Food is important. Especially when working long hours, as do most healthcare professionals. That’s why we need to practice mindful eating and build a healthy relationship with our food. It’s hard to eat healthy on the job and easy to grab the simplest thing we can when we are short on time.
That’s where most of us run into problems with our diets. Unfortunately for us, McDonald’s is everywhere and vending machines are convenient and packed full of unhealthy choices. That’s where we need to pick the best options for the food we have and be educated on how we can make the most out of our food choices.
6 Tips for Mindful Eating:
The main goal our body has for the food we eat, is to break it down and use it to keep us alive. That’s why we need to learn what our body needs and what it doesn’t. It’s important to learn about the common foods we hear we either need or need to avoid, like carbs, fats, and proteins and what to do with the knowledge once we know how our food works for us.
1. Eat Carbs
Carbs are usually demonized and many a fad-diet will tell you to avoid carbs. But, carbohydrates are an essential component for energy. In fact, carbs are our body’s basic source of fuel. Carbs are to us what gas is to a car.
Carbs convert to glucose which is what we know as blood sugar. Glucose flows in our blood and gives us energy, which is important throughout our day. Some simple carbs are fructose (fruit sugar), sucrose (table sugar) and lactose (milk sugar). These digest quickly in our blood stream and give us what we call a sugar rush.
A sugar rush is bad because when sugar digests at high rates in our blood, our blood sugar sky rockets and our pancreas secrets large amounts of insulin to keep a balance and to keep our blood sugar from rising too high. Then the crash happens and leads to irritability, nervousness, and more sugar intake to balance out again–which leads to the same roller coaster ride and sugar addiction.
The best carbs are complex carbs. These are starches which is basically plant energy. Complex carbs are grains and potatoes which our bodies break down to glucose, but unlike simple carbs, our bodies break them down slower which in turn releases the energy slower into our bodies and helps sustain energy and mood throughout the day.
Simple carbs, like sugar in soda, release into our bloodstream at 30 calories per minute whereas complex carbs release at 2 calories per minute. You will have to keep consuming high calories of simple carbs to maintain the same energy you can get from complex carbs throughout your day.
2. Don’t Avoid Fats
Fats are necessary to our body for fuel, to absorb certain vitamins, and as building blocks for other elements in our body. We all hear about unsaturated and saturated fats, but it’s hard to remember which are good and which are bad.
There are two main types of fats: unsaturated and saturated. But what does that mean? Unsaturated fats are usually liquid at room temperature and are commonly synthesized from vegetables and nuts. These fats are considered the more healthy of the fats. Saturated fats are solid at room temperature and are considered less healthy than their counterpart. Saturated fats are animal fat, lard, and shortening.
The body breaks fats down into glycerol and fatty acids which our body turns into triglycerides for transport in our blood stream. Our muscles absorb the triglycerides to either burn them or store them as energy. Fat is a great energy source and can keep us alive in survival situations. Our problem today is we overdo our intake of fat and don’t burn off as much as we consume.
Fats are necessary building blocks are for vitamin absorption. Some vitamins we need, are only soluble through fat, therefore we need fat to break down these vitamins and take them into our systems. We also need essential fatty acids because our bodies can’t make them and we need them for building blocks (linoleic acid is used to build cell membranes).
3. Pack in the Protein
Proteins are essential to maintain muscle structure, rejuvenate muscles, and grow muscles. Proteins are amino acids which are the basic building blocks of our cells. Our bodies are made up of 20% protein, so it is important we intake protein throughout the day to not only help our muscles, but protein staves off hunger and keeps up fuller through the day.
There are essential amino acids which our bodies cannot make, so we need to ingest foods that provide these for us. Most animal food sources contain all the essential amino acids we need. these are meat, milk, and eggs. They keep our diet well rounded and make it easier for a kind of one-stop-shopping for amino acids.
If you’re not into meat, you can get proteins from vegetables, but you will need to combine many foods to get all the essential amino acids you need. Great sources of vegetable protein are nuts, soybeans, and beans.
4. Don’t Diet
Typically, diets don’t work. There are so many fad-diets and get-ripped-quick-schemes in the world, but many of them don’t work or just work for a small time. The reason they don’t work is because they don’t solve the problems we have with food. They don’t teach discipline.
Overdoing anything is easy. It’s simple to keep eating and to stay in bed. What’s hard is to stop eating when your body has had enough and to get out of bed and exercise. If it was easy, America wouldn’t have such a high obesity rate.
Diets only deprive you of what you want and make you want it more. When you cut things you like out of your diet, it might work for a little while and show you small gains, but more times than not, you will go back to eating cupcakes and ice cream, but this time you will eat more since you missed them so much.
When we deprive ourselves of something it usually leads to coming back to that thing heavier. Most people that diet, regain all the pounds they lost and two-thirds of them pack on even more weight and eat worse than previously.
Teaching yourself discipline is what enables you to eat things you like but keep the pounds off.
Moderation teaches you how to portion control. The key to losing unwanted pounds is to not ingest the amounts of calories that pack on those pounds. It’s okay to eat a cupcake every now and then, but have you ever thought about not eating the whole cupcake? Just eat a portion of it. Learn to give up excess. Food is energy and can bring us pleasure, just don’t over indulge.
If we deprive ourselves of what we want then we don’t learn any lessons. We don’t have to be all or nothing. The all-or-nothing way leads to bad practices and an unhealthy relationship with food. When we eat what we want, eventually the food will lose power over us and we won’t want it as much. If you don’t create a stigma towards food, you won’t desire it. It will just be food. Don’t put it on a pedestal.
6. Eat When Hungry
If you deprive yourself of food or starve yourself, you will cause moodiness and get hangry. Hanger is not good and can hurt relationships and make you mean. Hanger is a real thing. It’s a primal urge that keeps us alive. When we get super hungry it lessens our capacity for empathy and increases our urge to eat and kill–because our ancestors had to kill their food back in the day. So EAT, we get mean when we don’t eat.
Just eat for the right reasons. Don’t eat because you’re happy, sad, bored, or celebrating. Eat only when your body needs food. Slow down, put your fork down between bites and listen for your body’s cues of when it’s full. Take the time to practice mindful eating and pack your lunch for work or bring healthy snacks you can munch on throughout the day. Eat healthy protein and complex carbs to sustain your energy through the day and keep you fuller longer.
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