As a nutritionist, I’m often asked basic questions like, “Which foods should I avoid?” or “Which foods should I eat to feel more energetic?” The answers exemplify a basic tenet of nutrition: small change leads to big gains. As in so many areas of life, a simple tweak to our diet or routine can have profound changes on our health.
With the new year upon us, it’s the perfect opportunity to make a change. At the Zing office, we’re challenging each other to commit to one Zing-approved nutrition tip through all 31 days of January 2020. Please join us, and step into the new year with health and vitality!
1. Avoid soda, juice, energy drinks, and other sugary beverages.
A 12-ounce can of soda contains 39 grams of sugar, while the same amount of apple juice has 33 grams. With no fiber, protein, or fats to slow down the sugar uptake, these beverages spike our blood sugar levels, leaving us tired, hungry, and ironically craving more of the same. While the vitamin C and vitamin A in some juices do have inherent benefits, they do little to ease our elevated sugar levels. If you’re a regular with liquid sugar, try going without for a month and see how you feel!
2. Stop eating white flour products.
Much like sugar, white flour breaks down immediately in our digestive system, spiking our blood sugar and throwing our bodies into a metabolic emergency. The most damaging culprits are sweet baked goods, such as cookies, cakes, muffins, scones, and danishes. However, even crackers and bagels can send our body for a spin. If you want to reduce cravings, hunger, and fatigue, try erasing white flour from your diet for a month. For extra credit, try to avoid all “white” foods, including pasta, rice, and potatoes.
3. Eliminate hydrogenated oils.
Hydrogenated oils, also known as “trans fats,” are found in margarine, cheaper cooking oils, and many commercially baked goods, such as mass-produced cakes, cookies, and muffins. Since they are “hard” and “sticky,” trans fats interfere with our intercellular exchange of nutrients and expulsion of waste. Even worse, they gum up our cardiovascular system, leading to heart disease. You may not feel an immediate difference in removing these from your diet, but your heart will be thanking you behind the scenes!
4. Don’t eat after 8pm.
When you go to bed on an empty stomach, your body switches into “repair and maintenance,” leaving you clear-headed and energized when you wake up. During this repair and maintenance, your whole system slows down—meaning, if there’s still food to digest it can start to ferment (carbs), putrefy (protein), or rancidify (fat). Do you ever wake up feeling hazy and heavy? Frequently, this is because undigested food has been sitting around in your body all night. Stop eating after 8pm, and be prepared for brighter, clearer mornings in your future!
5. Eat one different brightly colored fruit or vegetable each day.
Of course, we’re not talking about artificially-colored candy or sweets, but a fruit or vegetable with the vibrant greens, blues, purples, reds, oranges, and yellows from their naturally-occurring plant pigments. For example, most orange fruits and vegetables contain disease-fighting carotenoid pigments, like beta-carotene and lycopene. Think about the endless greens, oranges, and yellows you walk by in the produce section of your grocery store. Just one of those a day (for 31 days) will add fiber, antioxidants, and nutrients to your daily diet that will leave you feeling energized!