I was inspired to write this by a friend…. she asked me a simple question the other day “how do you eat so healthy all the time?” Well it made me think… my first thought, ‘ha, uhm I am pretty sure all of the smores’ I consumed this summer do not fall into that healthy category!’ but then I answered “honestly, it is not that hard anymore, I just eat what makes me feel good, my body craves good food.” I can assure you…..it has NOT always been this way! Just a quick personal back story (and then I promise to get right to it!), a few years ago, I was struggling with extreme stomach pains, I went on a 4x a day medication. This medication made me feel tired and dizzy and I also had headaches a lot. I knew something had to change, I have always been pretty active, I enjoy working out, but my energy levels just really kind of sucked and I did not feel good. So I after some research, I decided I would start with changing my eating habits, focusing on minimizing processed foods. I figured it was easy enough and a good place to start. Well, I realized how much better my body felt from just that one small change and it motivated me to learn more, I was determined to get off from any prescription medication. I really made a lot of changes but gradually, over time, nothing super drastic and fast forward a couple years….I have now been off all medications for 3 years, I weigh the same as I did in high school, I feel the best I have felt in my life and 40 is staring me right in the face! Now my skin might be a bit wrinkly (thanks to high school tanning beds and tanning oils…gross!), I have cellulite in places that I have never had (thanks mom…genetics are amazing) but I know I am healthy.  I have the energy to workout 5-6 days a week because I am fueling my body with the nutrients I need and in reality that is what eating is for, fueling our bodies. Of course I still have ‘treats’ but for the most part, my body craves healthy foods because I got rid of all of the junk in my system, it knows what to do with real food and it likes it.

I could go on and on about all the bad foods, sodas, weight loss pills, energy drinks, etc. that are messing with our bodies but instead I want to focus on the positive things that I know, when I do consistently, make my body is happy! There are a million really, really good ‘eat clean’ and ‘get healthy’ websites and facebook/social media pages out there and a lot, by a lot, I mean millions of resources available and places you can go to find information on healthy eating (can someone say information overload?!?!?!)! The ideas and opinions are endless but the reality is that it all can be very overwhelming, especially if you are just trying to start somewhere to make a few changes to feel better. In my opinion, it is best to not over complicate….just make it easy!

So this week’s Top 5 are the five things that I do to fuel my body with the right stuff:

1) Always choose plain

Any time I am buying any type of yogurt, oatmeal, etc….I always buy plain. I know you are thinking really Tara….BORING…. but it is not boring at all! I add natural things like fresh fruits, veggies, raw nuts, raw local honey or fresh local maple syrup. It is so easy and incredibly delicious!  If you read the ingredients to the yogurt or oatmeal that has fruit added, it is downright scary! And then, the combine that with those that say fat-free and sugar free….the ingredients basically lists a bunch of toxic chemicals. I promise you that full fat and natural sugars (like the sugar found in fresh fruit) will not go right to your thighs!! Your body knows what to do with these things, our digestive system was built to process real food, not to process chemicals!

My favorite way to make yogurt or oatmeal, especially in the fall, is to cut up half of an apple (you can quick saute it in a pan with a little coconut oil and cinnamon or apple pie spice if you want it warm), add a handful of raw almonds (I am allergic to walnuts but those would be delicious too), sprinkle your spices and then drizzle raw honey…it tastes like apple pie a la mode! So so so easy, delicious and your body will absolutely love you! I challenge you to get creative, make your own recipes at home, it is really the best way to avoid all the added junk! Choose plain and then add your own seasonings! Have fun with it!

yogurt
Black coffee with ‘Apple pie’ yogurt

2) Probiotics and Apple Cider Vinegar

My grandfather always took probiotics and drank apple cider vinegar. I thought it was so weird as a kid that he would do this but now, I know why! When I had a stomach-ache as a kid, my grandma always gave me these weird chewable things….now these weird chewy things (also known as acidophilus) are popular again along with a variety of probiotics because we finally realized that our body needs good bacteria. Due to the nature of how processed all of our foods are here in the mighty USA, the natural probiotics have been removed from a lot of foods. This my friends is a huge factor in our obesity crisis as well as our pharmaceutical nightmare, we are prescribed meds to treat symptoms of meds, to treat symptoms of meds….it goes on and on. I know the term ‘healthy gut’ is all the trend right now but it really does matter! I do strongly feel that medications are so quickly prescribed without looking at nutrition first. There are absolutely times when medications are needed but so many times I see people on a bunch of medications for side effects of other medications…it is a vicious cycle.

There are many brands to choose from on the market when it comes to both apple cider vinegar and probiotics but a couple of things you need to look for when choosing what works best for you:

  • Look for Raw when it comes to apple cider vinegar, it should not be clear and it is often a little ‘chunky’ at the bottom. Don’t be grossed out by it, it will be ok, I promise J I mix my vinegar with a little water and just drink it quickly. If you have trouble with the taste, you can mix it with a little lemon and cinnamon…but really just add a little water and suck it up 🙂
  • With Probiotics, looks for some of these strains: Lactobaccilus plantarum, Lactobaccilus acidophilus, Lactobaccilus brevis, Bifidobacterium lactis and Bifidobacterium longum. There are a lot of different strains that provide benefits, but these are the ones that are the best in supporting your body’s natural biology.
  • You can also find natural probiotics in dairy foods like buttermilk, some soft cheeses, fermented and unfermented milk, and kefir, as well as fermented foods like tempeh, kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha and some pickles.
  • Remember all probiotics are not created equal, if they do not have live strains in them then they are really wasting your money so I would suggest doing a little research and also trying a couple out. I don’t want to recommend any specific brand since I think everyone’s bodies are a little different but I will share that I drink Bragg’s Apple Cider vinegar every day in the morning and I also take probiotics every day. Currently my two favorite brands of Probiotics are Garden of Life Raw Probiotics (these are kept in the refrigerator) and I also like the ProBio5 by Plexus (mostly for traveling because they do not have to be refrigerated and they still have the good stuff).

3) Buy Non-GMO

Ok, ok, I know this is sounding trendy now but I truly believe, GMO’s are another contributor to our problem with obesity and overuse of medications. If you watch a few documentaries….it is scary. But for real, our bodies are having issues because they do not know how to process foods that have been genetically modified. It is super easy to find foods that are non-GMO…just look at the label or look for the word organic, if something is certified organic, it has to also be non-GMO. It is getting easier and easier to find non-GMO foods and I feel the more we support non-GMO company’s and farmers, the sooner this problem will be eliminated from our society. Again, I could go on and on but I will tell you 100%, when I cut GMO’s out or my diet, my body quit doing weird unexplained things (I will avoid a TMI moment here) and it has been happy ever since!

If you want to know more about GMO’s – I would suggest starting here:

http://www.nongmoproject.org/gmo-facts/what-is-gmo/

gmo-free

 

4) Read ingredient labels

I try to stick to the 80/20 rule with ingredients of all of the food I eat. The rules I follow for at least 80% of my food are:

  • I must be able to pronounce all of the ingredients
  • There must be only 5 ingredients or less on the label
  • No ‘fake sugars’ or added sugars – sugars are hidden under a lot of crafty names…be on the lookout (see pic below)
  • Non-GMO and/or Organic
  • No processed flours
  • Very minimal added flavor, seasonings, sauces, no MSG, etc…you can add your own flavor from the spice cabinet!

Once you start actually reading labels, you will be surprised and maybe a little bit scared. A really good example is peanut butter…the only ingredient really should be peanuts….take a look and see what is in yours…it might be more than you expect! I know it seems like a simple task but if you do this and do it consistently, you will become more aware of what you are feeding your body and more aware of when you feel good and when you feel bad!! Everyone’s bodies react different to different foods so label reading is key to knowing what makes you feel good!

caloriesvschemicals
Can I get an Amen!
sugar-names_0
Just a few names for sugar….and there are even more!

5) 4×4 Fruit and Veggie Rule

This one is super simple but it works!! I try to eat at least 4 servings of fruits and 4 servings of veggies each day. When I feel snacky, I go first for a fruit or veggie if I have not got my 4 in yet for the day. Initially, when I started tracking how many fruits and veggies I was having each day, I was shocked to find out that I was sometimes only having one of each. I have always thought of myself as a pretty healthy eater but honestly, this is where I was lacking. I have found that when I make sure I get in the fruits and veggies before other snacks, I usually end up not eating other snacks because I am satisfied and full.  One way to make it easier is to cut up all my veggies and keep them easy to grab and always keep fruit visible! When you can see it, you will grab it first! Portion control is still important here…even with the good stuff!fruit

**disclaimer** I am not a nutritionist or an expert in any of this (but I do know a few good ones if you want references!!), I am just sharing what works for my body!

Thank you for taking a few minutes out of your day to read. I am hoping, through sharing my ideas, I can help you to challenge yourself to try to make at least one small change to feel better and have more energy! The bottom line is that there is not a magic potion, pill, shake, bar or secret trick to healthy eating, just eat real food and go from there! Please feel free to reach out to me if you have questions or want other ideas! I love to share!! There is so much happening around us (these crazy politics though…can that just be over soon?!?!)… let’s all just be kind, lift each other up, encourage one another, choose happy and enjoy today!

Enjoy Today ~ Choose Happy 🙂

Tara

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