By their nature weight-loss diets are restrictive, and that makes them nearly impossible to sustain over any extended time. But once we move our focus away from merely losing weight, and aim at eating good healthy nutritious food, a whole new world of possibilities opens up for us. In order to have a truly healthy diet that supports our heart and immune system, we should be doing all of the things I will list below (and get lots of good strength and aerobic exercise, too).
However, the neat thing about this list is that you can choose to implement these ideas one at a time, and still enjoy improved health and healthy weight loss right from the start. Some people will decide to only ever do one or two things from the list, and that might work well for them. However, it has been my experience that some steps are important for me to keep my own food addictions in check. If you eat irrationally by indulging cravings (or if the thought of changing your eating habits makes you feel panicky and you want to run out and buy a particular food), you may want to start by following the starred (*) items religiously. The panic and cravings are a clue that you may have some food addictions too, so you have to break them. After toughing it out for a few short days, you will no longer feel the panic, and eating this way will begin to feel good- honest.
1*. Eat REAL food, not processed. If you are used to eating mainly processed foods and takeouts and this seems daunting, start by finding one homemade recipe based on your favourite meal. Treat it like a game, experimenting with recipes until you find one that tastes good and is easy for you to make. You will likely discover that the homemade one is cheaper (bonus), and likely does not take much more time to make. After you get good at one recipe, choose another. The aim is to replace ALL processed food with real food. Start reading labels and you will see why this is a good idea. If you eat processed foods, you have no idea what strange things you might be ingesting. (See this and this for example).
2*. Eat alternatives to refined sugar (and cut down the sugar consumption overall). Once you start eating real food your tastes will change and your sugar cravings will be reduced anyway, but it is still good to be mindful of what you put in your recipes. For sweetness, you will be surprised how quickly you find a new taste for fresh fruit, and in recipes you can replace refined sugars with smaller amounts of unrefined sweeteners like agave nectar, maple syrup, brown rice syrup or coconut sugar. For more information, see this article.
3*. Switch from simple to complex carbohydrates. Simple carbs include the sugar mentioned above, but also things like white flour and most store-bought baking (see this article about breads for an eye-opener). Complex carbs are found in vegetables, beans, lentils, and many other leguminous plants.
4. Trade meat and dairy for other dense proteins, like tofu, beans, seitan, and tempe. There is overwhelming evidence that meat and dairy are extremely bad for you. If you want to check this out yourself, read The China Study or go to the website for Physicians for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), or google it- there are numerous good evidence-based studies about this. Nevertheless, I know that many people may not be comfortable with this change. Again, you need to make choices that you are comfortable with, in the way that you can live with. You could always approach this one step at a time. Like with the processed foods, you could start with the “meatless Mondays” idea and replace one meat meal a week. Or, you could choose one meat/dairy dish and go on a hunt for a healthier replacement recipe that you will be happy with, and then repeat until you have subbed out all your old meat/dairy dishes.
And that is it! Do those 4 things and you will be well on your way to a healthy body, without counting calories or spending exhorbitant amounts of money on “diet” (fake) food and supplements.
CHALLENGE! (for you)
What is your best/easiest/tastiest recipe that replaces an older favourite food? (ie- were you addicted to a certain fast food burger and now you have a rival vegan recipe?) Share with us- I’ll bet there are others who feel the same.
CHALLENGE! (for me or others)
Is there still a recipe that is just outside your grasp, and you’d like me or other readers to find or develop a healthy alternative recipe that makes you drool as much as the old one? Send it out and we can all work on it together. I can start the ball rolling. I am still trying to crack the code for making a vegan version of Pizza Hut’s breaded hot chicken wings. (I think they are only sold in Canada, and even the individual restaurants don’t have the recipe- I’ve asked. lol. They come to them frozen and pre-breaded). Has anyone out there found that perfect crunch and want to share it with us? Or do you have any tips or ideas for me to use as I continue the quest?