Art by Caitlin Roark
“Every time you eat or drink, you are either feeding disease or fighting it,” says nutritionist Heather Morgan. As easy as it is to fall into the double-fried, super-sized, sugar-coated comfort of the American diet, the inconvenient reality is that the choices you make today will have a lasting impact on your physical and mental health and your eventual longevity. What you put in your mouth every day is arguably the most influential determinant of your health down the line.
When it comes to diet, finding simple options that are compatible with your lifestyle and sustainable in the long run is the best way to ensure your health now and later.
As a general rule, I try to stay away from gluten, dairy and refined sugar, as they cause inflammation, which leads to aging and disease, and contribute to acne, bloat, brain fog and weight gain, according to Dr. Robynne Chutkan’s mindbodygreen article.
While this may seem like an overwhelming change, if you take it meal by meal, it’s quite simple and really will change your life for the better. To get you started, I’ve pulled together some easy options for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
If you’re working out later, breakfast can be as simple as ½ cup of gluten free oats with almond milk, a dash of Himalayan pink salt and cinnamon. If you aren’t going to be super active and prefer a lighter start, try the simple smoothie below.
Yasi’s Basic Smoothie:
– ½ cup blueberries
-a big handful of spinach (you won’t taste it, don’t worry)
-8oz unsweetened almond milk (my favorite is Califia Farms Unsweetened Coconut Almond Milk)
-1-2 TBSP almond butter or ½ small avocado
-bone broth protein or collagen peptides
-a tiny bit of liquid stevia if necessary
Oftentimes people struggle with protein powders, as they can cause gas and bloating, but the root of these issues tends to be an overarching ingredient found in many protein supplements: pea protein. Pea protein is a popular choice amongst brands, as it is cheap and easy to source; however, most people cannot properly digest it and end up uncomfortable.
I’m partial to Ancient Nutrition Bone Broth Protein, as its ingredients are super clean and taste great (try Chocolate or French Vanilla), but Vital Proteins Collagen is a great option if you want something unflavored.
Besides skipping the unpleasant side effects of pea protein, bone broth protein supports bone health, relieves joint pain, increases elasticity and muscle tone, decreases soreness and hydrates the skin, according to a May 2017 HuffPost article.
Do not fear the calories of almond butter or avocados; these are good fats that will keep you full for longer and make your nails stronger and your hair shinier, according to a March 4 Washington Post article.
For lunch, salad is a no-brainer. Leafy greens with a protein is just so easy. I tend to do organic butter lettuce with an organic spring mix. I chop that up and dress it and top it with salmon, chicken or shrimp. To bulk it up, you can add pistachios or almonds to the mix.
For a simple and healthy dressing, I just throw the ingredients below in an empty salad dressing bottle and shake it up — I never measure; you get the swing of it quickly and can adjust it to your taste.
Yasi’s Easy Salad Dressing:
-4 TBSP organic white balsamic vinegar
-1 TSP organic dijon mustard
-Himalayan pink salt or sea salt
-¾ cup organic extra-virgin olive oil
You could also do a turkey burger patty in a lettuce wrap. This is a good time to incorporate a grain-free carb source like sweet potatoes. I like to make sweet potato fries in an oven or air fryer, or you can do spaghetti squash or butternut squash. If you want a grain, go for quinoa or brown rice, but mind your portions. This will prevent brain fog and the dreaded food coma effect.
Contrary to our culture’s norm, dinner should be the lightest meal of the day. This is where you should try to channel your inner Greek and embrace the Mediterranean Diet, which utilizes olive oil rather than butter, focuses on fish rather than meat as a source of protein, and consumes lighter fare in the evening, according to Marissa Laliberte’s Reader’s Digest article.
A white fish like tilapia, cod, bass or whatever is cheap is a great choice in the evenings. You likely won’t be burning off what you eat before bed and don’t want your body to have to digest a heavy meal at that time, as it impacts the quality of sleep and can lead to weight gain. I like to do fish with olive oil and lemon on a bed of garlic spinach or another green veggie of choice. If you’re craving a carb, go for the grain-free ones mentioned above, but as a general rule, try to keep your dinners lean and green.
If you have a sweet tooth after dinner, try to wait an hour or two, do the dishes, the laundry, that annoying assignment — just give your body time to digest. Then have a cup of blueberries or raspberries.
Berries have a relatively low glycemic index so they won’t spike your insulin and cause you to store fat before bed like a banana or melon would. Berries are high in anti-aging, skin-brightening antioxidants — aka glow food — which will have an extra regenerating effect as you sleep since your body goes into repair mode, according to Marianne Wren’s HuffPost article.
I also like to have roasted veggies prepped over the weekend so when I come home starving after class I can snack while I cook or do homework. My favorites are butternut squash, sweet potato fries, carrots, broccolini and asparagus.
Craving more? Send me your comments and beauty, health and wellness questions at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’ll get back to you right here.
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