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Optimising Food Choices for a Longer Health Span: Embracing Small Nutrition Tweaks



Introduction


When it comes to improving our health and well-being, nutrition plays a vital role. However, the idea of making radical changes to our diet can often feel overwhelming and unsustainable for the long run, hence the prevalence of crash diets. The good news is that you don't need to completely overhaul your eating habits to achieve a longer and healthier life. In this blog post, I'll share my personal journey of making small nutrition tweaks that have significantly contributed to my cancer recovery and how I feel in myself today.


Personal Story: My Journey Towards Better Nutrition


Being a busy career woman in a demanding job and being a mother of three young children meant that I was constantly juggling. I had grown up eating a nutritious Mediterranean diet, which health professionals swear is the ultimate, but somehow my healthy food habits started slipping. I was grabbing convenience foods to save time, eating on the go or in front of my screen, having dinner late after the kids went to bed, and just not actively thinking of what exactly I was eating. I focused on feeding the kids nutritious foods, and in the process, I neglected my own nutritional needs.


In my health coach training, I gained a ton of knowledge. With this newfound awareness, I incorporated many of the recommendations into my own life. I did not want to become a health fanatic. I just wanted to make small and simple changes that promoted health, and helped me in my cancer recovery, without radically completely overturning my life. So, what were the most effective tweaks?


1) Eating Whole, Minimally Processed Foods

A fundamental aspect of optimising my food choices was prioritising whole, minimally processed foods. I largely cut out highly processed foods, which often contain added sugars, saturated fats, and artificial additives. Instead, I focused on incorporating foods that were as close to their natural state as possible. That includes completely whole foods like fruits and vegetables prepared at home, minimally processed foods like dairy products, tinned beans and tuna, preserves like pickles, kimchi and sauerkraut, and protein from both animal and plant sources.


2) Boosting Protein Intake

Increasing my protein intake was a game-changer for my health. Protein is essential for tissue repair, muscle building, and overall immune function. By incorporating more lean proteins into my diet, from both animal and plant based sources, I noticed I was feeling fuller and less sluggish than usual. I also began expanding my cooking routines to using plant-based protein sources, like tofu, legumes, quinoa, nuts and seeds which added variety to my meals while providing essential nutrients. The rule of thumb is to aim to eat 1 gram of protein for every 1 kilogram of body weight.


3) Choosing Complex Carbs Over Simple Carbs

Instead of relying on heavily refined foods, I shifted my focus to complex carbohydrates, which take longer to break down in our digestive tract, meaning they do not spike blood sugar levels. Foods like whole grains, sweet potatoes, and legumes provided a steady source of energy and helped stabilise my blood sugar levels, reducing any cravings I might have had, and aiding in healthy weight loss as a result.


4) Eating Balanced and Full Meals, Avoiding Snacking

I ate more at mealtimes and cut down on snacks. I put together balanced meals composed of at least 50% non-starchy vegetables, 25% proteins and 25% complex carbohydrates. This simple change helped me curb unnecessary snacking and reduced my overall intake of food, as I was feeling satiated.


5) Adding More Fruit and Veg Quantity and Variety to My Diet

I made a conscious effort to incorporate more vegetables and some fruits into my diet. I started adding berries to my breakfasts, prioritised salads for lunch, and filled my plate with mushrooms, seaweed, and green leafy vegetables.


Fruits and vegetables are abundant in antioxidants, which are potent compounds that help neutralize harmful free radicals in the body. Antioxidants play a significant role in reducing oxidative stress, supporting immune function, and promoting overall well-being. By embracing a colourful array of fruits and vegetables, I ensured that my body received a broad spectrum of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients.


6) Practicing Time-Restricted Eating


I started experimenting with restricting my eating window. I had dinner around 6pm with my children, and only had breakfast at 9 to 10am the next day, meaning I fasted for 15-16 hours daily. I felt great in doing so. This approach not only promoted better digestion but also helped with improve my metabolic health, and gave me more energy and focus.


7) Choosing Organic Foods Where Possible


It is not easy or cheap, but if you have the means, it pays off to choose organic foods. Organic foods are cultivated without the use of synthetic pesticides, herbicides, and genetically modified organisms (GMOs), which may have detrimental effects on our health and the environment.


Choosing organic fruits and vegetables meant reducing exposure to harmful chemicals and supporting sustainable farming practices. Moreover, organic animal products, such as organic grass-fed beef or pasture-raised eggs, provided higher levels of beneficial omega-3 fatty acids and fewer harmful antibiotics or hormones.


When I am not able to buy organic produce, I thoroughly wash produce in a baking soda soak for 15 mins which helps eliminate a good proportion of the residual chemicals sprayed on produce.


7) Planning Ahead:


To make these nutrition tweaks sustainable, I learned the importance of planning ahead. Meal prepping and meal planning became valuable tools in my journey. By setting aside time each week to plan my meals, create shopping lists, and prepare healthy foods in advance, I was better equipped to make nourishing choices throughout the week. Having healthy options readily available at home made it easier to avoid impulsive and less nutritious choices.


8) Not Being Too Strict About Food; Remaining Flexible:


I learned the importance of finding balance and avoiding rigidity. While making health-conscious choices is essential, it's equally vital to remain flexible and allow yourself occasional indulgences. Adopting a flexible approach to food enables you to enjoy social gatherings, celebrations, and dining out without feeling deprived or guilty.


Conclusion: Embracing Small Nutritional Tweaks as a Way of Life:


The beauty of these small nutrition tweaks lies in their simplicity. Instead of attempting drastic changes, I embrace these adjustments as a way of life. They are now habits that effortlessly integrate into my daily routine. These small tweaks enabled me to enjoy my meals while providing the nourishment my body needed. Now, even when I occasionally indulge, especially when dining out or during special occasions, I do so purposefully and without guilt.


Achieving a longer and healthier life doesn't require radical changes to your diet. By making small nutrition tweaks, such as increasing protein intake, choosing complex carbs, eating balanced meals, adding more fruits and vegetables, practicing time-restricted eating, and planning ahead, you can significantly enhance your health span. Embrace these changes as a way of life, and you'll discover that sustainable and enjoyable nutrition choices pave the way to a thriving and resilient future.


If you are curious to explore how you can leverage nutrition to optimise your own health, book your complimentary one-to-one conversation with me, Nada Soubra, Certified Health Coach & Founder of The Healthy Chain: https://calendly.com/thehealthychain/free-coaching-trial-session


This is a unique opportunity to meet me, discuss your health, and get some ideas on how you can boost your inner resilience, without completely changing your life.


Your Coach,

Nada Soubra





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