By Noor H. Salem, contributing columnist
A new year just rolled in, and so did the long list of resolutions for many people. One of the top resolutions the majority of people have has to do to with a better diet. There’s no doubt everyone wants to be healthy, but the road to getting there can vary from person to person. Instead of giving yourself strict deadlines, unrealistic meal plans, or plain and boring food that keeps your mood swings going- try something different this year. I highly recommend these tips to all of my clients, friends, and family, and I’d assure you they will do your lifestyle wonders.
- Eat more fats (the good ones)
That’s right! I just need to emphasize the huge difference between good and bad fats. Unhealthy fats would be Trans-fat, hydrogenated fats, and oils like soybean, canola, or corn. These fats can be found in shelf-stable treats, cooking oils, margarine and other butter-like spreads, deep fried food, and plenty of snack foods. If anything, I’d advise you get genetically engineered oils (soybean, canola, corn) out of your kitchen altogether. These fats have been linked to cancer, heart disease, and a number of other health problems. On the other hand, consuming plenty of healthy fats like avocados, nuts, extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, seeds, and organic butter will provide your body with numerous health benefits. You may be wondering why this is the first advice I’m mentioning. Frankly, if you consume enough healthy fats in all of your meals and snacks, your body will be beyond satisfied. Your cravings for junk food will diminish, and you will feel extremely energized. Besides that, healthy fats are great for your heart health, digestion, cognitive health, memory, hair, skin, and more. Include mixed nuts in your snacks, eat extra virgin olive oil with your eggs at breakfast, top your salads with avocados, and stir-fry your vegetables and chicken in some coconut oil for dinner. I discuss the difference between good and bad fats, the ways to consume them, and more in my book, Sunnah Superfoods.
- Don’t waste your money
With the beginning of a new year, and the motivation to begin anew, many spend a ton of money on diet plans, weight loss programs, store-bought beverages marketed to help you finally lose weight, or snack bars with the same marketing tactics and convincing slogans. While consulting clients, I constantly remind them that no strict diet plan, unreasonable goals, or highly processed drinks will work infinitely. The majority of these drinks and snack bars are not only highly processed, full of genetically engineered ingredients, artificial sweeteners, but they will frankly not work in the long run. How long can you live off of meal replacement drinks? Do you really feel nutritionally satisfied after those bars? Most likely not. Instead, I recommend you eat more whole foods: vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lots of healthy fats, protein, and good quality dairy products. Having a leafy green salad with avocados and grilled salmon will keep you more satisfied, and provide your body with energy, beyond what any meal replacement bar can do. Save your money, and put it towards whole foods that will keep you feeling happy and healthy.
- Buy frozen vegetables
This might sound like a very simple tip, but believe me it’ll do wonders leading you to a better lifestyle. I’ve mentioned a number of times, that frozen vegetables may contain more nutrients and vitamins than many of the fresh. Those vegetables are frozen immediately after picking, versus fresh ones that spend time in the sun for hours. Frozen vegetables are preserved, and they are perfect for time-crunch cooking. I enjoy slicing fresh red onions, and stir-frying it in extra virgin olive oil. I then toss in frozen broccoli, leafy greens, cauliflower, and even sliced carrots. Add a variety of spices like paprika, ginger, Himalayan Pink Salt, ground mustard seed, and rosemary for a boost of flavor and many health benefits, too. Frozen vegetables can be tossed in with lamb stews, or steamed on their own for a quick side dish. Being prepared by having options in your freezer will have you more likely reaching for vegetables, rather than dialing your local pizza shop for a quick dinner.
- Crowd out
Again, I never recommend that my clients go “cold turkey,” (i.e. go extreme and put yourself on a strict diet). Instead, crowd out. If you’re accustomed to having fast food at lunch, before eating that fast food meal, begin a new habit of eating fresh fruit along with some mixed nuts prior. How would you feel then? Try it for yourself; your body will feel satisfied, both in terms of hunger and nutrition. Fruits and nuts are bursting with vitamins, healthy fats, protein, and fiber. This helps curb cravings and satisfy your body with essential vitamins and nutrients. The more vitamins and nutrients you provide your body with, the less your body will crave junk food. If you have a habit of eating a donut with your breakfast, don’t instantly eliminate and feel like you’re depriving yourself. Instead, have some fresh pineapple, and perhaps a vegetable omelet first. Then ask yourself, are you really hungry for that donut? With time, your new good habits will crowd out the unhealthy habits, without feeling it. Don’t restrict yourself of that favorite snack, or eliminate and decrease your calorie intake all at once. It will not only cause a backfire; it’ll cease your path to a healthier lifestyle. Decide to make it a lifestyle, and not a short-term diet. With that, crowding out is the best route to take. Increase lots of fruits, healthy fats, protein, and vegetables in your diet, and you’ll feel better and make better choices.
- Pick one major thing to change
It may sound easy to go extreme and restrict yourself of what you’re accustomed to consuming when hyped for a new resolution. However, I’ve found that my clients who went cold turkey are those less likely to succeed with their goals. Instead, I’d recommend you take gradual steps, and give yourself time to reach the end in mind goal. For example, decide to cut out soda and other carbonated beverages, or avoid all genetically engineered oils in your cooking. Possibly, you may decide to cut out on eating the fast food you consume daily for lunch, and begin packing homemade meals instead. Whatever it may be, don’t delay and begin today. It may be one small and simple change, but with a simple step every few weeks, you reach the top of the stairs.
Begin with these few tips, and next week we will discuss a few more simple changes you and your family can make in your daily routine to reach optimum happy and healthy, at last.
Noor H. Salem is an author, speaker, and Certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, from Michigan. Noor works with clients in better understanding their bodies and healing with natural foods through her wellness practice, Holistic Noortrition. She presents various workshops, school lectures, group coaching classes, and community lectures on the topic of holistic health. Noor recently published her book, Sunnah Superfoods, a culmination of life-changing recipes and remedies, with a foreword by Dr. Waleed Basyouni. Her book consists of prophetic hadith, modern research, and delicious recipes, and is in the process of being translated into other languages.