Just by taking a moment to be mindful of food’s real purpose, and the true meaning of nourishing ourselves, we might actually tap into what our body really needs to be nourished.
(excerpt from an article by Oliva Pennelle in The Phoenix Spirit)
I have, on occasion, pried open my dog’s mouth to pull out mulch, roadside chicken bones and, once, a live furry critter. (I’ll stop there.) I do this because I cherish my pup and want to ensure his well-being and protect him from harm. But, I doubt that I’ve ever interrupted the progress of a second fudge brownie or 17th Dorito Chip going into my own mouth though I am well aware of the evils of processed food and refined sugar.
In all fairness to myself, I do eat clean, organic food most of the time and try to limit indulgences. But do I nourish myself? Not always. Nourish doesn’t just mean putting nutritious food in your mouth. Nourishment fosters more sustainable health and longevity. It means cultivating a diet/lifestyle that is, of course, rich in nutrients and wellness activities, but also meets your unique needs at any given point in time... before bed, first thing in the morning, post-workout, during times of (good or bad) stress…you get the idea.
Your body depends on the proper balance of nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and enzymes for it to function at its highest level. These come from the foods we eat, the earth in which the food is grown, and the sun, in the case of Vitamin D, as well as supplements. Nourishment comes from the proteins, carbohydrates and fats that we consume for fuel and that contain nutrients as well. Substituting empty calories such as added fats and sugars may taste good going down and can even become additive, but will leave you with nutritional deficiencies, weight gain and a slew of at-risk factors for many types of diseases.
So, to nourish yourself, you really have to know yourself, cherish yourself, and embrace the fact that how, what, when, and why you eat impacts the quality of your life.
Using some synonyms for nourish, I’ve outlined below how we can achieve our wellness goals from a nurturing rather than restrictive point of view.
When you cherish something or someone, you treat it/them with gentleness, respect and love, whether you’re cradling an infant or handling a piece of your grandmother’s fine china. It’s no different when it comes to nourishing your own body. Taking the time to consider what your body needs nutritionally, physically and emotionally enables you to protect, support and strengthen it.
TIP 1: Keep a food diary where you record what you have eaten and how you feel afterward. Try eliminating suspect foods, maybe one at a time for about a week or two, and see how your body responds. Are you more energized, focused, happier? Food journaling takes some discipline but it’s a good investment in your overall physical and emotional health.
TIP 2: Maximize your chances for better sleep by responding to late night cravings with fruit or nuts. Bananas are known to decrease blood pressure and help you relax. Tart cherries can also reduce insomnia. Grapes are actually a good source of melatonin, which promotes sleep. Apples are rich in antioxidants, Vitamin C and soluble fiber. They can fill you up without adding a lot of calories. Depending on how much energy you have before bedtime, smoothies with a good dose of fruit and greens will keep you satisfied throughout the night. Nuts and nut butters have plenty of protein and good fat which stay in your system and can prevent midnight refrigerator raids.
To cultivate nourishment is to take a proactive approach to mindfully and maybe even joyfully incorporating healthy eating habits into your daily routine in a way that lifts your energy and your spirits. Making little tweaks can turn a semi-, quasi-, sorta healthy meals into a feast of antioxidant, immunity and mood-boosting goodness.
TIP1: Now that you have started your food journal (no pressure there), make a list of meals and snacks you enjoy throughout the day and then see where you can add or subtract for better nutrition without sacrificing taste.
TIP 2: If you can’t get started without a caffeine boost, try switching to organic green tea, especially on workdays. This is an energizing, antioxidant-rich option that won’t drop you midday. Let coffee become a special occasion for relaxing or socializing rather than a must-have.
TIP 3: Be ready for those mid-morning urges and mid-afternoon slumps. Ditch the chips or cookies and substitute some Vitamin C-packed fresh or dried fruit, protein-filled nuts and seeds, or snack bars that incorporate all of the above, but without refined sugars or any other additives for that matter. There are many freeze-dried fruits and snacks available that have all of the benefits of the original plant but are easier to access. Adding snacks to your day will take the edge off, keep the energy up, and save you from overindulging at lunch or dinner.
You’ve heard of a runner’s high, when a long-distancer gets to a point where they stop feeling the pain and are motivated to bring it all to the finish line. Part of nourishing yourself is getting to a place where the nutritious foods you eat make you feel so good, you have little to no craving for addictive processed and genetically modified alternatives, no matter how convenient they may seem.
TIP 1: Consider what breakfast means to you. It is a must-have meal, a grab-and-go or a no-can-do? All of these options may require compromises to make them more beneficial and sustainable when it comes to energy. For example, smoothies and nutritious shakes check all the boxes. Vitamins and minerals, fruits and fiber, greens and proteins are all attractive prospects for an enjoyable start to the morning. On cold days, add ground ginger, turmeric, or cinnamon to your breakfast smoothie to warm you up, get the blood flowing, boost your metabolism, and reduce inflammation. Fresh or freeze-dried fruit can put the taste of healthy cereal or oatmeal over the top. Don’t forget the cinnamon here as well.
TIP 2: Step away from the sandwich…particularly the white bread encased processed meat variety. If bread is important, try switching to whole grain or wraps, preferably filled with lean proteins and veggies, and maybe avocado as a sub for mayo. Salads are a perfect lunch fix if they carry the right amount of tastes you love and texture for a more substantial chewing experience. Include proteins such as fish or chicken, maybe some calcium-rich kale tossed in with the greens, and a bit of crunch from your favorite nuts or seeds like pepitas, which are good sources of magnesium, potassium, and healthy oils that enhance heart and bone health. If you can do without the texture, smoothies and protein shakes make great lunch options as well.
TIP 3: We are not a meat, potato, and (overcooked veggie) society anymore. Dinners come in all shapes and sizes, ethnicities, and dietary preferences, which makes it even easier to make them nourishing. There is no lean meat or poultry you cannot make outstanding with fresh herbs or a dash of spices…cinnamon, cumin, ginger, turmeric…potent antioxidants and anti-inflammatories. Choose sweet potatoes over white for their fiber, vitamins & minerals, and cancer-fighting properties. Experiment with heart-friendly cauliflower rice as a base for stews or sautés. Pick in-season veggies that are as close to the source as possible and brighten them with a splash of lemon (high in Vitamin C) instead of butter. Include a side salad with fruit or save the fruit for dessert.
“Eating well helps, but don't expect it to work miracles. It can fill you, but it cannot fulfill you.” - Joshua Rosenthal, founder and director of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition
The last nutrition book I read outlining an autoimmune diet made me a wreck. There was no possible way to adhere to it without making it my life’s work…that work being a joyless task because of all the restrictions. When I finally shook it off and began to trust food again, I did so more conscientiously, but with a loving touch.
TIP 1: Coffee, alcohol, sweets…the three biggies that almost every diet shuns. But, tell me this. Is it more nourishing to stay home with your salad and umpteenth glass of water than to sit among friends with a glass of Pinot Noir, sharing stories, laughing, and maybe adding a pound that you’ll lose the next day or never? Eat well all day, every day, but make room for those cappuccinos, chocolate brownies and craft cocktails that enrich your soul.
TIP 2: Do I really need to say it? Eat chocolate…be discriminating (high cacao percentage)…but eat it. Cacao has properties that can put your body and mind at ease for a peaceful slumber. Raw cacao has more calcium than regular milk and more antioxidants than blueberries. It’s a natural mood elevator and an antidepressant. Enjoy it incorporated in whole food snack bars, mix it into smoothies, stir into some walm milk or milk alternative with a tab bit of honey and some cinnamon. Now if that isn’t nourishment, I don’t know what is.