals and legumes. You are encouraged to fill about ½ of your plate with vegetables and some fruits. When selecting these foods, consider buying local seasonal, organic foods to keep the foods free of pesticides. Flash frozen can be a great option as well. The Environmental Working Group, EWG, provides a list of the foods most likely to contain pesticides called the Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen. Go to http://www.ewg.org/. for a complete list of both. The dirty Dozen list contains foods that don’t have a peeling that can be removed like strawberries, celery and spinach. The Clean Fifteen list are the foods that are generally safe because they do have a peeling to remove to keep the food clean like avocados, pineapples and onions.

Minimize added sugar, white flour, processed foods and salt while adding herbs and spices for seasoning. Instead use healthy fats in place of margarine and butter. These may be avocados, olive oil, fatty-fish, nuts or ghee. These will help the body absorb fat-soluble vitamins and keep you full for a longer period-of-time, not to mention, taste better! Beware of added sugars! Be sure to read the labels and look for anything that ends in ”ose”. Dextrose, maltose, sucrose, fructose are all sugars. The best sweeteners to use are the natural ones like local honey, pure maple syrup, agave syrup and organic coconut sugar. However, The American Heart Association recommends that women have no more than 6 teaspoons of added sugar and men no more than 9 teaspoons per day. Avoid sugary drinks! Water is very important for hydrating, cleansing and motility.

Most healthy diets include fish at least twice per week and limit red meat to a few times per month. Start with 6-10 oz. of fish or lean meat per day. A four-ounce serving size of cooked meat is about the size of a deck of cards. When selecting fish, look for wild-caught instead of farm raised. It will have more omega-3 fatty acids which helps delay the onset of Alzheimer’s or dementia and they provide more calcium and iron. Also, look for sustainable seafood. This means the species population is managed in such a way as to minimize damage to its ability to reproduce.

Speaking of Omega-3’s, hens are frequently given flax seed to add a bit of omega-3 to their eggs. You may also want to look for chickens and other protein sources that have been certified as “organic.” This tells you that the animals have been fed 100% organic feed and were never given antibiotics or hormones. The best choice for your lean meat and poultry look for grass-fed, pastured, organic. I recommend that you purchase from a local farmer and store it in your freezer. You may choose from beef, lamb, goat, elk, venison or bison that have been pastured or were wild.

These are some of the basics in what to eat and a little bit of the why. In Part 2 we will put this into action to ensure that you know what this looks like throughout your day. Until then, start reading labels, cutting out added sugar, white flour and processed foods. Buy local, seasonal, organic foods. Cover half your plate with vegetables and fruit and increase your fiber intake gradually to 30-35 gram per day.