Hey everyone 🙂
Spending so much time with Auburn’s Sports Nutrition staff has filled my head with dozens of blog post ideas. The tough part is finding the time to put them into words!
My short-term internship project for this summer was an infographic on the health benefits of summer fruits, which I really enjoyed researching. It’s incredible how POWERFUL the simple plants that God has allowed to grow out of the ground are. There are so many compounds in fruits that you could really call “magical” – Anthocyanins in tart cherries, for example, have been shown to be almost as effective as ibuprofen at reducing inflammation. Zeaxanthin and beta-carotene, antioxidants found in cantaloupe, play a protective role in eye health. All of these compounds are at higher concentrations when fruits are at their brightest colors, which for these summer fruits, is right now! And FIBER in all fruits and veggies is so good for your heart. It lowers cholesterol, blood pressure, heart disease risk – need I say more?
Putting this into practical application –
I went grocery shopping this week, and I managed to pick up a lot of really great stuff. I’m not gonna lie to you, though, I wasn’t really thinking about heart health benefits when I was in the store. I was mainly focusing on not hitting anyone with my cart, finding the aisles I was looking for, and getting good prices. And trying to restrain myself from buying too much fresh produce, because I know I can’t use as much as I think when it’s just me. And the worst way to waste money is having to throw things away because they got moldy!
In a perfect world, we’d roam the aisles thinking about our heart health. Our brain health. Our eye health. Taking our time, selecting each item that would make us more functional human beings. What do you think about when you shop? I’m definitely prone to distraction, ESPECIALLY when walking down the cereal aisle, even though I know what I like. For me, it’s gotta be old-fashioned oats, or a hearty, grainy, lightly sweetened cereal. That’s what’s always gonna make me feel the best and fill me up for the longest. This time, I bought some wheat Chex, which I really like. But there’s always some fancy new box that wants my attention. Chocolate-covered sugar-coma granola labeled “all-natural”. New cheerios claiming to be “protein-packed” (spoiler alert – they mainly contain 4 more grams of protein than regular cheerios because the serving size is bigger, and they’ll also provide you with 16 more grams of sugar and more than double the calories per serving). The grass isn’t always greener with some new product, guys. Don’t be a victim to the chaos 😉
So, how can we grocery shop with the health of our bodies in mind? Without falling prey to distraction and needless worries while we’re shopping?
Plan ahead. And take our time selecting items as much as we can.
- Make a general outline of bomb-tasting healthy meals for the week – things you’re really excited to make & eat
- Make a list of the ingredients you’ll need
- Make a deal with yourself – only 1-2 additional items may be thrown in frivolously (make em count!)
If you go in armed with a plan, you’re much more likely to shop well and ultimately consume a healthier diet. And this can affect much more than just how your pants fit – though that is a huge benefit. Your ability to focus, your memory, sleep quality, exercise quality, and mood can all be improved by eating a healthy diet. And a healthy diet in turn becomes something that you can feel, and that you will want to seek out – what does my body really want right now to feel truly good?
You might think that if you let yourself think that way, you’d hear your body whisper “chocolate cake” every second. Maybe if you’re listening only to the taste buds and the cravings. But after a while those fade, and then what about your brain? Your tummy? Your heart? Does your body enjoy being loaded down with sugar and sleeping off a food coma? Not really – it likes being energized and lively so you can go do things in the world.
A “discipline is the only way” approach might work for a little bit… but it can leave you still thinking about what you “want.” And in reality, the cake might be what you need some days, for your emotional well-being! But, if you stop and listen – something else might be more satisfying right now. Are you someone who doesn’t think you like eating “healthy” foods? I’d guarantee there are some you do like. Watermelon? Yogurt? Grilled Chicken? Roasted carrots, or potatoes? I bet you can find a few. Start small, and grow from there. Taste buds really can change, and the cooking and preparation of something can make a huge difference. For example – my family recently discovered that roasted beets are super yummy. Pickled beets… not our thing. But that’s okay! You just need to find a way YOU like! A beet is a beet!
And if you like a lot of “healthy” foods, but you like all the other foods too…
Remember that your best diet is a beautiful compilation of foods that do your body good – physically, mentally, and emotionally. This will vary based on your genetic makeup (metabolism, food preferences, intolerances), the season of life you’re in, the amount of time you have to prepare food, how long you’ve been cooking or eating well, various holidays, and family culture – but good nutrition is all-encompassing! It allows all of that to fit into a healthy, happy lifestyle. Your diet is everything that you eat, all the little small decisions, which add up to a huge picture of your health. With improving your health, body, choices, and habits, the key is consistency. And eliminating the stress of doing everything “right.” Just let yourself try your best, and then simply be. So much can be gained from slowing down and allowing yourself to think about your food choices, instead of rushing and self-sabatoging your health.
At the same time that little “poor” decisions get lost in the huge puzzle of a good diet, all the little decisions add up to form the picture that is your diet. So it is in the little choices that we’ll find health and success!
So, back to the shopping. What can you do if you want to improve your food choices? How should you plan for your next grocery trip? If you want to really give your body the fuel it deserves, and love doing so – here’s a few tips for your list.
- Start with your protein. 🍳
- Great dinner choices are lean meats like chicken, turkey, fish, lean cuts of beef, pork tenderloin, or any of the many varieties of beans (combine with whole grains for a complete protein). Lunch protein can easily be dinner leftovers, repurposed into a salad or sandwich, or nut butter on anything. At breakfast, I love soymilk or soy yogurt (feel free to go for nonfat dairy, soy just makes my little tummy feel the best), almond butter, or eggs, for protein.
- This week, I bought a big box of frozen (minimal additives) turkey burgers, so that I can pull one out and grill it when I want it! The other nights, I’ve had black bean & brown rice bowls, and I’ve still got some frozen baby shrimp and frozen chicken-maple sausage in the freezer for when I want to mix it up. Freezers are magical when you don’t go through things quickly!
- Fill out your meals with veggies. 🥒
- I love keeping a container of greens (arugula, baby kale, and baby spinach rock) around so I can turn anything into a salad for lunch, or have a side salad with dinner. And – they’re great sautéed into your eggs with some salt and pepper. If you haven’t tried baby kale with eggs – please do. Game-changer.
- Roasted veggies are AMAZING. And easy. Stay tuned for my next blog post on making ANY veggie delicious 😉
- FROZEN VEGGIES – always have them in your freezer. They’ll be there when you need them!
- It can also be nice to find a veggie you really like to snack on (with or without hummus)! Bell peppers, cucumbers, sugar snap peas, and crinkle-cut carrots are my go-to.
- Make sure you’ve got grains. 🍞
- I’d argue it’s easiest to mess up here. Because there are SO. MANY. OPTIONS. With bread and cereals, anything packaged, stick to this rule – a whole grain as your first ingredient, and the shortest ingredient list you can find. With cereals, aim for less than 10g sugar/serving (<5 even better!)
- Brown rice over white, whole wheat pasta over regular, you get the idea.
- Why? Fiber is healthy for your heart, and when it’s stripped away (white bread, etc.), things get kind of… weird. Messing with nature’s package too much. It’s missing something it was meant to have.
- HOWEVER – the goal is to eat whole grains for at least half of your grains. That leaves you a lot of room for wiggle. The weirdness will only get you if you MOSTLY eat nutrient-stripped grains. It’s the big picture, folks!
- EAT ALL THE FRUIT. 🍒
- This one’s easy. Buy it – fresh or frozen. Add it to cereal. Smoothies. Yogurt. A bowl. Supplement your diet with all the fruits – as much as your budget will allow, that is! You aren’t going to mess up here!
- The things you love. 💕
- For me – the cart ain’t complete without almond milk, air-popped popcorn for snacking (it’s whole grain and actually a really good choice!), and probably one special drink of some sort (a kombucha, vitamin water, iced coffee, etc.) 😊
- Every couple of months, some dark chocolate, halotop ice cream, or graham crackers might make it in my cart. #faves. Make room for your faves when your heart tells you to! And when you buy them, savor ’em!
Did I forget anything? There you go. My guide to grocery shopping. These items are gonna nourish you all the way to your heart, because fruit & veggie vitamins promote blood health, and fiber reduces blood pressure, helping to prevent added stress on the heart. So you can rest easy knowing your diet’s keeping your blood pumping!
Here’s some meal-spiration 🙂 –
Eating well, with a relaxed yet intentional attitude, helps you live well. And longer. And it boosts your self-esteem just by simply doing it.