Adding the Right Foods to Your Diet
If you are like me, anytime you hear about the latest scientific study that says Americans aren’t getting enough of a certain food in their diet you either roll your eyes or feel like there is yet another way you are falling short with your diet.
I recently had an appointment with my doctor and I voiced my frustration about these studies that regularly come out. My doctor was great and told me that I am not alone in feeling exhausted by all of these announcements, but more importantly, he urged me not to pay too much attention to them. Wait, what?
He went on to explain that it’s not about getting more of a certain food in your diet, it is about getting the right ones in and maintaining a good balance. I found this to be a fascinating statement, especially coming from a doctor. I know the basics about good nutrition, and I think most people do thanks to the gobs of information that are hammered into our brains by the media, and countless ad campaigns of food companies and the government. I think it is safe to say that my choices in my regular diet have been influenced by these campaigns and by the “breakthrough” studies I complained to my doctor about. That being said, here is my diet plan in a nutshell:
- Limit the amount of meat and grains I consume compared to the amount of vegetables.
- Cut back on soda, sweets, fast food and junk food.
- Eat a yogurt every day and some fruit every day.
- Get enough calcium every day by drinking milk or by some other means
I shared this with my doctor and he said that while my intentions were great, the chances were that I was still eating the “wrong” things. How could this be? I was only eating the things that I knew to be healthy.
My doctor explained that the baby carrots I always snacked on were basically just the sweetest part of the carrot, meaning, there are more sugars and thus more carbs. It turns out that baby carrots aren’t exactly the healthy snack that I thought they were.
For fruits, I honestly eat “an apple a day.” My doctor said while an apple a day is better than no fruit at all, but apples have been specifically modified to be sweeter and more sugary to the point that they don’t have the same nutritional value that they once did. While apples aren’t necessarily bad for you, there are plenty of other foods that are better.
At this point, my mind was blown. I had never considered that the “right” foods that I had been eating were’t exactly the best for me. I wanted to figure out what the right things to eat were so I got my doctor’s opinion and then I did my own research. Here is what I figured out:
Instead of my usual giant Honeycrisp apple per day, I now have a smoothie each morning consisting of some combination of nonfat greek yogurt, a little spinach or kale, berries (blueberries, raspberries, strawberries are my favorites), cooked oatmeal, flax seed, honey, and ice. These smoothies are a great way to pack in a lot of nutrients in a small glass.
My definition of vegetables has radically changed. Instead of a baby carrot snack, I now go for greens that are easy to eat on the go like celery or broccoli. For dinner, I try and go for dark green leafy veggies like kale or spinach to be part of the main dish or a very prominent side.
Grains and Starches
For grains, I try and do a limited amount but the grains I do eat I want to be high quality. I stick to steel-cut oats, quinoa, brown rice, sweet potatoes, and of course beans. Beans are great because they have a high amount of protein and fiber compared to the number of carbs. I love cooking with beans because of the health factor that they provide.
I am still having my yogurt a day in my smoothie each morning, so I get some of my dairy that way. The rest comes from almond milk and low-fat cheese. Dairy is hard for me because I try to avoid drinking cow’s milk due to the high amount of cholesterol.
I eat a lot of eggs (mostly the whites), salmon, tilapia, chicken, and occasionally some pork or beef. If there is a night that I don’t want to eat meat, I will substitute the usual portion with beans so I can get enough protein.
Fats and Oils
When I cook, I usually use extra virgin olive oil to grease my pan rather than vegetable oil or butter. Olive oil has the right kind of fat that we need but it also adds great flavor to whatever I am cooking. I also enjoy avocados and nuts as snacks as those also have the right kind of fat that we should be eating.
Is it Enough?
Getting enough of the right vitamins and nutrients through diet alone seems impossible, and I am pretty such it is. For example, calcium each day is difficult for me since I am not a big milk drinker and I don’t cook with cheese too often. I do ok getting the proteins and grains that I need each day, but I sacrifice the variety of foods that I want to eat in order to eat the ones I know I am supposed to. That being said, even this diet is not enough. I have to take a well-balanced supplement. In my research, I looked for one that would help fill the gaps in my diet but that also offered vitamins that I probably couldn’t get through my diet. I ended up choosing Kyäni as my supplement because it fit well with my diet and I like the way it makes me feel. I am happy with my decision of supplement, but it took some time to find the right one after researching several different types and the side effects and trying it out. So far I have no complaints and it feels good knowing that I finally have the “right” foods in my diet.