Making the decision to begin changing your diet can feel overwhelming and confusing – possibly so much so that you end up making no changes at all! And that’s not what we want to see happen. Once you’ve decided you’re ready to begin eating better (which is really the first step!), then take on the rest in baby steps. Go one day at a time and one goal at a time.
Perhaps you decide to begin eating a leafy green vegetable every day or 4 days of the week. Maybe you want to try drinking more water or eating more whole grains (like brown rice) instead of processed grains (breads, pastas – especially the white flour ones!). Start small and add on as you go.
Here are 7 general steps to finding your groove with food. These are great areas to start with, and you may want to break down your steps and goals even more. Remember to be realistic, but also push yourself to see just what you can do! You’d be surprised!
1.) Drink more water: There is no right amount of water to drink, but generally the bigger and more active you are, the more you should drink. A good rule of thumb is a 1/2 ounce of water per pound of weight. So a 160 pound person might start with 80 ounces of water (or 10 eight-ounce cups). Staying hydrated is imperative during cancer treatment! This will help to increase your energy, support your immune system, reduce nausea and other treatment and cancer side effects.
2.) Practice cooking: Cooking is a fundamental step to healthier living. By making your own meals you know what’s going into them. Meals don’t need to take hours to prepare and involve multiple ingredients. Pick a healthy recipe or two a week to add in to your routine.
3.) Increase leafy green vegetables: These are seriously lacking in the American diet and they are most essential for creating long-lasting health. More specifically they help eliminate depression, improve liver, gallbladder and kidney function, increase energy and boost your blood. Try kale, collards, mustard greens, dandelion greens, spinach, and chard.
4.) Increase whole grains: It’s not these types of carbohydrates that have led to the obesity epidemic, but rather the processed goods like doughnuts. Whole grains are some of the best sources of nutritional support and provide long-lasting energy. Try brown rice, quinoa, oats, and millet.
5.) Increase sweet vegetables: People forget that these exist and they are the perfect medicine for the sweet tooth. Instead of depending on processed sugar, you can add more naturally sweet flavors to your diet and dramatically reduce sweet cravings and better support your body. Try sweet potatoes, beets, carrots and squash.
6.) Experiment with protein: The majority of Americans eat way too much protein and mostly in the form of animal meat. Pay attention to how different types of protein make you feel. Try other forms like beans, lentils, nuts or fermented soy (tempeh, miso).
7.) Eat less meat, dairy, sugar and processed foods; consume less coffee, alcohol and tobacco: Did you notice we said eat less instead of don’t eat? If we told you not to drink coffee or eat sweets you would want them even more. By increasing your whole grains, vegetables and water you will naturally crowd out the more processed items, so this step often comes naturally (and it’s much easier to add in good food than try to restrict yourself from the not-so-good foods).
Adapted from 10 Steps to Boost Your Health for Life, Joshua Rosenthal, IntegrativeNutrition.com