noun (informal) vivid color
Summer is slowly coming to an end. The kids are back at school and our schedules are settling back into that familiar rhythm. The days will soon be getting shorter and the temperatures cooler. Before we know it, we will be in the middle of the holiday season, with all the socializing and holiday eating that comes with it!
Believe it or not, now is the time to commit to healthier eating this season.
Fruits and vegetables are at their peak of freshness, flavor, and nutrition this time of year, making it easier to add them into your diet (if you haven’t already). If your stomach full and satisfied from eating these nutrition rich foods, you are less likely to be tempted to snack on processed foods that contain high levels of added sugars, fats, salt, and chemical preservatives.
It is interesting to note that as the seasons change, so do our bodies! We naturally start to crave heavier, warming foods that are available to us in the next few fall months. We start to cook foods such as root vegetables and heavier cuts of meat, which provide energy to keep us fueled and protect us from colder temperatures. We also start to use more warming spices such as cinnamon, ginger, and cloves. It is no coincidence that the upcoming holiday season is full of comfort foods containing cinnamon and nutmeg. Over the ages, our ancestors knew these foods and spices provide something our bodies require during this time of year.
These heavier, calorie rich, warming foods were critical to the survival of our ancestors. In earlier times, people needed to be more physically active than we are today. They needed extra calories to provide the energy needed to do physical labor. Today we are more likely to spend our days sitting at a desk and working on a computer than hauling in the harvest and canning foods to get us through the harsh months of winter. We are probably picking up our food at the local grocery store, and chances are good that what we are buying has already been processed and prepared, and ready to heat and serve.
But while our lifestyle and food choices have changed radically over the last century, our bodies have not evolved as quickly. The physical makeup of our bodies is still very similar to that of our ancestors. And it will be a long time before our bodies are likely to change. Research suggests that it takes close to thousands, maybe millions of years for evolutionary change to occur. 2, 3
Because of this, our bodies continue to seek out the heavier carbs of winter root vegetables in anticipation of colder weather, even though we are now living in climate-controlled homes. By nature, our bodies are trying to store fat to insulate our organs and keep them warm so they can function properly.
That is why we should start thinking about healthy eating now, before we are tempted by the sweet, calorie-laden foods that are so common served during the holidays. While these foods do provide energy in the form of calories, they tend to lack the nutrients and fiber our bodies need. The result is a quick burst of energy after eating, followed by overwhelming fatigue, moodiness, and weight gain. Over time this type of eating can result in chronic illness such as heart disease, diabetes and obesity.
As I mentioned earlier though, we are organisms that are hard-wired to desire these heavier foods with the change of seasons. The trick is to honor these demands from our bodies by feeding them foods that are high in nutrients and not just empty calories.
We need to prepare our bodies by making healthier choices now. But how do we do that?One way is to concentrate on “adding in” healthier foods and not focusing just on restricting the amount of food you eat, or trying to eliminate all the foods you feel are “bad.” This can leave you feeling like you are depriving yourself. Has this ever happened to you? You are trying very hard to eat “good” by eliminating all sugar from your diet. But, you’ve had a hard day and you come home from work hungry and tired. You don’t have the “willpower” to resist the coffee cake that your spouse bought or the forgotten chocolate chip cookie at the back of the pantry. You rationalize that you have been so good, you “deserve” to have a treat. So you go ahead and eat the sugary treat and now you feel defeated because you feel like you have “failed.”
But here is another scenario. You come home to a house full of vegetables and fruits. You see the coffee cake sitting on the counter, but you tell yourself you can have a piece after you eat something healthy. You snack on some fruit while you microwave a baked potato. Maybe add some avocado and a piece of leftover rotisserie chicken. Now you are ready for dessert. But maybe now you are able to resist the coffee cake because you aren’t hungry anymore. You feel REALLY good about this decision. And next time temptation strikes, you can look back at this experience to help support your goal to eat healthier and feel better about yourself.
Back to what you can do right now!
The end of summer is a wonderful time to make a commitment to eat healthy this winter. We are surrounded by a multitude of freshly harvested fruits and vegetable that are bursting with flavor and natural sugars. If you begin now to substitute these naturally sweet foods into your diet, believe it or not, your cravings for processed foods and added sugars will diminish! Sweet potatoes, winter squash, carrots, onions, and beets are other sources of natural sugars. They are naturally filling, satisfying, nutritious, and help crowd out cravings for high-calorie processed foods .
One simple way to start adding more fruits and vegetables into your diet is to stop counting calories and think about color instead.Fresh produce is naturally low in calories and high in nutrients that your body needs to function at its optimal best. It is also the source of important phytonutrients. Phytonutrients protect fruits and vegetables from disease. They do the same thing for our bodies when we eat them! They fight the damaging effects of oxidation, help prevent inflammation, and support our liver that eliminates toxins from our body. 1
How do we know there are phytonutrients in a piece of fruit or a vegetable? By simply looking at their color!
The color of a plant indicates what type of phytonutrients it contains, and one plant can have many! Each phytonutrient has a specific job to do to protect us from premature aging and disease. One way to ensure that you are getting as many of these important compounds as possible is to eat a colorful variety; in short, eat the rainbow! Look for those vegetables and fruits that have a rich, deep color, and aren’t wilted or yellowing.
As a rule the more intense the color, the more phytonutrients are present.Want to learn more about these wonderful compounds? I have written several blogs on the specific benefits of many of the colors. If you would like to learn more about these phytonutrients, you can you can read more by clicking on the following links.
- What's Your Favorite Rainbow Food?
- The Grocery Store Palette-The Color Orange
- The Grocery Store Palette – The Color Red
- The Color Purple
- With Veggies, the Absence of Color Does NOT Mean the Absence of Nutrition
- “Eating the Rainbow for Good Health” at the Glencoe Community Garden, September 13, 2016
- "Holiday Survival Tips", New Trier Extension, click on "One of a Kind", starts October 18, 2016
- Free webinar, “The Bittersweet Truth About Sugar”, September 28, 2016
- “Eating for Your Best Self” Program, on-line program starts October 17, 2016
Yours in Health,