1. Health
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

Lead a Healthier Lifestyle: 10 Steps

Step 1: Diet

By

Updated September 04, 2013

Eating should be a lifelong process of nourishing yourself. Strict dieting, fad diets such as the Atkins diet, drastic diets, rigid food monitoring, or addiction to sugar, caffeine and other stimulants can all weaken your metabolism and halt the rejuvenating and rebuilding process of your body, mind and spirit.

On these pages, you will learn how to get started on eating real, whole foods to gain health. This is not a weight loss diet per se, although many people do notice fewer cravings and weight loss. Your metabolism and level of health may call for a different type of diet, so please use this as a general guideline. This should not replace care and advice by a holistic practitioner.

Why change your diet?
When you eliminate processed foods, sugar, and other stimulants, you will start to become aware of what your body truly needs to thrive. Most people will need to reduce the amount of refined starchy foods they eat -- this means cutting down on potatoes, rice, pasta, chips, muffins, bagels and bread. Other changes are ncreasing your intake of quality oils and eating more vegetables, especially non-starchy ones.

Recommended dietary changes for optimal health
  1. Eliminate or minimize your intake of processed, packaged, and/or junk foods. These foods usually contain unhealthy chemical additives, excess salt, trans-fatty oils, and refined sugar. Instead, have a whole foods diet that is rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, pure water, and organically raised meat.
  2. Minimize your intake of red meat, refined starches such as white flour, fried foods, salt, and sugar. Some people notice less mucus and congestion, improved digestion, and better overall health when minimizing cow's milk products (possibly substituting with goat's milk).
  3. Seek professional assistance in finding the right diet tailored to your health. A holistic practitioner such as a naturopathic doctor can uncover hidden food sensitivities or can tailor your diet to suit your metabolism using a metabolic typing diet. In addition, there are foods in Ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicine that can help to balance your constitution.
Why you should make gradual changes
Although it is tempting to want to overhaul your diet overnight, you will be overwhelmed if you do. Gradual changes are more effective and lasting.

How to monitor your progress
What are signs that the changes you've made are right for you? You will notice improvement in one or more of these areas:
  • Increased energy
  • Weight regulation - lose excess weight or gain needed weight
  • Skin and hair are clear and soft
  • Bowel movements become more regular
  • Sleep quality improves
  • Improved digestion - less bloating, gas, and heartburn

If the changes you've made are too drastic or are not right for you, you will notice one or more of these symptoms:
  • Tiredness or fatigue
  • Feel like you're obsessed with food, which takes time away from nurturing yourself and your relationships with others
  • Feel guilty or upset when you eat an 'unhealthy' food
  • You have to record what you eat everyday in order to stay on track
  • Dark circles under your eyes
  • Dry skin and hair
  • Weight gain, especially around the middle and/or arms and legs are getting thinner
  • Weight loss of more than 2 lbs per week
  • Are not eating a variety of foods

Step 1: Locate natural health foods in your area
Look in your community, the yellow pages, and on the internet. Local vegetarian organizations are great resources. You can often find out about local farmer's markets, produce stands, food co-ops, health food stores, cooking classes, and grocers in your area.

If you don't have access to natural health food stores or if organic produce is not in your budget, look for Japanese, Greek, Chinese, and Indian grocery stores for fresh fruits and vegetables, cooking oils, buckwheat noodles, brown rice, beans and other goodies. Non-organic produce should be washed and scrubbed thoroughly and outer leaves of leafy vegetables should be discarded. To clean vegetables, you can use baking soda and/or vinegar and soak and scrub vegetables for 5 to 10 minutes.

Step 2: Get some cooking reference books
One of my favorite reference books is Vegetarian Cooking For Everyone by Deborah Madison. It provides information on storing, selecting, and cooking different vegetables, and tons of recipes for making soups, casseroles, vegetables dishes, desserts, soy dishes, pizzas and almost any other vegetable staple.

When evaluating cookbooks, look at the ease of preparation. Some cookbooks have great recipes but with an ingredient list and preparation method too difficult to do on a busy schedule.

Step 3: Try some healthy restaurants in your city
You will be able to see how good healthy cooking can taste. Visit local vegetarian restaurants for ideas on vegetable dishes, shakes, and salads with vegetable protein, Indian restaurants for ideas on bean dishes, and restaurants that serve free-range or organic meat.

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.

We comply with the HONcode standard
for trustworthy health
information: verify here.