Many people work long hours, barely having the time to take a break for lunch. Others rush out the door in the morning without eating a decent breakfast, the most important meal of the day. To complicate matters, after a long day of working, a lot of people will grab the quickest ready-made food available, paying little concern to its nutritional content. No wonder our society is facing ever increasing rates of diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and multiple forms of cancer. These top killers are all preventable (and reversible) with proper nutrition. Our bodies need good, healthy food to use as fuel throughout the day. We need to focus on eating items that provide plenty of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients (from plant sourced foods) for a steady source of energy, not resorting to processed foods and caffeinated beverages to keep us going throughout the day.
One of the most important foods to add into one’s diet are dark leafy greens. They provide rich sources of calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium, phosphorous, zinc and vitamins A, C, E and K. They are loaded with fiber, folic acid, chlorophyll and many other micronutrients and phytochemicals. Some of the benefits of eating dark leafy greens are blood purification, cancer prevention, improved circulation, a strengthened immune system, the promotion of healthy intestinal flora, cleared congestion (especially in lungs by reducing mucus), improved liver, gall bladder and kidney function, and the elimination of depression.
I recommend having greens at every meal! My favorite way to include them for breakfast is in a green smoothie. My clients repeatedly tell me they LOVE their morning smoothies, and just don’t seem to have the same energy if they skip them. One client named Marge actually lost 40 pounds in 3 months after switching from her usual breakfast to a green smoothie! There are many great smoothie varieties, and I believe it is best to use different ingredients each day. That way you will benefit from the unique nutrients found in a variety of foods. I usually include organic frozen berries (raspberries, blueberries, strawberries or blackberries), an apple or pear, perhaps some mango, papaya or a banana, along with about ½ pound of greens. My favorite greens for smoothies include kale, collards, bok choy, parsley, cilantro, arugula, watercress, etc. Water is the base I recommend, however if you prefer a sweeter taste, coconut juice is a good alternative. For a creamier taste, add some unsweetened almond milk. As you can see, breakfast can be as easy as putting a couple of fruits, some greens and water in a blender. Green smoothies travel well in a thermos or glass jar, so you can take them with you to work. I literally fill a 64 ounce VitaMix blender carafe with green smoothie each day, and sip on it for about 3 hours while working with my nutrition clients.
The best way to get your greens at lunch time is in the form of a salad. One of my favorite nutrition based doctors, Joel Fuhrman, M.D. states, “The salad is the main dish”. Buy some pre-washed organic mixed greens and add in a few of your favorite vegetables. You can make salads ahead of time for a few days worth of lunches, and store them in individual glass containers. Keep the dressing in separate small glass jars to add right before eating to keep the salad ingredients fresh. My favorite dressing is a simple mix of equal parts fresh squeezed lemon juice and flax seed oil with lots of minced garlic. This dressing is also great on steamed or sautéed greens or vegetables and whole grains such as quinoa (a complete protein), which would make a simple, healthy dinner.
Good snacks revolve around whole foods such as a piece of fruit or cut vegetables with almond hummus. Pack an apple or zucchini with you to take to work so you will not be tempted by potato chips or candy bars. Kale chips made in the dehydrator are a tasty way to sneak greens in at snack time. My simple recipe involves blending cashews with tangerine juice to coat curly kale pieces, then sprinkling them with Himalayan sea salt and onion powder before dehydrating. These are so good I could end up eating them for breakfast, lunch and dinner! Another great snack is a green vegetable juice, which you can make at home if you have a juicer, or have made up fresh at most health food stores (and even some cafés). Freshly pressed juices are a great way to pack in a number of nutrients which will keep your body energized.
Some tips for making healthy food without spending a lot of time in the kitchen each day are to use a menu planner at the beginning of each week (many templates are available for free online), set aside two evenings a week to prepare a few different recipes and plan for leftovers, make an item that can be used in various ways for multiple meals just by altering one or two ingredients, and learn to enjoy more raw foods. Eating fruits and vegetables in their raw, natural state is not only quick and easy (with less clean-up), but it also is the healthiest way to eat, increasing digestive enzymes which promote better digestion and assimilation of vitamins and minerals. When our body is satiated with such nutrient dense foods it will no longer crave those foods which are not as healthy, so you will end up being satisfied with less, helping you to achieve and maintain your ideal weight while creating a state of optimum health.
There are ways to save time in shopping for healthy food as well. If you live in an area with Farmer’s Markets, I recommend you schedule in a weekly visit to one. Another good alternative for buying economical organic, non-genetically modified (non-GMO) produce is through a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) subscription. For an average of $25 per week (in most areas) you can get a large box with a variety of fruits and vegetables, depending on what is in season. Typically you would pick up your box at a designated drop off point in your neighborhood once a week, and some farms will even deliver to your home. Fresh, local and organic produce is the staple of a healthy diet, and good nutrition is essential for increased energy, well-being and longevity!
Audrey Fontaine is passionate about helping people achieve optimum health and their ideal weight through a Whole Foods Plant Based diet. She has been studying nutrition and holistic health for 36 years, and is certified through the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and the American Association of Drugless Practitioners. audreyfontaine.net
Audrey will be presenting “Disease Proof Yourself” – The Healing Powers of a Whole Foods Plant Based Diet” on Friday, April 8th at Songbird, 7:30-9:30pm, Suggested Donation: $10-$20.