Proper nutrition and food choices are critical parts of anyone’s overall health and fitness – in fact, probably THE most important parts. Whether you’re a person who pays attention to the foods you consume or not, below are my four comprehensive nutritional guidelines that will serve in maintaining and maximizing your best food choices related to health, helping to make your diet sustainable for years. From vegan, to paleo, and any other dietary/lifestyle structures you may currently follow (or maybe you follow none at all), these guidelines will provide a fail-proof nutritional base on your quest to a better overall quality of life.
1. Limit Refined Foods
The first item on your agenda is to limit all/every/any refined and/or processed foods. Oftentimes these foods will significantly increase blood sugar levels, leading to poor metabolism and altering your body’s insulin response (along with a slew of medical conditions or decreased physiological functions that aren’t even close to enjoyable). Digestion can also be negatively affected, energy levels drastically hindered or inconsistent throughout the day, and, worst of all, these foods will absolutely become an unnecessary source of excess calories. In other words: refined/processed foods = altered in some way, shape or form = high calories and a minimal source of nutritional value. (If you’ve not seen this before, check out this shocking infographic regarding the obesity rates around the world, as they are astounding.)
For example, limit these: baked goods, candy, cereals, chips, crackers, high fructose corn syrup, maltose, sucrose, dextrose, white rice, white bread, sodas/pop, flour, pretzels, pastas, large-brand ice creams, words like “enriched” or “refined,” many oils including vegetable and canola oils, and pretty much any ingredient that your most intelligent friend cannot pronounce correctly.
2. Consume Only Whole/Real Foods
Once refined/processed foods are pretty much eliminated from the diet, take it a step further, now consuming only whole/real foods. While you begin fueling your body with real foods, you are laying the building blocks for your base diet that will stick with you for the rest of your life (i.e., the “sustainability” part I’ve been referencing). The base diet is important because it provides sort of a safety net, allowing you to always fall back on it if you are unsure what to do or where to go. It also provides the correct baseline to cater your foods/diet to your exact needs and lifestyle.
So what exactly is a whole/real food? I think the easiest way to explain is this: if it grows from the ground or you can kill it, eat it. (Another explanation: essentially it’s the stuff around the perimeter of the market/grocery store, with the exception of the freezer aisle.)
Constantly proven to be the best sources of grown/real foods are: fresh vegetables and fruits, nuts and seeds, meats, fresh fish and seafood, fresh eggs, legumes, whole grains, herbs and spices.
Successful completion of these first and second steps will take varying amounts of time, depending on the individual. What I can promise is that you’ll feel better, and see positive results as long as a sincere effort is made.
3. Tweak Food Variety Intake Accordingly
We’ve finally made it to the fun part. Once you have mastered the whole/real foods rule (I’d give it about 30 days to test yourself), here you can tweak your diet according to your own unique needs or goals — anything from reducing inflammation or increasing athletic performance, to lowering blood pressure or reversing Type II diabetes, and virtually everything and anything in between. Tweaking your carbohydrate/protein/fat intake proves to be a constant evolutionary process, one that you’ll adapt to with time.
The best part about this step is the “safety net” mentioned above. If you need to lose weight or increase/decrease one of your macronutrients, you essentially have a “clean” slate to work from. Tweaking your dietary intake from whole/real food sources will provide your body with the best possible feedback available, allowing you to always stay ahead of the game in terms of aging, exercising in the most efficient way possible, and staying healthy to truly maximize your performance levels and feel like the best possible version of yourself.
4. Find Best Available Sources
The idea here is to seek out the most viable options available for each ingredient source that you ingest, using this reference guideline as a continuous improvement for your health with a focus on quality. Obviously these are contingent upon cost, budget, your location, availability, etc., but almost everything can be improved upon in some way (no matter how large or small). Maybe you switch to 100% organic; or to making all of your own condiments and healthy sauces/dressings; or to seek out your local farmers market or local egg/animal farm.
The goal of this guideline is to constantly promote health and wellness exactly how it should be — ever changing and dynamic, based on the most recent data available — making the best choices possible in regard to the best knowledge base and sources that are available to you in your area, and to your lifestyle.
The Goal: Maximum Nutrition Forever
As sort of an all-encompassing general guide, the above “rules” can definitely help to serve as a good reminder in keeping you on track regarding your health, diet and exercise goals, without veering too far off course. It is important to keep in mind that we all falter in some way, and we always will (even I do, and this is my life and job). The most important (and most satisfying) thing to remember is that we all have the ability to do the best we can at any given moment, and only we have the power to make the change.