If you’re the type that enjoys eating food that tastes great AND is healthy for you, then you’re going to love this post.
This is a guest post by Brooke Benlifer, a Registered Dietitian, food lover, avid runner, and mother of twins.
Brooke is a dear friend of mine who I’ve had the pleasure of knowing and working with now for over 10 years.
I love what she’s put together here for us and I think you will too.
Thanks for being here Brooke!
As a dietitian, I find myself in the role of food therapist & chef quite often. I love food, and I believe that our choices can make or break the day. My husband swears I missed my calling as a competitive eater with the amount I can consume!
My goal this year is to bring back an enjoyment of good, wholesome, quality food.
Getting Back to Goodness
This past summer, I began training for a 5K to give funds to a friend who is beating breast cancer. After running several full & half marathons, the 5K has become my favorite distance to run. Short, sweet and to the point! Less than 25 minutes and I’m done!
In preparation, I was eating a very clean diet: lots of fruits and vegetables, cheese, fish, a little dark chocolate, etc. All was well and good. I decided that after the race, I would simply eat whatever I wanted, whether it be candy or sweet bread with nuts and cranberries, CANDY….you get my drift.
Suddenly, I was consuming a whole lot of sugar and found myself having INSANE CRAVINGS for simple carbs.
In addition, I was exhausted.
On top of caring for my toddler twins, I needed a nap like nobody’s business by the time 11am rolled around each day. Then there were the headaches…migraines to be exact–horrendous and debilitating. I was also experiencing daily sinus headaches and skin breakouts like I was a teenager. Ugh! I had had enough.
The day before my kids’ first birthday, I decided to take the best care of myself with wholesome foods that would fuel me rather than fatigue me.
I used the Paleo approach (Whole 30, more specifically) to tailor a shopping list and meals that appealed to my love for generous portions of REAL FOOD.
It’s been more than two months of eating like this (no added sugar whatsoever, no dairy & grains/legumes) and I feel great, with very, very few headaches and clear skin. I’ve definitely quit sugar before for very long stretches.
Cravings are strongest when you’re used to eating sugar regularly. If you just eliminate it from your diet completely, you will be AMAZED not only at the lack of cravings for less healthy choices, but also how the good the flavors of real food suddenly taste.
My aim is to eat like this at least 90% of the time.
It keeps me energized and satisfied without the need to graze all day long just to keep my blood sugar levels up. Eating three substantial meals at regular intervals works beautifully.
Here’s the lowdown on my eating approach. I try to make one huge shopping trip every 2 weeks or so (usually it ends up being every week and a half until we are down to condiments and a few random items, and who wants to make a meal from mustard and olives?!).
Tip: Shop on a weekday to avoid the crowds and try to go after dinner, so that you are not tempted to make impulse buys. When possible, I choose organic options.
Granny Smith apples
Red, Orange and Yellow Bell Peppers
Mini Heirloom tomatoes
Organic Ground turkey (occasionally)
Chicken sausage (various combinations)
Olives (green and black)
Grass fed butter
Ghee (clarified butter)
Mediterranean sea salt
No salt seasoning blend
Spicy pumpkin seeds
Dry roasted, salted almonds
Yogi teas (Ginger and Green Tea Super Antioxidant)
These staples serve as a template around which I build a variety of different meals.
Here are some tips that help me:
Get as much variety as you can within the foods that are your staples. For example, choose 10 different vegetables instead of two, to center your meals around. This way, you get many more nutrients and you can be creative in your approach to making new and different meals.
Automate Your Meals
This does not mean to eat on autopilot, but it does mean to keep the same basic thread or theme throughout your meals. I choose to base my meals around vegetables and protein (including at breakfast) and then add a healthy fat and sometimes a fruit.
The standard American diet includes a carb heavy breakfast that does nothing beneficial in terms of sustaining long term energy, which is what this girl needs!
Instead, I take a tip from many other cultures around the world, where fish/eggs/vegetables are eaten in the morning.
My breakfast almost always includes eggs (and not just the whites!!). I eat breakfast mid-morning around 10am. Usually, I’ll have anywhere from 2-6 hard boiled or fried whole eggs, along with lots of veggies and a fat source, such as butter or coconut oil.
Today, I chopped up 4 onions and a couple cups of butternut squash, and sautéed them in butter. I ate this, along with 4 whole eggs. Sometimes I’ll have broccoli or a sweet potato hash with cinnamon and coconut oil; the possibilities are endless.
Lunchtime may be a salad with nuts and seeds and fish. Recently, I’ve been switching this up a bit and doing “snack packs” including cut up bell peppers and almonds, along with a protein, if I’m out and about and need something that is easily transportable.
Tip: Only eat food that tastes delicious. Seriously, there is too much good food to waste a meal on something that tastes only mediocre. For me, simple, fresh foods that are flavorful are generally the most satisfying.
Be A Role Model
Model healthy habits like, sitting down at a table with a nice placemat, preparing meals at home, cooking healthy meals for others, growing a fruit tree, visiting a farmer’s market. I guarantee people will start asking you for that salad recipe or if they can join you for a walk.
Having children made me realize even more so the importance of modeling good behavior in all aspects of life, health being one of the most important.
Make The Time
Working out and staying healthy does not have to entail endless hours in a gym. Here’s how my husband and I make staying active and healthy a priority.
We build exercise into our schedule. I like to be active on a daily basis and LOVE starting out each day with physical activity. I have been doing this for almost the last 20 years and it is definitely a habit/routine that keeps me mentally and physically feeling my best.
Every weekday morning (before dawn), I get up and head to the gym. I crank up the tunes and do a 20 minute HITT (High Intensity Interval Training) sprint session on the treadmill. I do 10 sets (one minute sprinting, one minute recovery) and then I’m done!
Just so we’re clear, I despise getting up while it is still dark out. HOWEVER, I love the fact that afterwards, I know that I have done something good for myself and started my day off on the right foot.
Once I get home, I relax and get the kids ready for the day and then while they are playing, I do a quick 12 minute resistance training routine I created to keep my arms, legs and core strong.
Later in the morning, we go for a walk (I push the kids in the double stroller, which is becoming a workout in and of itself!). Before naptime, I may throw in another 10 minute arm routine with light weights and high repetitions–I am a huge fan of Suzanne Bowen’s Barre Amped DVDs.
In the late afternoon, the kids and I go may go on a second walk.
We all enjoy the outdoors!
On weekend mornings, I do 5 hill repeats outside (total of 13 minutes) instead of the sprint sessions and the rest of the routine stays the same if time allows. All told, I formally exercise anywhere from 50 minutes to an hour and a half or so on a daily basis.
My husband hangs out with the kids while I do my quick runs and likewise I am with the kids on the days/evenings that he rock climbs. He also has been known to do random sets of push ups and walks/jogs at work and on weekends or weekday nights occasionally.
Being active allows us to do things like take our children hiking with them strapped to our backs, like we did last weekend, or to try out acrobatic yoga, as we did this afternoon!
I think of food as fuel.
Health is a gift and I am grateful for it.
I take care of the body I was given and nourish it with good food.
Here are some of my recent meals that are quick, simple and delicious:
Another thing that helps me is to eat on a regular schedule. Generally, I eat breakfast at 10am, lunch at 2pm and dinner at 6pm.
These are not hard and fast rules, but eating at regular intervals keeps my blood sugar steady and leaves me feeling mildly hungry before meals and satisfied in between, for the most part.
By far, the biggest one for me is feeling hungry. What I mean by that is that I have always been a grazer. Once I started eating for the day, I just snacked all day long.
For the past couple of months, I made a total shift and switched to three larger meals, with little (or generally no) snacking in between. I still eat the same amount of food, but in between meal times, I now am freed up to do other things, rather than snack.
Because of this, though, I am also more aware of the normal hunger that arises between meals. I try to satisfy this with sparkling water or a relaxing cup of tea throughout the day, knowing that I had a substantial meal recently and will eat again shortly.
Now when I am stressed, I choose other things to look forward to in the here and now, such as sitting down to a book, going outside or making my kiddos laugh out loud.
Another thing that is new for me is finishing dinner around 6:30pm or so, with my husband, and then being done eating till the next day. I do think that it helps with sleep to not go to bed feeling full, and it also promotes getting to bed at a reasonable hour, promoting adequate sleep.
How do you plan on getting Back to Goodness?
Leave me a comment below and let me know. I’d love to hear from you.
Brooke Joanna Benlifer, RD is a Cornell University graduate and Registered Dietitian. She currently lives in San Diego with her husband and twins.
“My passion is preventative health through optimal nutrition. I want to lead people toward healthier, more fulfilling lives.”