Recently a colleague asked me to share my top three tips for anyone who wishes to improve nutrition. Initially, I thought, “that depends.” Each person’s nutrition needs are unique.
But the more I think about it, several food enhancements absolutely drive my conversations about improving nutrient intake through customizable, flexible, and totally doable meals. The following tips apply to everyone, regardless of family size, dietary needs or budget.
1. Improve food quality. Superior nutrition comes from seasonal, locally grown foods raised in a natural environment without pesticides, herbicides or antibiotics. Fresh foods from nature are absolutely non-GMO and ideally heirloom plants that will actually yield their own seeds. Animals are raised on their natural diet and given freedom to roam (organic chickens raised on non-GMO corn and soy are not natural). Processing is minimal, done at peak ripeness, and without preservatives.
Start by becoming familiar with a few products available now like squash, potatoes, onions and winter greens; local goat yogurt and cheese; or frozen meat products like uncured pork breakfast sausage or ground lamb. As you purchase, prepare, and eat these foods, notice how they look, feel, smell and taste better than conventional foods. As much as possible, turn these foods into staple items in your budget and meal planning.
This single food habit shift will prioritize the body’s cellular nutrient needs without excess burden on the liver. Collectively, we will stimulate our community’s economy by supporting our regional farmers and producers.
2. Eat more fresh vegetables and fruit. Diversify and increase fresh food consumption. Study after study correlates higher vegetable and fruit consumption to lower risk of chronic disease. For years this advice has permeated public health campaigns, and yet only 9% of Americans eat the recommended 2-3 cups of vegetables and only 12% of Americans eat the recommended 1.5-2 cups of fruit per day (Only 1 in 10 adults, 2017).
There are so many ways to add vegetables and fruits to meals: add spinach or kale to morning eggs; use sandwich ingredients (tuna, hummus, tomatoes, avocado) atop mixed greens and add carrots or peppers; aim for two different vegetables in quesadillas (let your kids choose the veggies); roast a whole bunch of vegetables at once (cauliflower, carrots, beets, Brussels sprouts, sweet potato fries) – eat some for dinner, and add the rest to different meals over the next couple of days; eat fruit with protein (apples with nut butter, sliced bananas or pomegranate seeds with oatmeal).
3. Cook at home. The first two tips will be easier – and more affordable – when you cook! Find a few recipes that you like and can easily modify, then teach yourself and your family how to cook them. Developing kitchen skills is one of the best gifts to give yourself and your offspring, setting the stage for creativity, shared experiences and a deeper commitment to eating whole foods.
A few easy meals to create (with plenty of vegetables!) are tacos, soups and salads. Ingredients for these can change dramatically from week to week with the seasons or according to what’s on sale locally.
When you choose to eat out, prioritize establishments committed to cooking high-quality food from scratch. Most likely, these chefs also create tasty vegetables!
I envision a world in which every human being knows that every bite matters. As we enter a new year, I resolve to inspire people to create more meals with intention and care for their bodies through quality of diverse foods.
Only 1 in 10 adults get enough fruits or vegetables. (2017). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2017/p1116-fruit-vegetable-consumption.html