3-Steps to Eating Healthy for Life
People often ask me what my diet is like. How I and my family eat. In my clinical practice and lecturing, I’ve helped thousands of people learn my simple system for revamping their eating to a dietary pattern that promotes health. With every bite of food, you’re either promoting health or feeding disease.
More than 60 years of research have shown unambiguously that the Mediterranean Dietary Pattern reduces the risk of obesity, diabetes, cancer, death from cancer, heart disease, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s disease, and all-cause mortality. This dietary pattern is essentially the opposite of the toxic and disease-creating Standard American Diet.
This way of eating feeds your body nutritious, wholesome food so you and your family can feel and look your best. It’s how you should eat to promote your health for the rest of your life.
The Mediterranean Diet is essentially a whole foods diet that emphasizes lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, grains and legumes, and lean proteins such as fish and chicken. In fact, as I teach you in my book, Fracture-Proof Your Bones, this way of eating has been associated with decreased osteoporosis risk and a 21% reduction in fracture risk.
Over the years in my medical practice helping people transition into eating this way, I’ve distilled this diet into a simple, three-step system. I’m now sharing this system with you. People who eat this way report having more energy, slimming down, feeling more alert, and sleeping better.
To make it even easier to transition into eating this way, I want you to focus on only eating two broad categories of food, which I call the two P’s. They are plants and protein.
Plants provide the fiber, vitamins, minerals, plant antioxidants, and other nutrients your body needs to thrive. Eating a variety of plants every day ensures you’re getting great nutrition. But how much should you eat?
The best way to understand if you’re eating enough plants is to track how much fiber you’re getting since the fiber content of foods is easily quantifiable. The recommended daily amount of total dietary fiber is 30 grams per day. Fiber itself has great benefits. I can help you feel full longer. It can help regulate blood sugar. And it’s important for healthy gut bacteria.
But it’s not only the fiber that’s important here. It’s where the fiber is found. Dietary fiber is in whole fruits and vegetables. So, if you’re eating 30 grams of dietary fiber every day, you’ll naturally be eating lots of whole foods.
The other nutrient you want to pay attention to is protein. When proteins are digested, they are broken down into amino acids. Amino acids are like letters of the alphabet that can be combined in many ways. Your body uses amino acids to produce hormones, muscle, tendons, bone, immune proteins, and much more. Protein is also an excellent way to regulate blood sugar.
The USDA Recommended Daily Intake of protein is about one gram per kilogram of body weight per day; however, that is insufficient to maintain healthy bone and muscle mass as you age. Research suggests that getting 1.3 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day is better. In the US, that can be a bit confusing for people to figure out since we weigh ourselves in pounds and not kilograms.
But there’s a simple conversion you can do to estimate the minimum amount of protein you should be eating. Take your body weight in pounds and multiply it by 0.59. That will be about the number of grams of protein you should be getting a day through food or through a dietary supplement if you need a little extra. For example, if you’re a woman who weighs 130 pounds, multiplying your weight by .59 equals 76.7. To make it easier, round up. Your protein goal would be 77 grams per day.
That can be difficult for people to achieve with diet alone. Therefore, using a protein dietary supplement can bridge the gap. If you decide to use a protein powder, purchase one that does not contain added sugar and look for one that provides about 15-20 grams of protein per serving. There are good hemp protein, pea protein, and whey protein dietary supplements if you need a protein boost. But I recommend using this only as a supplement to your diet, not instead of eating healthy.
Know How Much You’re Eating
I have yet to meet anyone who could tell me how much dietary fiber is in an apple, lettuce, or pear. Or how much protein is in the different foods people are eating. To transition into eating this way, you’ll need to quantify how many grams of fiber and protein you’re eating. It’s actually quite simple.
If you’re eating a package of food, the nutrition facts panel will tell you how many grams of fiber and protein there are in a serving of the food. You can then estimate how many servings you’re eating and how many grams of fiber and protein you’re getting.
For whole, unpackaged foods, there aren’t handy nutrition facts panels you can glance at. Instead, download the NBI Protein Handout and Fiber Handout. These convenient resources provide the amount in grams of protein and fiber for common foods. You can print them up and use them as references. And if what you’re looking for isn’t on those handouts, a quick Google search can fill in the gaps.
Step 1. Calculate Your Baseline
Before you run off and start increasing your protein and fiber, wait. I don’t want you to start yet. It’s important first to find out how much protein and fiber you’re eating now before you change anything. So first take a piece of paper and for two days write down everything you eat. After each day sit down and estimate how many grams of total fiber and how many grams of total protein you ate. That will give you your baseline. It will show you where you are now compared to where you need to get to. It’s your starting point.
Step 2. Transition into Eating This Way
After you’ve calculated your baseline (how many grams of proteins and fiber you were eating before you changed your diet), you can start transitioning into eating this way. It’s important to transition into this because oftentimes, people will find that eating what amounts to more of a whole foods diet is very different from how they have been eating. This way of eating requires you to eat more fruits and vegetables. More of a whole foods diet. Less packaged foods. And that can take some time to transition into doing.
What you want to do is train your body and teach your body what it’s like to eat a really nutritious and amazing diet that will give you energy and the nutrients that you need. Eating this way usually requires people to start shopping a little differently. Perhaps start exploring different aisles in the grocery store. Maybe buying new spices because it might require you to cook a little bit differently.
I like to tell people to transition over six weeks because wholesale, major changes done overnight tend not to be sustainable. I also tell you that if you do this for six days a week and take a break on the seventh day. People like to have something to look forward to, especially during the transition.
So stick to this six days a week and on the seventh day eat whatever you want. What you’ll discover is that as you’re feeling healthier and starting to slim down, you’re going to realize that on the seventh day when you go off the diet, where you’re eating like crap, you’ll feel like crap too.
You’re also going to notice that your taste buds are going to change. The things that didn’t taste that sweet before are going to taste sweeter. Things that did taste sweet to you before are going to taste too sweet. Your taste buds and your body are going to start to adapt to this way of eating. And you’ll start to crave healthy, nutritious foods, which is what your body thrives on anyway.
Step 3. Develop a New Eating Habit
To help you transition into eating this way, rely on the Protein and Fiber handouts and be diligent about calculating the amounts you’re getting. But the goal is to develop an intuitive sense of how to eat this way.
The handouts are tools to help you do that. Once you know how to eat this way, you can stick the handouts in a drawer, or better yet, share them with a friend and help them.
Ditch the Dieting
So ditch the dieting because when people put themselves on a diet, they tend to hit their target weight, and then their weight yo-yo’s back up, and they usually gain even more weight back than they lost.
Set your goal for getting healthy this summer and transition into eating a healthy diet and living a healthier life so you don’t have to ever worry about starving yourself to get a bathing suit-ready body.
Do this for six weeks and I promise that not only will you feel a difference and see a difference in the mirror, you’ll feel fantastic all year round in whatever you decide to wear.
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