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Develop a Laser Focus on Healthy Food Consumption

When I became intentional about changing my life trajectory in August of 2020, the first step was just to pick something (to work on).  I chose to begin by changing my “dad bod”, which was great, but that was a big topic (no pun intended).  To focus better, to prevent getting distracted and journey off in ten different directions, I needed to focus my attention on only two things: food and fitness.  Large topics in and of themselves, I needed to further develop a laser focus on healthy food consumption.

Food Consumption

For the first month I intentionally did not pay attention to exercise, I simply focused on food intake.  I had to walk the dog so at least I was walking some.  The reason was that for me, I knew that when I started working out again, I would increase the amount of food I ate as the past had shown me.  I already ate more than I needed so I had to rewire my habits for decreased food, not just a diet, but a way of life.  Changing your trajectory is about making sustainable changes.

My sole focus for the first month was food intake and involved only three objectives: improving portions, increasing fiber intake, and decreasing salt consumption. (See my previous article for decreasing salt consumption.)

Improving portions.

This required the most discipline. It was uncomfortable. I had to focus on accepting the discomfort, embracing the discomfort as evidence I was truly changing my long-term trajectory. Correcting my portions began with this graphic from https://www.myplate.gov/


The biggest change that I had to make personally in getting my plate to look like this was decreasing my grain portion and my meat portions.  Usually my meat and grain portion was ¾ of the plate.  Just by improving my portions, my portions decreased and my healthy food consumption increased.  When I started using a smaller plate, well, there ya go.

I had to focus on accepting the discomfort, embracing the discomfort as evidence I was truly changing my long-term trajectory. The Aging Man

Tips for improving portions

Besides manning up and eating smaller portions, I developed a couple tips that helped me.

Smaller plate.  I always used the big plate from the cabinet.  So, I started grabbing the smaller plate found in the cabinet that a piece of pie usually goes on.  Aiming for my smaller plate to resemble the myplate.gov plate, improved my portions, almost with no thought.

Diversion.  The next thing I had to do was to immediately go do something after eating.  If I didn’t, I would sit there noticing that I was still hungry and often go grab a little more to eat.  This is were having a hobby or interest that takes some thinking helps target your brain to a task and not to hunger.  I found that reading didn’t help though, because I just felt hungry while reading…..

Embrace the snack. I understood that small snacks were ok, IF they weren’t unhealthy. Sometimes a snack lessened that famished feeling right before the meal that tempted me to throw out decreasing portion size.

Brush teeth.  I found that brushing after a meal didn’t necessarily keep me from heading back into the kitchen for more.  Some people, this works wonders for.  For me, I found that if I did my nightly teeth routine earlier than right before I go to bed, it cut down drastically on the late night snacking or the “fourth meal” as I’m loathed to call it.  It doesn’t always work, but it has definitely helped.

Bottom line is that improving my portions by improving the ratio of food types and decreasing the overall size of the meal, has proven to be a habit I can maintain and has benefitted my key performance indicators.

Increasing fiber intake.

I chose to pay attention to this one because I wanted to have the health benefits of a proper level of fiber intake.  According to the Mayo Clinic there are several benefits to a diet high in fiber: normalize bowel movements, helps maintain bowel health including decreasing risk of developing hemorrhoids, diverticular disease and lowers risk of colorectal cancer, lowers cholesterol, reduce blood pressure and inflammation, helps control blood sugar levels reducing the risk of developing type II diabetes, aids in achieving healthy weight by helping you feel full longer, decreased your risk of dying from cardiovascular disease and all cancers.  I figured with that list, that was a lot of bang for my buck. 

When increasing your fiber intake, it’s recommended that you take 2-3 weeks to build up to the daily recommended amount.  Too much too fast will give your gut bacteria difficulty adjusting.

By looking for higher fiber food choices, by default, I began purchasing healthier foods.  The quality of my snacks improved as well.  There are lots of food with varying amounts of fiber.  Because there are two types of fiber, each providing different benefits, having a wide variety of food sources of fiber is best. The list below is what I try to have and recommend every guy have on hand in the kitchen to practically increase daily fiber intake:

(As a participant in Amazon’s affiliate program, I earn a portion of sales through the links provided which helps keep this blog going! I only link to products I’ve used and like.)

Whole wheat bread

Triscuits, Popcorn, unsalted Almonds, unsalted Pistachios

Avacados and Bananas

Quinoa, Brown Rice

Oatmeal, Raisin Bran Cereal

Red beans, Lentils

Increasing fiber- practical food ideas.

Tortillas deserve their own paragraph here.  With 10 grams of fiber in these, it’s a no brainer to have these on hand.  I wrap all kinds of stuff in these, eggs, salad, chicken, fish, beans, anything really!  If, for some reason, I had very little fiber that day, I’ll just eat one.  My preferred product is Mission Carb Balance because they have the same consistency as the regular flour tortillas I’m used to and they have 10g fiber per.  Some brands I’ve tried have less fiber in them or have a tough consistency that I don’t like.  Try a couple different brands but try and go for at least 10g of fiber for the standard size tortilla.

Breakfast ideas

I have what I call a breakfast rotation but there is no rigid pattern other than to have variety. Breakfast is an excellent way to jump start your daily fiber intake.

I’ve worked plain microwave oatmeal into my breakfast rotation several times a week. I add cinnamon and apples myself. The apples provide fiber and the cinnamon provides flavor, nutrients, and anti-inflammatory properties.

I’ll wrap scrambled eggs in a whole wheat tortilla and add some salsa which makes a tasty way to get eggs and fiber for breakfast. Sometimes I’ll add avocado for flavor and fiber.

Honey nut cheerios or Raisin Bran cereal with a banana sliced up.

Snacks.

Healthy snacks are great but should always have a reason for being consumed.  Fiber intake is one reason for consuming snacks along with other nutrients present.

Triscuits and avocado slices have become a favorite snack for me. Because of the fat content in Avacado, which is ok fat, it helps you feel fuller, but it’s recommended you eat half an avocado a day rather than the whole. Leave the seed attached to the half of avocado and seal in a ziplock bag and place in the fridge. It’ll be fine for the next day. I tend to scrape any brown off the exposed surface the next day. Triscuits are my go-to cracker now. I used to eat all kinds of crackers, saltines, cheese-its, Ritz, tortilla chips, etc. Good source of fiber, minimal ingredients and not terrible with salt. Having made that one change, my snacking automatically became healthier.

Popcorn, almonds, pistachio’s are great snacks but do require moderation.  Watch the salt and or butter with the popcorn.  Because of the fat content in nuts, stick to one portion of the nuts rather than what I used to do eating a few handfuls. Always choose unsalted nuts!

Dinner Sides

I make a couple cups of quinoa at a time and keep in the fridge and I have a scoop or two with almost any type of meal I make either lunch or dinner.  I still have rice once in a while, but I have quinoa more often instead.  There is a lot you can make with it but I’ve kept it simple so far, just seasoning it in different ways for flavor.

Having Red beans or lentils ready in the fridge to add to a salad, soup, taco, or just heat up as part of dinner has been a very convenient add to my healthy food consumption plate.

Flax seed and Chia seed

Chia seeds have excellent fiber content and I’ve come to learn are nutrient packed!  I’m just learning what I can do with these so for now, I tend to put those in a post work out smoothie or occasionally add to a salad.  I have not become very versatile with chia seeds yet, but more info and ideas can be found here.

I use flax seed way more often.  Besides being a good source of fiber, it is nutrient packed.  I add milled flax seed as a light topping to steamed veggies or a salad.  I use it as part of “breaded” topping on salmon or chicken, I add to smoothies or oatmeal as well.  I’ve even sprinkled it in with pancake mix!  It has a very light nutty flavor and is easily added to many foods.  Note, avoid raw or unripe flaxseed due to potential toxins and speak with your physician prior to adding to your daily intake if you are on blood thinners.

The bottom line

When you have it on hand, it is easier to add high fiber foods to your daily healthy food consumption.  As mentioned earlier, a lot of foods have good fiber content. There may be some you like better or that fits in your dietary preferences or needs better.  Keep those on hand instead if you prefer.  For examples of other high fiber foods that you might like visit https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/high-fiber-foods/art-20050948

Focusing on improving portion size, increasing fiber, and decreasing salt has given me easy, practical ways to improve my healthy food consumption and change my health trajectory.

Tell me in the comments how you use chia seeds or what sources of fiber you enjoy.

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