I read a lot of health-related information in blogs, newsletters and magazines. I bet you do too. I'm always reading about something that interests me and I make a mental note to add it to my diet. For example, I read about omega-3 fatty acids and think: "I need to make sure I get those." I learn about probiotics and I tell myself to get a daily dose. And when I see a piece about fiber, that goes into the mental hopper as well. Where do all those mental notes go? Well, I have to admit that my memory cells just aren't firing the way they used to. What's a well-intentioned woman to do? Make lists! I know...lists aren't for everyone. Some people like living dangerously (in my opinion) and wouldn't write a list if their life depended on it. I say: "Good for you, Ms. Flying-by-the-seat-of-your-pants. I hope that works for you." For me, I'm going to write a list. In fact, I write lists for just about everything. You may not want to be as "structured" as me - totally makes sense (my husband and daughter would probably agree). But, if you find that you are consistently missing out on the foods that will help you meet your health goals, then a list is a pretty simple way to make a difference.
First, determine what your nutritional or healthy eating goals are and get them down on paper. Different people have different needs, so you'll want to do this part on your own. Your overriding goal should be eating a well-balanced diet that includes mainly plant-based foods. Many of your health goals can be met by eating mostly whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts and seeds. You'll see how that works as we get into the examples below. While the goals on your list will be personalized, we'll use these basic ones for the purpose of this blog post:
Omega 3s - 1 source
antioxidants - 3 sources
Fiber - 2 to 3 sources
Once you have your goals, create a simple chart so you can check off your accomplishments (and see where you might need to work a bit harder!).
As you go through your day or in the evening, check off what you ate and what goals you filled in the process. For the goals where you need more than one source of a nutrient, use tally marks or divide the box into sections. Filling in this list will help you figure out what you need to eat more of to meet your goals. The area under your check-off chart is a great place to put reminders about your favorite sources for the nutrients you want to make sure to eat. That way you can easily see: "Oh, I haven't had enough fiber today. I'm going to have some whole grain crackers with fresh fruit for an evening snack." Here's a "food source" sample for the four goals we are using as examples:
Omega-3s: ground flaxseed, flaxseed oil, salmon, sardines, walnuts, eggs from chickens fed Omega-3s, microalgae (Learn more about omega-3s.) Antioxidants: dark leafy greens, fresh or frozen berries (blueberries and cranberries are excellent choices), canned tomato products and pasta sauces, extra virgin olive oil, fresh herbs, dark colored fruits such as mango, papaya and pomegranate. Probiotics: yogurt with live cultures, kefir, raw milk cheese, unpasteurized miso, live cultured veggies, kombucha tea, supplements (Learm more about probiotics.)
Fiber: Fresh fruits, dried fruits, fresh and frozen veggies, whole grains, legumes (dried peas and beans), nuts, seeds (Learn more about boosting your fiber.) Checking off the boxes helps me see that I'm doing my best for my health. And if I miss a few boxes, then I know to double my efforts in the days ahead. I don't use it as a tool to beat myself up. That would be counterproductive, right? Okay, so now you know how my mind works on this kind of thing. Tell me what works for you