Does this sound a bit like your lifestyle:
Wake up groggy ➨ Coffee ➨ Commute to office ➨ Coffee ➨ Quick lunch at desk ➨ Chocolate/Coffee to spike low energy ➨ Commute home ➨ Huge dinner ➨ Watch TV ➨ Sleep ➨ Wake up groggy
Perhaps you’ve tried diets or removing certain food groups from your meals in order to lose weight and be energized throughout your day? Or maybe you’ve swung the other direction and are addicted to certain foods and can’t get through a day without them (like coffee for example)?
Well, let’s take a step back and look at not only the types of food you’re consuming, but how you’re eating them. Our modern-day culture stresses what kinds of food to eat (by the way, there’s a reason there are so many diets fads in the world – it’s because none of them work) but not a lot of sources are concentrating on how and when you eat food and its impact on your overall health. And now that we’re heading into the holiday season, especially Americans who are about to celebrate Thanksgiving, it’s more important than ever to stress some key healthy eating tips.
#1. If you take nothing else away from this article, remember one thing: eat breakfast within 30 minutes of waking up. Even if it’s just an Energy Smoothie. With the prevalence put on coffee these days, most of us wake up, have a cup of joe (or several), and, because caffeine is an appetite suppressant, we go the entire morning without eating. The problem with this scenario is your body reacts by thinking it’s being starved and builds up fat cells. Fall into a habit of this and quite quickly it becomes too hard to shed weight because the body is always worried about when the next meal will come. The simple solution to this is to eat some form of food within a half-hour of waking and three things will happen:
- You’ll kick-start your metabolism for the day
- You’ll be supporting your circadian rhythm and will have more energy
- You’ll keep your liver from initiating the “famine” response
We know that a warm cup of coffee is very comforting, especially as the cold weather settles in, but consider trying alternatives like ginger tea, which helps cleanse the liver rather than tax it, or perhaps a barley-based coffee substitute like Bambu or Akava. At the very least, try lessening your coffee intake by just have one a morning after your first meal or smoothie.
#2. Eat two-thirds of your food in the first nine hours of the day. This is an issue that’s most especially prevalent in North America where we tend to consume coffee during the day and then have a huge meal right before we watch TV and fall asleep. The issue with this scenario is the body doesn’t have the ability to work off all those extra calories while sleeping so it tends to store them all as fat. By eating most of your food during the first half of your day you:
- Allow your body to burn off those calories by walking and being active and
- You reduce your evening blood sugar levels so insulin doesn’t store excess as fat
This may seem difficult to do at first because large dinners can seem so satisfying but just try it for a little while and we’re positive your energy levels will increase in the morning.
#3. Not only will you benefit from eating within the first nine hours of your day, you will also feel better if you consume multiple food groups every three hours during the day. By snacking regularly you convince the body you’re not starving and it will be less likely to store fat. Let’s preface this, however, by saying that a snack does not include an entire bag of Doritos. All you need is a piece of fruit and a handful of seeds or nuts or any of our top 5 on-the-go-snacks to keep your energy up. And by eating throughout the day you will:
- Keep your blood sugars steady and avoid spokes and insulin response from eating just a few large meals
- Avoid the “famine” response and resulting fat storage from skipping meals
- Avoid energy drops associated with low blood sugar that tends to have us craving coffee, chocolate or another caffeine source
As we mentioned above, not only is it important to watch what you eat, it’s also important to watch how much and when you’re eating it. At Mountain Trek, we honor people’s choices when it comes to vegetarianism or veganism but we believe it’s crucial to combine multiple food groups at each meal and snack. So whether you get your protein from meat, beans, certain leafy greens kale, or our delicious homemade protein bars (avoid store-bought ones as they’re full of calories, among other things) you should be eating it at every meal. Likewise complex carbohydrates (think slow-cooked oatmeal, not white bread and most cereals, which contain refined sugar and starches) and vegetables and fruit. We should also stress that we prefer local, fresh, organic, and unprocessed foods (stay away from the center aisles at the grocery store), and as much variety of them as possible. And if you’re eating animal protein, choose organic, wild, or free-range that are free of hormones and antibiotics. Here is how we break down our meals at Mountain Trek:
#1. At breakfast, we recommend equal volumes of complex carbohydrates, protein, vegetables, or fruit as well as a teaspoon of omega oil and a small amount of dairy (or substitute if you’re allergic or have an intolerance). By combining these items you benefit by:
- supporting a “glycemic load,” which contributes to a longer, slower release of blood sugars and avoid insulin spikes
- getting important minerals, vitamins and phytochemicals, which do the body wonders especially first thing in the morning
- the high fiber from complex carbohydrates provides chromium to help regulate blood sugars and it creates a sense of fullness, lowering appetite
#2. Lunch should be two-thirds vegetables and a third protein with a small dairy component or substitute.
#3. Dinner should be made up of the following: a half vegetables, a quarter complex carbohydrates, and a quarter protein with a small dairy component or substitute. This is because:
- Higher vegetable portions (salads, soups, steamed or sautéed) provide antioxidants, fiber and phytochemicals to support active, growth-centered metabolism
- Fewer dinner calories reduces the chance of fat storage
- It promotes a healthy appetite for breakfast
#4. At Mountain Trek, we believe in feeding the body AND feeding the soul. Therefore, we don’t expect you to follow this eating program to the letter. If you can try to eat like the way we detail above five days of the week and allow yourself two days to consume what we call “soul foods” you’ll be happier, and that has a huge impact on your health as well!
Afterglow Almond Butter Dressing Recipe
This is the most sought-after recipe at Mountain Trek and for good reason: it’s delicious and makes you want to eat salads!
3⁄4 cup organic smooth almond butter
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1 tablespoon Bragg Liquid Aminos – (may use tamari if Braggs is not available – start with 1⁄2 Tbs. if using tamari)
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon rice vinegar
1 crushed garlic clove (or 1⁄2 teaspoon minced)
1 teaspoon curry powder
3⁄4 c. water
1⁄4 tsp. veggie broth powder
1⁄4 teaspoon salt as needed to taste
Combine all ingredients in a blender. Purée until smooth. Chill. Use on cooked vegetables or as a salad dressing. Will keep refrigerated for one week.
Five Easy Nutrition Tips
Aside from the seven suggestions above about when and how to eat, these five easy-to-implement nutrition tips will help increase your vitality and support your health. They are:
#1. Drink Your Food; Eat Your Water
In other words, eat slower, chew more, and swish your water around in your mouth before you swallow. Not only will this help initiate the breakdown of carbohydrates with saliva enzymes and ease digestion, you will allow time for the vagus nerve to communicate when you’re full, thereby avoiding over-eating.
#2. Eat Out Less
We all love restaurants but there’s a reason their food tastes so good: lots of butter, oil, sugar and salt. By visiting fewer restaurants you’ll avoid over-sized portions, lots of empty calories, and fat. We’re not saying never go to restaurants, but perhaps limit it to once-a-week or special occasions.
#3. Drink Less Alcohol
It’s especially important to avoid more alcohol as the cold weather and holidays approach. All alcohol has empty calories (even the ones marketed as being free of carbs) and when combined with excessive eating at Thanksgiving and Christmas, it’s a one-two punch that will guarantee weight gain. We’re not saying don’t drink at all, just limit binge drinking and consider only drinking at mealtimes to help your liver process.
#4. Minimize Artificial Sweeteners
This means limiting (or better yet, eliminating) sodas, energy drinks, candy, and all the toxins associated with them. If you want a treat, consider having chocolate that contains 80% cocoa or better yet sweet fruit like dates. We can’t stress this enough because, ultimately, artificial sweeteners fall into the category of really bad foods given their poisonous qualities.
#5. Explore Your Sensitivity to the “Sour Eight”
The Sour Eight are wheat, corn, dairy, soy, sugar, eggs, alcohol, and peanuts and the majority of the population has some form of sensitivity to at least one of these. Sensitivities could range from full-blown allergies to mild discomfort but by taking time to remove one of these from your diet for a month, you could avoid constipation, bloating, excess mucus, fatigue, headaches, water retention and most shockingly of all, you could eliminate 5-15 pounds of water retention in your bowels! Try it: start with peanuts and see how you feel in terms of vitality after a month. You may not notice a difference in which case move on to eggs and then work towards the others, which you’ll find are a little more difficult to eliminate as they’re so omnipotent. But ultimately isn’t your health and vitality worth it?