National Nutrition Month

2409582661_4fd86fb761_oAccording to the “Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics,” also known as AND, March is National Nutrition Month.

I know I’ve been writing about fitness a lot and not much about actual sports. However, I couldn’t let “National Nutrition Month” go by without writing about it.

Anyways, the goal is to help people gain better eating habits for all levels of “well-being.” So “AND” named this month as such to educate, inform and encourage these better habits.

You will have to bear with me here as I may seem a little harsh, but I feel that these “organizations” take these “cutesy” and passive approaches to what really is an epidemic in our country.

Did you know that in other countries around the globe, America is known as the “fat or overweight country?” It’s a sad, but harsh and true reality. I am even a little overweight so to speak. I could probably afford to lose 5-10 pounds myself, but I’m trying to “lean out” and not lose muscle at the same time. The majority is even more overweight than I being anywhere from 20-100 pounds or larger. That’s just plain scary and sad really.

We started out as such an agricultural and “from the land” society. I mean do you think pilgrims and Native Americans knew what Burger King or Taco Bell was in their era? Heck no! They hunted animals and planted gardens for their well-being. We live in such a delusional society these days where everything is instant. I’m guilty of this as well. Very impatient with technology and we want it all, and want it now. However, when it comes to nutrition, meals and your food choices. Please take your time and do not buy into greedy corporate America.

Fast food is literally poison. Plain and simple. Has anyone ever seen the documentary “Super Size Me?” If not, I highly recommend it. There are also pictures and videos online of McDonald’s “food” that never spoils. You can’t call something that is so full of preservatives food. Can you even imagine what that does to your insides? I’ve personally heard stories from individuals who had a diet that consisted of fast food and take out. The majority of them ended up with some sort of digestive cancer. Sad, but true.

Basically these corporate chains are getting rich off of our ignorance and laziness, and slowly killing us at the same time. Is that morally right? Sounds pretty evil to me, but we live in a free country and to eat that garbage is a voluntary choice.

I used to eat out 3-4 times a week. Was just so busy and overwhelmed with work, exercise, social activities, etc. Then I realized how much I was spending a week at Subway and other “healthy” options. Literally throwing hundreds of dollars away on sandwiches that aren’t really good for you. I mean it’s better than a burger or taco chain, but you can make a much healthier meal at home the night before.

This whole nutrition thing has been a lifelong battle for me. 28 years and counting to be exact. I think I’ve finally gotten it down with changing the way I think about food.

I grew up in an Italian family where it was always, “Mangia, mangia.” My great-grandmother and mother made incredible dishes. Their cooking abilities are top-notch, but it was carbs and calories galore. No wonder virtually every family member has had weight problems with the exception of my cousin who played in the NFL. I’m just thankful I caught my bad habits before they got out of hand.

Here’s what you do and these are very gradual steps. Go to the grocery store and stock up on fruits, veggies, whole grains, chicken and turkey. Avoid red meat when possible. Cows are terrible for the environment and not going extinct anytime soon. So let’s cut back on the burgers and steak. Instead grab some pork chops and turkey burgers.

After you’re done shopping, the key is to make half of your meals fruits or vegetables, make at least half of your grains whole and cook at home more often. When you cook at home, make enough to feed a small army so that you have enough for the next couple of days to take for lunches. This is huge, because not only will you be saving money, but you will be losing weight at the same time. You won’t be making hasty decisions on where and what to eat and you won’t be as tired either.

Pack enough so that you can eat about six small meals a day. This will also help your energy levels and cause you to lose weight. Whoever came up with the idea of three “balanced” meals is a moron. Healthy snacks all day is the way to go. Be sure to sign up for MyFitnessPal and get their awesome mobile app. It’s easy to use and makes calorie counting fun. Their food diary is so diverse that you will never have to manually enter foods. You can also track your workouts with this app and if you are a runner, cyclist or anything outdoors. You will want to sign up for and download RunKeeper. This site and app tracks your activities via GPS. I have both and use them regularly. In a way they make all of this healthy stuff fun and interactive.

If you truly love fast food items, which most of us do. Try and recreate them at home with healthy ingredients. There are so many online resources and recipes that there really is no excuse not to. It’s okay to eat fast food every now and then, but nutritionists only recommend doing so a few times a year. Imagine how many of us eat that stuff multiple times a week. Ouch!

Another simple trick is putting the healthy foods in your line of sight. Put them on the middle and top racks of your fridge, in your car, in your purse or backpack. The idea is in an “easy-to-reach” spot. Instead of leaving bags of potato chips and crackers around the house. Put out a bowl of fresh fruit and granola bars. You will “trick” yourself into eating and liking these foods, because that’s what you’re surrounding yourself with.

Not only is it important to surround yourself with healthy foods, but surround yourself with healthy people. They will help motivate you in terms of exercise and eating habits. Eating has always been a social activity. So why not share it with people who have similar goals and interests? Success and attitudes are contagious.

If all of this is a little intense for you and I understand that going “cold turkey” so to speak is tough. Then try to pick one whole grain food to eat at a meal or as a snack today. It could be a some whole wheat toast, oatmeal with fresh fruit, or maybe even some popcorn. Hearty whole grains come from a variety of sources and can be prepared in many different and enjoyable, ways.

Or make one meal that contains only fresh or frozen unprocessed ingredients. Processing foods is a terrible American and man-made practice that is pure evil in my opinion. Because, they literally remove the majority of, if not all of, the beneficial nutrients (like fiber) and add in other ingredients we don’t need (excessive amounts of salt and sugar). Why do you think this overweight stuff and diabetes are an epidemic like I have been saying?

There are studies out there that prove foods like Doritos are scientifically engineered to make us not feel full so that we just keep eating them until the bag or box is gone. Ever wonder why we always say, “Man, I can’t believe I ate that whole bag of chips.” Here’s why! Click this link for a story to ABC news and there are many others out there like it.

So why not try a whole-foods approach for at least one meal today? It could inspire others to do the same.

Remember to gauge your hunger before biting into your next snack to see if you’re really hungry. Sometimes we eat because we’re bored, angry, or for a number of other reasons besides actually being hungry. If that’s the case, try reaching for a glass of water instead or find something else to occupy your attention.

Put your fork down between bites at one meal today. When we eat slowly, we give our stomachs more time to realize that they are full. A feeling that can come several minutes after that last bite. So why not savor the meal and slow things down a little bit? This is a huge problem since I eat “like I’m in the military” and I’m always on the go. So eat a protein bar at your desk and take a bite every few emails that you read or every few paragraphs that you type. Give your stomach a chance to catch up.

Last but not least, let’s remember that people don’t eat nutrients, we eat foods and we should enjoy them. This blog is written by a “foodie.” So let’s be honest about the foods we love, choose a reasonable serving size and get away from those preservative filled “foods” that never spoil.

We need to change or we will continue to be the world’s punch line in terms of our health.

Feel free to share your success stories. What works for you? Do you use any calorie counting or fitness tracking apps?

I personally watch Netflix while on the elliptical at the gym and I’m finishing up this blog on the elliptical as we speak. It’s all about tricking yourself into being healthier. Do whatever it takes to eat better and be more active. You’ll thank yourself for doing so. If not, have fun being lazy, bored and miserable all the time. The choice is yours friends.

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