Happy, Healthy Eating
Its only common sense
I'm no dietician or expert on nutrition, but I do study, observe, and go with what works. I have seen so many crazy fad diets, diet pills, diet foods...all of them unnatural and unhealthy. I've also seen many "natural" diets that do not make much sense to me, or would not work for most people. Sure, vegetarianism may be healthy when you have plenty of options available from your grocery store, but how about in a survival situation, or if some of those non-animal protiens were suddenly not available? No matter how you look at it, humans are evolved for an omnivorous diet. While many of us have different tastes and requirements for our daily activities, here is what I see to be a reasonably healthy way of eating.
All life on Earth relies on water. However, our source and quality of water is very important as well. Regular tap water is not that great. We all know and despise that crusty hard-water buildup, especially here in Central Texas. Think about that stuff going into your body. Most of it is calcium and limestone buildup, but there is also rust and other metallic elements, and the chemicals added to municipal water sources. We flush our toilets into the same source that comes right back to the faucets. They have to clean all that out, douse it with chlorine, and then add flouride too...You can do your own reasearch on flouride, but it does NOT help strengthen your teeth like they claim it does.
If you do not already use well water, get a good water filter. There are types available for whole-house filtration, and even small ones that attach to your kitchen faucet. Pitchers and dispensing filter containers can be purchased for the countertop or refrigerator. Brita is a good, reliable, and affordable brand with many different styles, and inter-compatible filter cartridges. You could also go the extra step and invest in a filter that eliminates lead, mercury, chlorine, and flouride, such as a Berkey water filter. We have both Brita and Berkey countertop units, and the water comes out tasting very sweet and fresh. Don't just use it for drinking water, use it for cooking as well!
The recommended amount of water to drink daily seems pretty high, but that amount also includes water in other drinks and foods. Juices, teas, and juicy fruits are good sources of extra water.
Remember the Food-Guide Pyramid? The FDA has changed it now to a rather confusing "My Pyramid", which has nothing to do with the original idea. The old version was more understandable and made much more sense. Grains are the foundation of a healthy diet, and can be consumed in so many forms. Whole grains are best. Use breads, cereals, and pasta made with whole grain flour instead of bleached white flour. Most of the important nutrients and elements of the grain is removed by stripping the bran and bleaching. Make sure your bread is truely whole grain, and not white bread with a caramel coloring. The breads with "chunks" of grains and other seeds are even better.
Breads, tortillas, crackers, rolls, muffins, cereals, pasta, and oatmeal are all good sources of grains. Corn, when dry and ground into meal, is also a grain.
Eat your veggies! The next tier up on the Food Pyramid was fruits and vegetables. They provide many essential vitamins, minerals, fiber, and are a natural source of healthy sugars. Make sure you eat a wide variety of different-colored vegetables, many provide more of certain nutrients than others. Vegetables should be purchased fresh if possible, or frozen, and cooked with as little fat and in as short a time as possible. I have another article on that, though.
Fruits should be consumed in a smaller amount than vegetables, because of the sugar content. I have seen vegetarian and fruititarian diets, but those may not suit most people. Fruit can be eaten fresh, dried, as a sauce, juice, jelly, or jam. Many vegetables can also be added to fruit juices. Different fruits also contain different nutrients, so be sure and eat a wide variety.
MEAT & PROTIENS
Protien is the next tier on the pyramid, along with Dairy.
ANIMAL PROTIENS --
Say what you want about meat-eaters, but consuming animal protiens promotes higher brain function, and provides essential fatty acids and nutrients that are not available or are difficult to assemble in vegetable protiens. Commercially-raised domestic meat animals are not that healthy --in themselves as animals due to their living conditions; or to us due to the way they were raised, fed, and hormones given. If you can, choose free-range meat animals. Farm-raised and grass fed beef. Chickens provide a much healthier egg and meat when allowed to roam free, scratch the earth, and eat insects as nature intended. Corn and animal by-products are NOT natural feed for livestock. Even better than free-range livestock, is wild game. Wild meats are much leaner and nutritionally-sound than domestic. If cleaned and processed correctly, they also do not carry the "gamey" taste most people are so afraid of, and if cooked properly, are not tough.
Eggs, seafood, poultry, pork, and hooved animals are all sources of good animal protiens. I do not say "beef" because many people also prefer to eat deer, sheep, and goat. Rabbit and squirrel are also fine food animals, but they can be classified with poultry, since the meat is similar.
VEGETABLE PROTIENS --
Dry beans are a good source of vegetable protien, as well as tofu, or soybean curd. I do not believe eating soybean products in such quantity that is seen lately is healthy, as soy contains substances that mimick human estrogen. It is meant to be eaten in small amounts, and as an additive or condiment.
Nuts are also a fine vegetable protien, but they carry a lot of fats and oils, so should be eaten in moderation.
Dairy should be eaten in smaller amounts than protiens. Good sources of dairy foods include fresh milk of course, cheeses, yogurt and other cultured dairy products, and ice cream. If you have an allergy to cow's milk, try drinking goat's milk. It tastes similar to whole cow's milk, and is easier to digest. Dairy goats are also not treated with hormones like cows usually are. Use natural cheeses rather than "processed cheese food". There are a wide variety of cheeses to choose from, hard, soft, pungent and mild. Try as many of them as you can and incorporate them into meals and snacks. Use as natural a yogurt as possible. I would stay away from the fancy-flavored Dannon and Yoplait brands, as many of them have artificial additives. Get a big tub of natural unflavored or lightly-sweetened yogurt, and add your own honey, fruit, or cereal to it. Yogurt is a good additive to many dishes, toppings for fruit, made into frozen treats, etc. Ice cream should be at the bottom of your list of dairy foods consumed, because of the sugars. Look for brands that use natural ingredients, like Breyers. They don't have as many fancy flavors, but you can always add your own things into vanilla or chocolate ice cream.
FATS & SUGARS
Don't believe anyone when they say fats and sugars are bad for you, and you should not eat any of them. Our bodies NEED fat and sugar to survive, but certainly not in large amounts. Stay away from anything labelled "fat-free" or "sugar-free". Truth is, it probably still has the same amount of added fats or sweeteners, but artificial or heavily-processed ones instead of natural ones. If you give your body natural fats and sugars, in the right amounts, it will know what to do with them.
Stay away from "diet" versions of regular products at all costs. Most likely they are loaded with hydrogenated oils and artificial sweetners like aspartame.
Use natural butter, cream, sugar, and honey. If you have it available, try the Turbinado cane sugar. It is simply crystalized cane juice that still has the molassass and nutrients. Honey is an even better option, but it carries a different flavor, is sweeter, and adds moisture to recipes. Olive oil is a much better choice than corn or vegetable oil. It is actually very healthy for you, and carries a wonderful flavor. Light olive oils are more versatile, extra virgin olive oil has a strong flavor that may not be suited to all dishes. Sunflower oil is also a good alternative.
A common misconception about "healthy eating" is that healthy and natural foods are bland and tasteless. Actually, healthy foods can be more flavorful than unhealthy ones! Instead of loads of salt, try flavoring dishes with lemon or lime juice, herbs and spices, and vegetables such as garlic, onions, celery, and olives. A plain slice of whole-wheat, rye, sourdough, or seed- and nutted-bread is much more tasty than a slice of plain white or wheat sandwich bread. Red-skin potatoes baked with a little butter, dill, and garlic have loads more flavor than the biggest loaded baked potato. Try potato sticks tossed in a tablespoon of olive oil, sea salt and black pepper and baked instead of deep-fried and coated with salt. Grilling, or pan-frying with olive oil, herbs and spices adds more flavor to meats than other cooking methods.
SUNSHINE, FRESH AIR, & EXERCISE
Sun and UV rays do not give you cancer. The things we smear on our bodies and pump into the air do give us cancer. Aside from allowing the body to produce vitamin D, natural sunshine and fresh outside air warms the body and the spirit. Try to exercise outdoors, or at least run, jog, walk, or stretch outside, or have some sort of daily outdoor activity.
You can diet till you are blue in the face, but if you aren't burning calories naturally and using your muscles, you will never have a healthy body. Being healthy is not just about being thin or muscular, your whole body is a system, like a machine, and needs to keep active and working. Sitting on your butt all day eating diet microwave dinners will get you nothing but a weak body and circulatory system. Get up! Move around! Go outside and do some yard work, take a walk at the park, ride a bike, go to the gym a couple times a week if your activities are limited. You need to get your joints moving, muscles flexing, lungs and heart pumping.
Exercise your MIND as well. The brain is part of the body, and if left inactive, its function will wither away just like a muscle. Find a hobby, be creative, read a book, watch something educational instead of mindless sitcoms and reality shows. Take the family out to something where you can all stretch your legs and your mind...a zoo, museum, or nature park.
Stress is another factor to ill health. If the mind and body are stressed, they cannot relax, heal, and function properly. Take some time out each day to relax or meditate. This can be included in your reading or creative activity, or it can be a spiritual meditation. I find just being outdoors in a natural setting is calming. "Meditation" does not have to be sitting cross-legged, with your hands in a weird pose, going "oooommmmmmm..." It can simply be any activity, or non-activity, that helps you feel calm, relaxed, and refreshed. I choose hikes in the woods, and nature photography as my meditation. And in fact, having a clear mind and spirit helps me notice even more photography subjects. I notice inconspicuous flowers, or insects and animals among the plants. I've even found that some of these creatures are quite comfortable with my presence... I've had lizards run up near me, or allow me to get within inches to take a close-up photo. Frogs that completely ignore me while I take photos. Butterflies and ladybugs land on me. Birds and friendly dogs and cats come near me. When your personal energy is calmed, the rest of the world that is in-tune with that, can sense it.