It’s now late January and New Year’s resolutions are likely a figment of your imagination. It’s grey, dismal, and you probably want to curl up under a blanket with your comfy food and not come out until April. But, at the same time you’d like to become a tad healthier because, let’s face it, things aren’t going to magically change overnight. We’re overworked, underpaid, sleep-deprived, over-caffeinated twenty-somethings with nary a moment to breathe, much less workout. So, darlings, rather than looking on sketchy websites for everlasting life, consider this your Nutrition CliffsNotes from someone who actually knows their shit (i.e. not Dr. Oz or Jenny Craig).
Broke-Girl Grocery Shopping
Real talk—money can be a MAJOR barrier to eating as well as you want. You enthusiastically buy a bag of lettuce, only to find it wilting and gross four days later in your fridge’s crisper. Life choice: paying off student loans or buying produce that you find molding in your fridge and pantry a week later?
DO: Buy frozen produce; it’s just as nutritious as fresh produce, and it’s not going to go bad in a week or less. Obviously it doesn’t have the same textural appeal as fresh produce but sometimes fresh produce just isn’t going to make it in your household. And that’s OK. Throw frozen veggies into stir-fries, pasta dishes, and omelets. Toss frozen fruit into yogurt, a smoothie, or even as dessert with some whipped topping to finish it off.
DON’T: Rely as much on canned produce. Canned fruits usually have added sugar and canned veggies usually have more sodium. In addition, the canning process leaches out a lot of good vitamins and minerals that are naturally found in the food. Except beans (make sure to rinse them, unless you want to fart a lot) and tomatoes—feel free to stock up on those.
DO: Stock up on tubers and squash (sweet potatoes, potatoes, onions, garlic, rutabagas, turnips, butternut squash, spaghetti squash) as those will last quite a bit longer than those vegetables that have a higher water content. In addition, they’re high in fiber, vitamins and minerals, and bring some awesome flavor and texture to your meals.
DON’T: Always turn to frozen potato products. They usually have added salt and oils, and potatoes are easy to cut, fix to your liking, and quickly cook. Plus, ultimately, frozen products will cost more than the raw products that you fix yourself.
DO: Try to add some protein and fat to every meal and snack. Protein and fat take longer to digest so they will keep you full longer. Peanut butter is one of my top favorites (I keep a jar at work, and probably go through at least one jar per week), and while my coworkers might make fun of me, if the apocalypse comes, I will live and they will starve.
DON’T: Try to lose weight by cutting fat out of your diet. Fat is crucial to our body’s function and it helps keep us full. Part of the reason some of the very low-fat diets don’t work is because people get far too hungry.
DO: Add eggs to any meal you so desire. They’re a complete protein, low fat, and an AWESOME source of Vitamin D, iron, and B vitamins. They also have received a lot of shit from the medical field, but now we’ve come out in-between. If you don’t have heart disease, then feel free to have as many eggs as you want.
DON’T: Eat as many eggs as you want if you have high cholesterol. Limit yourself to four whole eggs (with the yolk, versus egg whites) per week.
DO: Grab a bottle of canola or olive oil to do your cooking with. Both options are great healthy mono- and polyunsaturated fats, and they don’t even have to be expensive varieties.
DON’T: Go cuckoo with the coconut oil quite yet—of all the oils it’s the highest in saturated fat. Also, don’t make the mistake of thinking that because olive and canola oils are good for you that you can use an unlimited amount. Yes they’re good for you, but they still are a very dense source of calories. One tablespoon of ANY oil has about 120 calories and 14 grams of total fat. If you’re in the market for weight control, please don’t cut fat out of your diet, but just be aware that it brings a higher amount of calories to the table than protein and carbohydrates.
DO: Opt for store brands, as they’re cheaper than the name brands 99 percent of the time.
DON’T: Automatically choose the store brand without checking that they are in fact cheaper than the name brand. Sometimes name brands run sales that you definitely want to nab.
DO: Get a sturdy, refillable, water bottle to keep filling up with water. Continually buying bottles of whatever-your-drinking is expensive and ridiculous. Get yo’ own Nalgene (they’re practically indestructible). Even in the winter, when you might think you don’t need as much water, you still need to keep up the hydrating work. With the heaters running us dry in every building, we lose a lot of fluid through our skin. PLUS, water is one of the three components of making sure you poop on the regular (yes, I went there): 1) fluids, 2) fiber, 3) exercise.
DON’T: Rely completely on diet sodas. Diet sodas, while calorie-free, still have sodium, and are pretty acidic—that acid can wear away at your enamel. I’m going to take a wild guess that being the first millennial to get dentures in your friend group is not one of your life goals…
DO: Check out the DASH diet for some solid advice for improving your overall diet, including:
- Make half your grains whole—look for the first ingredient on the list to say “whole wheat,” “whole grain ____,” “100-percent whole wheat bread.” Opt for brown rice and whole wheat pasta in place of their less fibrous counterparts.
- Eat lots of fruits and veggies—8 to 10 servings if you can! Or, in most people’s cases, the most you can stomach during a day.
- Choose lower fat dairy options over higher fat, processed options—for example choosing low-fat yoghurt over a Velveeta-laden dish
- Throw some nuts and seeds into your diet throughout the week—mmmm, delicious fiber.
WORK IT, DARLINGS
It seems that our generation is always moping about because we never exercise enough. Of course, there are the ones that never seem to miss a day at the gym, and while we silently covet their devotion, we also silently get angsty about it.
DO: Something you love. Society thrives on making us think that if we’re not running our asses off, or doing insane spin classes, then we’re doomed to live an unfit life. This is simply not true. If you don’t like what you’re doing for exercise then you won’t keep doing it. It’s that simple.
DON’T: Mistake easy for love. Yes, maybe you like walking because you find Zumba intimidating. But make sure you test out the different options before deciding. You might never know what you’re missing out on.
DO: Aerobic activity for at least ten minutes at a time. To gain the benefits from engaging in cardio activities, you can just do it in batches of ten minutes. So you can walk ten minutes before work, ten minutes at lunch, and ten minutes after work, and you’re set to go.
DON’T: Exercise without eating and drinking something beforehand. Some people thought that if you exercised on an empty stomach then you would automatically be delving into your fat stores for energy. Really, it just sets you up to perform less than optimally and you’re going to feel crappy. Period.
DO: Some strength training (weights, resistance exercise) two to three times per week. No, it will not make you all bulky, but yes, it will help preserve your bones. Strength training forces your bones to become stronger and will help stave off osteoporosis later in life. Start small and work up from there. As with most exercise, it doesn’t have to be extreme but it does need to be a habit.
You can even snag some free weights (five to ten pounds) from the store and do some bicep curls, lifts, and squats at home. No pressure, just fun and strong.
DON’T: Forget to eat/drink your calcium-containing foods and beverages. Either that or make sure to take a calcium supplement that also contains vitamin D (calcium and vitamin D work together). Women are at higher risk for osteoporosis than men, so we need to be proactive NOW before it’s too late.
I could literally go on about nutrition forever, darlings, but I think I’ve hit the high points. Is there anything that you think I’ve missed? What else do you want to know about?
Tweet @litdarling, or comment below, to let us know!