Welcome to the sixth and final week of the STRONG Challenge. Congratulations on all your hard work and accomplishments so far! This week we’re going to tie everything together by focusing on finding balance. You hear the term “balance” a lot when it comes to the foods we eat because eating a balanced diet is an important part of being strong and healthy. Especially heading into the holiday season, we need to be able to balance the way we eat so we continue to get the nutrition our bodies need without missing out on any of our favorite holiday treats.
Being mindful about the food choices we make can set the groundwork for all of our wellness goals, helping us to feel energized and take on the day. So, what is the secret to a healthy balanced meal? I can’t really answer that question for you since it’s so individual for each of us. What I can tell you is that you need to figure out what works best for you by understanding what your body needs.
Eating healthy is often thought to be boring, dull, and flavorless. When we think this way, it’s difficult to want to eat a nutritious meal. Luckily, healthy eating is not about being on your “best behavior” 100% of the time, but rather it’s about finding delicious alternatives that you will crave. When we eat foods that are tasty and make us feel good, it becomes easier and easier to make healthful choices. Here are some suggestions to help you think about how to better balance your nutrition.
If eating healthy is new to you or something you've struggled with, try adding in healthy foods a little bit at a time. Make them foods that you enjoy. For example, replace a candy bar with a piece of sweet fruit, or cut back on the amount of sugar you put in your coffee. You can prepare your food in a more healthful way, like trying grilling or baking instead of frying. And don’t forget to check your portion sizes so your meals are nutritious and delicious.
Eat More Plant-based Foods
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you need to become a vegan or vegetarian if you don’t want to, but eating plant-based foods is a perfect way to feel more energetic. Complex carbohydrates such as grains, whole wheat, quinoa, beans, fruits, vegetables, seeds, and nuts are going to provide your body the energy it needs to keep you going throughout the day. Try substituting your snacks or one meal a day with plant-based foods for a huge difference.
Drink Plenty of Water
Water is a great way to help with digestion and keeps us hydrated. Don’t mistake thirst for hunger pains. If you think you might be hungry, take a second to think about the last time you had a glass of water. Your hunger might really be your body telling you it’s thirsty, so you can trade unhealthy eating for a bottle of water.
Incorporate Healthy Fats
Healthy fats are a great addition to every meal because fat helps us to absorb some of the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients we get from the fruits and vegetables that we eat. Try adding in a healthy fat such as olive oil, seeds, nuts, and/or avocado to each of your daily meals.
Eat Without Distractions
Try enjoying your food and the people around you. Turn off the television and put your devices away. When we’re distracted, we tend to eat more unnecessarily and choose unhealthy options. Have a conversation with your kids, your friends, or your significant other. Not only does this engage your mind, but it also engages those around you. If you’re by yourself, put on some music, or do something that creates a space to focus on your eating. You’ll feel more satisfied when you’re done, and it can also help to improve your digestion.
As we approach the end of the STRONG Challenge, I encourage you to keep all you’ve learned in mind. It’s important to have confidence in the food you eat, and by recognizing unhealthy food patterns, you can more smoothly make changes for the better. You don’t have to be an amazing chef to cook a good meal. Start simple and experiment. Enjoy the process and the journey and most importantly do what’s right for you and your body.
I’m thankful for the time we’ve spent together over the past six weeks, and I look forward to continuing to grow healthy together in the future. Until next time!