There is so much confusion surrounding all the different diets and which one is right for a specific person. Let's clear it up, create a fresh mindset and just take food back to the basics.
A healthy nutritional foundation is based on a simple nutrition mantra: ONLY CONSUME HIGH-QUALITY FOOD.
A New Mindset
First and foremost, it’s important to create a healthy mindset around food. Don't look back, because we aren't going there. You are starting today with a clean slate. The thought process should shift from, "I can't eat that" to "I can eat this." Focusing your thoughts to what you can eat will make your lifestyle nutrition plan an easier transition for you. The more one focuses on what they can't have - the more they want it. This is why I suggest you focus on what to do versus what not to do. Even though your mind will switch to focusing on what you can eat, this is not to say your body won't crave certain foods any longer. This is not the case and food cravings will continue to arise, but just for a while.
Cravings are a double edged sword because if you stick to your new choices long enough, the cravings will go away in due time. But because sugar or a mix of refined carbohydrates with fat are both extremely addictive, your body may enter a cephalic phase response due to "restriction" of the addiction (a normal response) causing cortisol levels (stress hormone) to increase for a brief duration. Elongated elevated cortisol levels can lead to systemic inflammation, difficulty losing weight, hormone disturbances, and can cause disruptions in sleep patterns. Bit of a catch 22.
However, as you address your gut health by improving the types of foods you eat and removing foods that are wreaking havoc on your intestinal wall and microbiome, cravings will diminish. You see, those microbiota within your gut are in charge of your cravings. So, trust that eventually these cravings will diminish and you will be free remembering there are much healthier alternatives, preparation and planning is key, and creating the mindset of abundance with what choices you can have (versus restriction).
THE CURRENT KITCHEN
We are going to clean it out, tossing everything in a box or bag containing anything refined or processed, anything with preservatives or artificial ingredients, aka GMOs, chemicals, or words that take effort to pronounce, and anything with sugar laden ingredients - even some paleo or vegan items will have sugar or some form of sugar within the first 3 ingredients. Don't save one of those things (For the parents out there, I know you are thinking I might be crazy, but I do have a child at home, a teenager now actually, and they need proper nutrition too and now. Proper nutrition 80% of the time, fun nutrition 20% -that’s like 6 days out of 30, or 18 meals out of 90 if we do the math. Fun or junk food is important for kids to eat sometimes (20%, i.e. remember not often) or else when they go off on their own, well, all hell will break loose.) So, not only will clearing out the pantry be easier for you to maintain your new lifestyle diet, but also more nutritious for those chillens. Need more help? Read more below:
Toss junk cereals, pasta, crackers, corn products, fruit juice, soda, sports beverages (try LMNT instead), ice cream, sugary alcoholic drinks, beer, flavored milk, syrups, meal-replacement drinks (no Slim-Fast, no Ensure), candy (wait! 75%+ organic, fair trade, single origin, raw dark chocolate is perfectly fine to keep), oils (will discuss which ones to keep below) but pitch the genetically modified hybrids of oils coated with petroleum and chemicals and deodorizers like soybean/vegetable/canola, and anything else in there you know is questionable.
YOUR NEW KITCHEN
Everything you need can be found where you shop already. Aim for organic, local and farm fresh foods. You may get interested in joining a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), but for now, you can shop the perimeter of your normal grocery store. DO NOT GO DOWN THE AISLES - trust me - don't tempt yourself! Instead, stay on the outside perimeter of the store where you will find the real, whole foods.
Here's your Primary List:
Fresh Veggies: Organic and local when possible. I could list a million, here are a few of my favs: Cauliflower, Kale, Broccoli, Peppers, Asparagus, Arugula, Mushrooms, Eggplant. Starchy are ok too but focus on Sweet Potatoes, Yams, Plantains, Beets, Yuca/Cassava, Parsnips and Taro.
Fresh Fruits: Berries are best - Raspberries, Blueberries, Blackberries, Strawberries, other fruits too - Mango, Apples, Oranges, Pomegranate, Kumquats, bananas, etc; fatty fruits work also Coconut, Avocado.
Eggs: Organic, Pasture-Raised or Local (oftentimes local eggs are organic, it just costs a lot for the organic labeling)
Lean Meats: Grass-Fed (and grass finished if possible) Beef, Bison, Chicken, Turkey, Local Pork only, Lamb, Elk, Venison. No MSG, sugar, nitrates/nitrites, cured Bacon or cured Jerky
Fish, Mollusks, Crustaceans: Wild caught fresh (I could write another article just on this, but let's keep this simple)...Canned Wild Caught Tuna, Sardines, Salmon
Nuts, Nut-butters, Seeds: Raw, Unsalted (unless you're a hardcore athlete or a salty sweater) Macadamias, Almonds, Cashews, Pecans, Walnuts, Pistachios, Hazelnuts, Chia Seeds, Sunflower Seeds, Sesame Seeds, Pumpkin Seeds, Flax-seeds, Nut-milk substitutes -I love making cashew milk - it’s so easy! Recipe at bottom! (no Peanuts but just FYI, it's not a nut, it's a legume - I bet you already knew that.)
Fats, Oils: real BUTTER from grass-fed cows (Organic Valley, Anchor, KerryGold), Ghee, Olive Oil, Coconut Oil, Avocado Oil, Lard (not grape seed- this is usually made well but has a huge imbalance of omega 6 to 3, not good)
Beverages: Organic Fair Trade Coffee, Tea, Water, Kombucha
Gut Health Focus: Think fermented foods - Kombucha, Sauerkraut, Kimchi, Apple Cider Vinegar, Lemons, Limes, Ginger
Foods to keep limited. By this I mean, if you are attempting to cure an illness, then wait until you reach your goal or next step of treatment protocol before adding these to your kitchen.
Dairy or dairy substitutes: fermented organic with no added sugar - Kefir, Cottage Cheese, Plain Yogurt, Cream, Aged Artisan Cheese, nut milks, see cashew milk recipe at bottom!
Protein Substitutes or Supplements: Pea protein meat alternatives are ok, but avoid soy based products. As for protein supplements, Whey isolates and Egg White proteins are best. Make sure to avoid those with artificial sweeteners and colorings.
Beans, Legumes: Always soak overnight and cook thoroughly, no BPA canned beans, Organic only. Black beans, Kidney beans, Navy beans, Lentils, Sugar Snap Peas, White beans, Black-eyed peas, Garbanzo beans.
Gluten Free Whole Grains: Aim for sprouted! Brown rice, wild rice, buckwheat, millet, quinoa, amaranth, gluten free oats.
Sweeteners: Dried fruit (dates), Raw Honey, Stevia Leaf or Extract, 100% Maple Syrup. Use these sparingly!
Here is your how to:
1/2 your plate non starchy veggies
1/4 your plate lean protein
1/8 your plate fruit
1/8 your plate grain
1-2 healthy fat servings per meal
Because of the types of foods you will now be consuming, most likely you will be able to have larger quantities of food, and your body composition will change for the better with your energy levels dramatically increasing! WIN-WIN-WIN!
The longer you use and stick to using the list above you will be feeling like your best self!