Eating Healthy / Francesca Coviello of Coco Prop Shop

Add fresh herbs and garlic to boost the flavor and health benefits of a meal. / Photo by Francesca Coviello of Coco Prop Shop.

With each new year come fresh new resolutions, goals, and dreams for the 365 days ahead. Chances are, somewhere among the intentions to “get outside more often” and “read more books” are a few health-centered ambitions, including eating healthy.

As a nutritionist and plant-based chef, I work with a lot of individuals looking to achieve a more vibrant level of everyday health. This may mean weight-loss, recovering from a chronic illness, reducing stress, improving digestion, increasing energy levels or healing skin disorders.

Over the years, I’ve compiled some tried-and-true tricks and recommendations for achieving all this (and so much more). So today I’m sharing my top 7 tips for eating healthy with Florida Food & Farm. Wherever you are in your health journey and whatever goals and resolutions you may be working toward, I hope these recommendations bring you closer to where you want to be. Cheers to a healthy, happy and vibrant 2017!

7 Tips for Eating Healthy

Keep it real
As a society, we’ve moved away from real, whole foods in favor of those that are processed, packaged and convenient — and this trend has taken a major toll on our health. Even seemingly “healthy” snack foods are devoid of the nutrients we need to feel our best and, oftentimes, contain health-harming additives and preservatives.

To truly look and feel your best, get back to the basics and eat from the Earth. Think fresh fruits and veggies, unprocessed meats, nuts and seeds, and whole grains. Unlike processed, “synthetic” foods created in a factory, these “real” foods are easily recognizable to our bodies, allowing us to better absorb and utilize the nutrients.

Shop locally
Take advantage of the bounty of fresh produce available in your community! In addition to supporting local farmers and vendors, you’ll improve your health dramatically. Most of the produce available at supermarkets is actually weeks old by the time it reaches your plate, and over time it begins to lose freshness and nutrients. However, take a short trip to your local farmers market, and chances are that your food was picked just hours before, at its nutritional peak.

Choose healthier meats
There’s a lot of buzz about plant-based, vegan diets these days, but the truth is, healthy eating looks different for each of us. While some people thrive on a primarily vegetarian diet, many people need animal protein to look and feel their best.

In terms of our health, the problem with much of the meat we’re eating is the quality. The majority of the meat sold in supermarkets has been treated with hormones, antibiotics, fillers and artificial coloring, and all these additives drastically impact the nutritional quality of the meat.

My suggestion is to seek out a vendor in your area that offers more-natural and health-conscious options. Many farmers markets have vendors offering grass-fed, humanely raised, high-quality meats that not only taste incredible but will also have a positive effect on your health.

Eat more fat
I know it sounds counter-intuitive, but including a healthy amount of dietary fat in our diets is key to lasting weight-loss, as well as good brain and heart health. Contrary to popular belief, dietary fat does not make you “fat” — quite the opposite, in fact! Fat helps to boost the metabolism and improve digestion, two important aspects of weight-loss and management.

It’s also a necessary nutrient for optimal brain function; think elevated moods, better concentration, more energy (sans the caffeine), and improved short- and long-term memory. Some of the best good-for-you fat options include avocados, extra-virgin olive oil, coconuts and coconut oil, raw nuts and seeds, grass-fed butter, pasture-raised eggs, and hormone-free pastured meats.

Drink water (and lots of it)
Chances are, you aren’t drinking enough water. Many of us are diligent about getting our eight glasses of water each day, but this number is actually much less than what we need. As a nutritionist, I generally recommend drinking a full gallon every day.

That sounds like a lot, and it may be a bit challenging at first, but it will improve every aspect of your health almost immediately. Something as simple as more water each day will increase your energy; aid in weight-loss; improve digestion; clear and nourish your skin; increase brain function; and prevent illness, disease and toxicity.

When it comes to sugar, keep it natural
When clients approach me looking to lose weight and improve their overall mental and physical health, my No. 1 tip is always the same: Nix the refined sugar. The Standard American Diet (SAD) is absolutely loaded with refined sugars that not only contribute to weight-gain and obesity but also to heart disease, digestive problems, skin disorders, diabetes, anxiety, depression, ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder) and Alzheimer’s disease (to name just a few).

“Sugar” includes brown sugar, raw sugar, cane sugar and any processed-sugar substitutes (which are actually much worse than the real thing). Luckily, nature has equipped us with some sweet but nutritious options to make the transition to a diet free of refined sugars (and drastically improved health) quite easy. Raw and unfiltered honey, pure maple syrup, coconut sugar and stevia are all wholesome options (in moderation, of course) that can easily be swapped for your usual sweetener.

Breakfast really is the most important meal
The way we begin our morning sets the tone for the rest of the day. If you are working toward embodying better health (whatever that term means to you), then it’s crucial that you begin your day feeling healthy, balanced and energized. Eating breakfast kick-starts your brain and body into gear, literally providing you with the fuel to think critically, to power through your workout, to stay calm in the midst of chaos and to make good decisions in the face of cravings.

Studies reveal that individuals who eat breakfast end up consuming fewer calories throughout the day than those who skip this first meal. So if you find you skimp on breakfast in the name of weight-loss, you’re actually doing yourself a disservice. That’s because, when the body hasn’t eaten for a long period, blood sugar drops, and our bodies essentially go into “starvation mode.”

When this happens, the body slows down its metabolism and clings to every consumed calorie — in fear that it’s next meal is days away. This not only leads to weight-gain, but can also create some pretty intense food cravings, as well as subsequent bingeing. To ensure that you feel balanced in body and mind all day long, begin each morning with a nutritious breakfast.

Eating Healthy