Making dietary and lifestyle changes can certainly make a huge impact on your health. They can also totally cramp your style.
Making realistic, long-term changes start slowly. Complete and abrupt overhauls typically result in sliding backwards once a few cravings hit or when life just happens. The best way to ease your way into it is to seriously half-ass it.
1. Brown rice. Some people love it, some people hate it. The husk of the rice contains lots of minerals such as magnesium, zinc, iron, and copper, and a good dose of B-vitamins. Start by mixing half white rice with half brown rice (you may have to cook separately) until you get used to the taste and texture. You'll be increasing nutrients and fibre.
2. Coffee. 2-3 cups (actual cups) per day are good for you and can help prevent diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and dementia. Over this limit means your risk starts to go up. If you're overly anxious or are drinking way too much, the best way to start to cut down is by switching to half-caf. This will keep enough caffeine to reduce withdrawal symptoms and help with the step-down approach.
3. Pop. While you work on cutting this completely out of your life (really, it's that bad for you), make friends with club soda. Dilute half of your pop with club soda to cut your sugar intake in half while maintaining all of the happy fizz. As a further step down, use a splash of juice or wedge of lemon to flavour the fizz. Then end the relationship by telling the pop, "it's not you, it's a healthier me".
4. Salty snacks. Peanuts, chips, pretzels: you name it, this trick works. You can get reduced-sodium chips (Kettle Chips has some with virtually no salt... I can personally verify this one!), unsalted nuts or pretzels at any bulk or grocery store. Mix half salted with the unsalted. Your tastebuds won't notice the difference but your blood pressure certainly will!
5. Meat. Embrace the year of the pulse! Get yourself a food processor and make some bean or lentil burgers or meat balls. Reducing meat consumption by starting with a Meatless Monday can reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Plant-based diets have the best health outcomes and one of the best to follow is the Mediterranean Diet. This includes meat in moderation and uses plants as the main-stay of nutrition.
Rotating between salad, stir-fry, or steam? Getting more veggies into your diet can be quite monotonous and there’s only so much hummus one can eat before your insides start rumbling (or is that just me?). I’m always encouraging people to think differently about their veggies and educating on ways to get more in. The health benefits of a plant-based diet are numerous and I’ll tell you my favourite gadgets to transform these for even the most picky eaters. I’m not talking about fancy, high-tech, totally obscure gadgets, I’m talking about easy, multi-use, oh-so-practical gadgets. Here are my 3 kitchen must-haves that I cannot live without:
#1. A food processor. This is the #1 best gadget in my kitchen. I’m not a meat-eater and the thought of eating plain beans and lentils is far less appealing than black bean burgers, tacos, spaghetti and meatballs, tacos, falafel, tacos, and, of course, tacos. I generally try to educate my patients on the value of incorporating more plant proteins into their diet due to the overwhelming research backing the associated health benefits and investing in a basic food processor is a great way to do that. This will not only transform your beans, chickpeas, rice, quinoa, lentils, and veggies into something completely different, exciting, and delicious, but will also help you make some amazing snacks such as energy balls and granola bars. Many processors will also have a grating/slicing blade that helps to quickly slice things like potatoes, beets, and apples into fine slices ready for baking into homemade chips. So, with one gadget, we’ve made healthy burgers, chips, meatballs, and snacks. That's what I'm talkin' about.
#2. A good, high-powered blender. These blending machines, such as a Vitamix or Blendtec, function quite differently than a standard blender and can do more than just whiz up milkshakes. These are the easiest way to make smoothies, sauces, creamy soups, almond/rice/coconut/cashew/etc milk, sorbets, and even flour. I use my blender daily since I’m partial to smoothies: this is where lots of my fruits, veggies, whole flax seeds (it’ll grind for you), coconut shreds, and whatever-else-I’m-feeling-that-day go into for my “brain juice” to get me going.
#3. A spiralizer. Got kids? You need this one. Raw veggies are much more exciting when carrots and beets are in fun noodle shapes and these are great additions to simple summer salads. Spiralizing a zucchini is a great way to sneak more veggies into spaghetti or mix with spaghetti squash for some different noodle textures. This gadget doesn’t make too many main dishes with the exception of spaghetti noodles, but it sure does make a star out of a side dish!
Bonus! The immersion blender deserves an honourable mention for a couple of reasons. I have a soft spot for this one since it was my first ever favourite kitchen gadget. I've run two into the ground so far. The are great because I don’t like pouring anything hot into my blender because it’s plastic. Even though it’s BPA free, some of those new substitutes are proving not to be any better. A stainless steel immersion blender helps to puree anything that’s hot and I love it for soups, sauces, and dairy-free nacho cheese dip. It’s also incredibly easy to use and a great starting point if you’re just getting into home cooking since many come with a mini food processor attachment so you can test drive it.
Well, after 3.5 great years at the YSHC, it's time for me to move on.
As you may know, I moved out of the city a little over a year ago... and I'm loving it! As such, it's time for me to retire the 401 rage and ditch the commute. I'm continuing my full-time practice at Peak Health and Wellness in Brooklin.
If you're an existing patient, I'll be in contact with you with some pertinent info so keep an eye on your mailboxes.
Thanks for your wonderful support over the last few years and it's been a pleasure working with you, North York! Stay healthy.