Nutrition. Without it, we don't exist. Without the right balance of nutrition, we gain excessive weight, lose excessive weight, clog our arteries, feel drained, stress out, get sick... you name it. It is as important as breathing, and yet brushed off as not a big deal, too hard to eat healthy, and so many other things. We gorge ourselves with horrible foods (can they even be counted as foods?), and then exercise to work it off... how about just eating healthy? That's much less work (and cheaper). Then, there's the school of thought that skinny=healthy - what a misconception!
We also like to look at nutrition as a separate issue than everything else, including reproduction. We are designed to reproduce - our reproductive organs may very well be the first to diminish with poor nutrition. Unhealthy people weren't meant to survive and reproduce - we would have a planet of unhealthy people and would continue to get more sick with generations of bad genes and unhealthy lifestyles (oh, umm... hmmm... this is happening as we speak). Is it any wonder people suffer from so many infertility issues these days? We no longer have many grandparents alive that garden and eat wholesome (non-pesticide) foods without preservatives. The "wise" in our culture no longer pass down this ancient information and don't practice the healthy lifestyles themselves. A large majority of the population is on medicinal birth control (a whole other subject) which damages the reproductive organs. We're simply not living a lifestyle that supports health and well being - yet that is what we're striving for... stop looking for a magic pill, people!
So, with all this understanding, just how do you eat well?
The basics are, eat the rainbow and pair your nutrients.
You're not going to be healthy simply eating a leaf salad or bowl of fruit at every meal. You need other nutrients. You're not going to lose weight by eating less, not necessarily (we'll get to that in a minute). And, you're not going to lose weight by avoiding nutrients. Most of us believe that at one point, we gathered foods (vegetables, fruits, grains...etc.) in a hunter gatherer lifestyle that eventually lead to more structured gardens... (yes, Christians believe we labored for our work) and fishing was a common activity. If you don't believe that, the science is out there that we need certain nutrients for survival and the easiest way to obtain this is through all the food groups - whatever was available to you where you live - as close to their whole form as possible. Either way, eat the nutrients available to you, and don't remove a food group - just learn moderation when your access to food is abundant.
Next step is to simply eat and don't skip meals. The worst thing you can do for metabolism (and many functions like hormone regulation...etc.) is to skip a meal. Your body has a wonderful way of regulating itself until the next meal and then fasts overnight to cleanse the toxins and restart the system. If it is used to eating at certain intervals then it uses the nutrients and digests quickly (fast metabolism). If it is used to not getting nutrients regularly, it stores the nutrients and digests slowly in case it doesn't get food soon (slow metabolism). Now, if the only food we have access to is healthy and wholesome - then this fast/slow metabolism process isn't such a big deal. However, if we're eating crap foods, then our body lacks the nutrients for proper functioning and the arteries get clogged and we gain weight. Gorging on any foods with this slow metabolism causes the same issues. Hormonal regulation and reproductive functions decrease during a time of famine also. We can see that nutrition plays a vital role in reproduction - from not only allowing us to be fertile, but also regulating population - how amazing our bodies work! Therefore, for the optimal setting, you need to eat when you wake up (carb for quick energy, proteins for sustained energy) to get the metabolism going and give you energy for the day. If all you have available is carbs, you need a lot more of them to make your body do what it needs to do, so it better be from a good source, like leafy greens and other vegetables and fruits.
Which brings us to our last point; pair your nutrients correctly. We eat the rainbow so that we get all the vital nutrients for proper bodily functions - and we pair carbs & proteins for digestion and proper utilization of those nutrients. If all you eat are carbs, you're never going to feel satisfied and you'll want to eat constantly, (and you typically crave more carbs this way). If all you put in front of you is leafy greens, vegetables, and fruits then this isn't a big deal - eat up! If all you eat are proteins, you won't digest the nutrients well and your body won't function at an optimal level. If you've ever eaten an apple (pure carbs), you'll notice your tummy rumbling about 30 minutes after you finish. Add some peanut butter to that apple, or space your protein snacks between your carb snacks and you'll sustain your hunger a little longer without getting dips and your blood sugar. Even when the carb selection is healthy, it still needs to be within a well-balanced meal. If you're eating only plant-based proteins, you'll need to eat a lot more of everything to ensure the right amount of nutrients, especially B vitamins. Utilizing a plant and animal based diet gives you the most well-rounded meal in the easiest form. Our ancestors utilized plant foods as staple foods, but if they had meat available (fish, poultry...etc.), you bet they chowed down! Typical western cultures, however, utilize meats as their staple because of commercial farming practices and eat much less vegetables, fruits and wholesome grains properly prepared. Likewise, don't trim the fats - your fruits, vegetables, and occasional meat fats are wonderful for digestion, complexion, skin elasticity, and so much more.
So, let's go over this again:
- Eat often - as soon as you wake up and about every 3 hours after that. Yes, you'll notice you will feel like you're starving all day if you eat as soon as you wake up... this is great! It means you've kick-started your metabolism (and also means your body can handle eating less-wholesome food in moderation if you get a sweet tooth).
- Eat the rainbow - the more colorful your plate, the more nutrients you're eating. If you're not eating a colorful plate at each meal, you're missing out on vital nutrients your body needs right then, and digestion isn't as efficient.
- Pair your carbs and healthy fats with your protein. You either need to keep healthy carbs available and graze, or have access to a more concentrated form of protein to sustain your energy.
Eat how you would if you were foraging healthy foods without a nutrition tracker to tell you if you've been getting the right vitamins. In all honesty, if we were getting our nutrients from nature, we would have a lot less hunger problems, not to mention health issues. Additionally, by eating this way, your blood levels maintain and build as necessary, carrying nutrients and oxygen to your muscles, organs, and baby.
Once you have this idea down, you can start being choosey about wholesome, natural, and organic options to avoid the chemicals and all the nasty things they can do to your body. Furthermore, with this lifestyle way of eating, the only difference you make during pregnancy and breastfeeding is eating more - but nutrition begins now. If you're not pregnant, GET HEALTHY first! If you are pregnant, get healthy and stay healthy! If you've just had your baby, eat healthy and establish good eating habits in your child. You do have control over what goes into your family's mouth, but that control doesn't last forever - use it while you can.
Now, how easy is that?