There’s one important question that I ask every woman who comes to see me for help: What foods are you choosing to eat? I’m not just asking about how many fruits and vegetables they consume, though that is certainly part of it. What I really want to understand is the food choices they make on a regular basis. Why? Because I feel very strongly that good nutrition is the best medicine there is, and that poor food choices (like fast food or highly processed foods) can act like poison in your body. Making good food choices most of the time can get you – and keep you – healthy better than any other treatment I know.
But I also know that making healthy choices is more difficult that it might seem. Advice that sounds simple rarely is, when you consider the culture we live in, the way we were raised, and the stories we tell ourselves. For many women, certain foods represent comfort and love. And those foods are typically not the healthy choices we need to feel our best!
The women who come to see me do so because they don’t feel right. They are dealing with aches and pains, and digestive issues. They’re exhausted but they can’t sleep at night. These symptoms are unlike anything they’ve ever experienced before, and they want to know why they feel so poorly. They tell me that they just don’t feel like themselves anymore, and they want answers that their conventional doctors haven’t been able to provide.
Most of the time, essential hormones are out of balance, and quite often the food choices they make are at least partially to blame. I tell them that their symptoms are their bodies’ way of begging them to eat differently. And then I help them learn how to do so.
How Common Misconceptions Can Prompt Unhealthy Choices
One of the biggest hurdles in helping women make healthy choices is eroding some of the myths they’ve learned along the way. For instance, far too many women have heard that fat is the enemy, but that’s simply not true; it’s all about the type of fat you choose. They know that the way they’ve been eating isn’t great, but often the substitutions they make aren’t healthy either.
As a starting point, I share my nutritional and lifestyle guidelines with them to help them understand how impactful the choices they make can be to their health. I also talk about the many reasons I believe everyone needs to be taking a high-quality multi-vitamin no matter how well they eat.
As we talk, inevitably I hear so many myths arise about healthy eating. I often need to gently point out misconceptions about food and what makes something a healthy choice, especially for patients struggling to maintain or lose weight as they age. As further research has become available, some of the most common ideas about nutrition have changed, but it takes a long time for the information to be widely accepted. So there are far too many women out there doing their best to make healthy food choices, but falling short. That’s where I can help!
Identifying Healthier Choices
One of the best ways to help women understand better choices is to find out what they think first, then help them see another perspective. I know that I am much more likely to shift my way of doing things if someone explains the reasoning behind it – and I bet you are too. So let’s play a little game of “which is better” and I’ll help you understand what the best choices are if you are trying to both be healthy and lose (or maintain) your weight. Let’s get started:
Which is a Better Food Choice: Low-Fat Greek Yogurt or Fat-Free Yogurt?
There’s been a lot of talk about the benefits of Greek yogurt in recent years. So maybe this was an easy question. Greek yogurt is typically higher in protein and lower in sugar than other fruit yogurts, and has demonstrated health benefits, including boosting metabolism, reducing appetite, increasing bone strength, and improving gut health.
If you really want to make a healthy choice, here’s the thing that will make the most difference: choosing plain, non-flavored greek yogurt with no added sugars. When you look a the sugar content on fruit flavored yogurts, you might be shocked to find that they contain more sugar than a can of soda! Choosing plain, and adding fresh berries to sweeten the taste, is a much better choice.
Sugar content isn’t the only reason the low-fat Greek yogurt is a better choice than the fat-free varieties. Remember that I said fat is not the enemy? Fat along with protein helps keep you feeling full and satisfied. Not only that, but the vitamin D in Greek yogurt is a fat-soluble vitamin. Without a little fat, it cannot be absorbed. To get the health benefits of the nutrients in yogurt, avoid going fat-free and choose 2% instead.
Which is a Better Start to Your Day: Cereal or Eggs?
Americans are all about convenience, and marketing companies know how to take full advantage of this! Ready made cereal is a perfect example. It’s been touted for decades as a nutritious breakfast, and so many women think they’re starting their day right when the fill up their bowl. But cereal is actually a carb-heavy empty calorie start to your day, even if it has been reinforced with added ingredients. Eggs, on the other hand, are naturally full of healthy fat and protein. Much like the yogurt, the proteins and fats in the eggs will fill you up and give you energy throughout the morning.
Carbs aren’t all bad, if you choose the right kind. Try adding a slice of Ezekiel sprouted grain bread with your eggs for a nice balance. For busy women who don’t have time to make eggs every morning, I recommend boiling some in advance to keep handy. You can also make a batch of “egg muffins” (see recipe below) and store them in your refrigerator or freezer for a convenient, healthier alternative.
Which is Better if You Need a Pick Me Up: a Cappuccino or a Diet Soda?
If you’ve been paying attention to headlines about diet soda in recent years, you may already know this one too. While diet soda has long been a popular choice to avoid sugar, it can contain chemicals like aspartame or sucralose which have been shown to cause a myriad of health problems.
And if you’re choosing diet soda in an attempt to lose weight, here’s something else you should know: research shows that people drinking diet soda end up gaining more weight than those drinking regular soda! I feel so strongly about avoiding diet soda that I encourage all of my patients to stop drinking it, even if that means switching to regular soda as a temporary transition. If you know my beliefs around what sugar does to your health, you’ll understand just how important I think avoiding diet soda is!
Coffee, on the other hand, has been shown to actually offer health benefits when consumed in moderation. Cappuccino is even better. It contains about the same amount of caffeine as a regular cup of coffee, but cappuccino also gives you the protein from the milk. If you choose 2% milk instead of skim, you’ll also get a little fat to help make you feel fuller.
And here’s an interesting tidbit of information: even if you go with skim milk, the fact that the milk is whipped with air into a frothy and creamy consistency has been shown to help drinkers feel more full and satisfied. In addition, studies have shown that there are great benefits to relaxing with a friend. Meeting for a warm cup of coffee can help you slow down, relax, and savor the moments you have with loved ones.
Which is Better: a Turkey Burger or a Sirloin Burger?
Time and again I hear my patients tell me they think turkey is the better choice. But the reality is that you really need more information. It’s not just the type of meat that matters, but also the conditions in which they were raised. Turkeys are often raised with antibiotics, fed a commercial processed diet that is less than ideal, and are raised in horrifying conditions.
Women also tell me they choose turkey because it’s lower in fat – another myth! Most turkey burgers are made with dark meat and have a high fat content. Remember, some fat is necessary, and if you choose a lean, grass fed sirloin burger you know that you are getting high-quality meat from animals allowed to eat their natural diets of sundrenched (vitamin D rich) grass. Sirloin is actually a better choice than turkey but if you don’t want to eat beef, try bison burgers instead.
When Your Need a Sweet Treat, Which is Better: a Half a Cup of Ice Cream or 3 Scoops of Sorbet?
So many people think that sorbet is a healthier choice, but in reality it contains almost twice the sugar per scoop as ice cream with none of the protein and fat that will fill you up and satisfy you. And if you have a hankering for ice cream, I always tell my patients that it is better to just completely and thoroughly enjoy every bite of a moderate portion than to try to substitute something less satisfying. In the end, you won’t feel fulfilled and are far more likely grab something else later on. Learning appropriate portion sizes is important, and I think it’s best to keep the portion small and savor every bite!
Beyond Healthy Choices – Giving Your Body a Boost
Good nutrition can be more complex than you think, which is why food is an ongoing conversation in my practice. It’s so important to get the vitamins, minerals, enzymes and cofactors our bodies need and healthy balance is critical. I also know it’s increasingly difficult in today’s world to get the nutrition we need from our food supply alone. I once read a study that showed that to get the same nutritional content that two peaches in the 1950s contained, we’d have to eat 53 peaches today! I don’t care how much you like peaches, that’s simply not going to happen!
My Multi Essentials formula is designed to give your body the essential nutrients it needs to re-balance and restore harmony across all your systems. Hormonal imbalance, adrenal fatigue, thyroid concerns, years of dieting or poor food choices, lack of sleep and stress all take their toll, especially as we age.
Before true healing can take place, the body needs to fill in any nutritional gaps. The first step to wellness is a potent vitamin and mineral formula that features high-quality ingredients designed for optimal absorption and bioavailability. Rapid disintegration allows for a quick release of the micronutrients. My patients tell me that they feel a difference – I know you will, too!
Understanding Good Nutrition is the First Step in Leading and Energized, Healthy Life!
I hope the questions above have helped you see that what we think are healthy choices sometimes sabotage our efforts. One of the best ways to be sure your food has the highest nutrition possible is to stay away from convenience foods altogether, and choose organic whole foods as often as possible. You may need to shift your ideas on what breakfast looks like or what makes a good snack. Advanced preparation can keep you on the right track, and decrease your need for those processed quick choices.
Yes, it takes a lot of awareness and effort, but I promise you it’s worth it. Making healthy choices can boost your energy, help you sleep better at night, and help you maintain a healthy weight. But most of all, good nutrition can get you back to feeling like the best version of you! And isn’t that what we all deserve?
Reviewed by Dr. Mark Menolascino, MD