For our family, nutrition is all about balance and putting the right foods into our bodies so that we have the energy to go out and do the things we love. What you put in your body makes a big difference when it comes to sports and adventure. A healthy lifestyle isn’t about ripped abs, but… it’s a scientific fact that being overweight can lead to a myriad of health issues and who wants that?!
There Are 4 Elements To A Healthy Lifestyle
Eating these foods alone is not enough to create a healthy lifestyle, although it’s a great start. For a optimal health, make sure you are exercising daily, managing your stress level, and getting a solid 8 hours of sleep. If you feel like you are drowning, overwhelmed, anxious, or just can’t get the scale to budge, then it might be time to give up some stress. If you find yourself depressed, sluggish, unmotivated, and still not dropping weight, it might be time to add a little stress, preferably in the form of activities that make you jump out of bed, excited to start each day!
Being able to release short doses of cortisol without feeling like you are being chased by a bear all day long is a key ingredient in having the body you want and doing the things you love.
Hormones Matter More Than You May Realize
Changing a few key aspects in your diet can make a huge difference in your hormones and it’s no surprise that your hormone levels impact both your body weight and your energy level tremendously. So how do you keep your hormones at an optimal level?
Well for starters, you move frequently throughout your day and you manage your stress level. But more importantly, you put the best foods in your body to keep your hormones working in your favor because if your hormones are off balance, no amount of calorie restriction or dieting will help.
Blood Sugar Management is Key
One of the big reasons these 25 foods help you achieve optimal health is their ability to regulate your blood sugar levels. For a healthy lifestyle, you want to avoid spikes in your blood sugar. If you catch yourself getting “hangry” throughout the day, it’s a good indicator that you aren’t regulating your blood sugar levels well enough. Eating more of the following foods will help tremendously with regulating blood sugar and insulin levels. Not only will you start losing fat, but you will have tons more energy and feel fantastic.
The last factor in losing body fat is getting plenty of protein, healthy fat, and anti-inflammatory foods into your body. The foods below aren’t the only helathy food you can eat to live a healthy lifestyle. They just give you the most bang for your buck because of their high vitamin and antioxident content, which will help rid your body of toxins while revving up your metabolism and turning your body into a fat burning machine.
Without further ado…here are the best food that will help you stay active and keep your gut healthy
Spinach is nutrient dense, which means a lot of vitamins (including zinc, Vitamin K, iron, magnesium, & many more) in very little calories. Spinach provides a lot of fiber and some protein, which will help you stay full longer. We love spinach in our salads, we sauté them and add them to our eggs for breakfast or with our meats for lunch and dinner. We even throw spinach into our smoothies to help with blood sugar management. Try to get one serving of spinach in each day.
No, it’s not just for hipsters. Kale, like its cousin spinach, is packed with vitamins & nutrients. Kale has amazing antioxidant carotenoids and flavonoids which have been shown to reduce the risk of certain cancers. We love the crunch kale adds to our salads and how great it tastes cooked. Try adding kale to your protein such as ground beef (grass-fed of course), free range chicken breast, or our favorite, Mulay’s sausage. Kale also tastes great in soups and we use it daily in our greens juice.
We eat an arugula salad almost every day for lunch. Like spinach and kale, arugula is high in calcium, potassium, folate, and vitamins A, K, and C. Arugula is part of the cruciferous family, making it a great cancer-fighting food. Arugula is also a prebiotic, which means it helps in the natural growth of beneficial gut bacteria. Besides all these benefits and the fact that it is anti-inflammatory, I think arugula tastes amazing.
Don’t let the stigma around meat keep you from eating this superfood. Yes, industrialize red meat is bad for you. However, grass-fed, grass-finished beef from happy cows is very good for you. Grass-fed beef is very high in CLA’s and Omega 3’s, which will keep you healthier and leaner. Sourcing is very important so know where your beef comes from, how it was raised, and try to buy local whenever possible. If you are looking to add muscle & get leaner (and blood type O), you should be trying to eat 1/2 to 1 pound of grass-fed beef per day!
Wild Caught Fish
Wild caught fish is packed with Omega 3’s. If your read my blog Nutrition habits for a healthier life you know that adding more healthy fat is one of the best things you can do to help you loose weight.
What?! Yes, bacon. A little pork fat goes a long way. Just like the beef, find a well-sourced bacon (although we are happy with the quality of Trader Joe’s Applewood Smoked Bacon). We like that a small serving of bacon keeps us full and our blood sugar stable for many hours. We also use the bacon fat to sauté our brussel sprouts or to refry our pinto beans (never refry your beans with Canola Oil or Vegetable Oil). We also add crumbled bacon to our salads for flavor (don’t use packaged bacon bits…it’s not the same!). Don’t go overboard on bacon, however, 2 slices a day is fine for your health and can help you get leaner.
A little salami can also go a long way, but not all salamis are created equal! It all depends on the quality of ingredients and how it’s prepared. Make sure you are buying a high-quality salami that is made in smaller batches. Try finding salami at small artisan stores or craft made at local markets. We spend a lot of time hiking & rock climbing and are always looking for a good protein source to take with us. Salami is great for this. Although olives didn’t make our top 22 list, we do love snacking on olives with our salami. Note: Many precut salami’s add milk powder and preservatives. Read the label to make sure you are getting a healthy version.
Free Range Eggs
Eggs are a great, affordable form of protein. They are full of Vitamin A, B’s, D, E, and Omega 3’s. Of course, free range eggs are a healthier option, but when we are in a bind, we will settle for organic or dark yolk eggs, which still deliver a good dose of protein. Besides eating eggs on their own for breakfast, we use eggs in baking to add more protein, we add them to salads, and we hard boil them and take them on the go. My husband even adds raw eggs to his fat shakes!
Yum! Avocados are full of vitamins, fat, and fiber. Avocados are one of the best fat sources you can eat because they are full of oleic acid, which decreases inflammation. Avocados are also full of soluble fiber, which feed the friendly gut bacteria in the intestines and will give you a flatter stomach. We mash avocados to make guacamole and add this to many of our meals. We slice avocado and add it to salads, blend it with oil, vinegar, and seasonings to make a dressing; or just grab a knife and spoon and take it as an on-the-go snack.
Yep, we love butter. Well…certain butters. Such as butter that is made from grass-fed cows, like Kerry Butter from Ireland. Butter helps keep your blood sugar stable and if it’s from a good source, it provides Omega 3’s and is high in CLA’s (remember these good fats will help you get leaner). Make sure you don’t use margarine, as it is made from vegetable or canola oil and that is no bueno! Try adding butter and coconut oil to your organic black coffee to bulletproof it. We grew especially fond of French butter while in France (so much so that we often hiked with a baguette and a stick of butter!)
Full of fiber, vitamins, and healthy fats, dark chocolate is something we always keep on hand. If you are on a low carb diet, a square of organic, dark chocolate can be the perfect cure for a sweet tooth. Look for dark chocolates that are 70% cocoa or higher so you get all the antioxidant qualities without the sugar. Find chocolate that doesn’t contain soy (since most soy is GMO and you don’t want any of that) and is organic and/or fair trade whenever possible. We chop up our chocolate bars and use them to make many gluten-free breads or to eat as a mid-afternoon snack.
Cheese is another good source of protein, fat, and CLA’s. In small quantities, it can help you get leaner. The aging process of cheese removes almost all the lactose and helps your body produce more good bacteria, which keeps your tummy flat! That’s why you want to stick to hard cheeses. We love cheese because, just like bacon, a little bit goes a long way. Make sure you are buying high-quality cheese that isn’t mass produced (and avoid pre-shredded cheeses). We like to find grass-fed versions and are especially fond of raw and local cheeses. Aged parmesean cheese is also a great option.
Fiber and fat, that’s why almond butter is one of our favorite go-to’s. Almonds are high in vitamins, are great at keeping your metabolism revved up, and have incredible anti-inflammatory properties. We carry tubs of almond butter with us anytime we are on the go and try to have a couple tablespoons of it before bed. The fat and fiber in the almond butter will help keep your blood sugar level while sleeping, and remember, a good night’s sleep will help you get leaner. Raw, unsalted almonds are equally as beneficial, we just prefer it in its butter form.
Possibly the easiest and most overlooked means of getting healthier and leaner is garlic. Garlic has many nutritional benefits, but when it comes to your waistline, the top three are anti-oxidant, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal. Basically, garlic keeps your digestive system happy and healthy. We add crushed garlic to our salad dressings, we chop it and add it to our cooked meals, or some days we go hard core and smash it and eat it raw (let it sit for ten minutes first to release the active compound allicin).
While you are adding antioxidants, don’t forget this fantastic detoxifier. Cilantro is full of vitamins, cleanses the body of toxic metals and will help regulate your blood sugar level. We add cilantro to our salads, sprinkle some on top of our meals, or use it to make fresh salsa and guacamole.
Walnuts are another great source of Omega 3‘s. The fiber in walnuts will keep you full longer and provide you with another source of healthy fat. Walnuts have anti-inflammatory properties and will boost your metabolism. Walnuts are a great snack to take with you for the day, sprinkle them on your salad or sweet potatoes, or use them in your favorite baking recipe.
Broccoli, like so many foods on this list, is nutrient dense and full of fiber so it too will keep your blood sugar stable and inflammation levels low. We have to be honest, this one is not our favorite to eat. But being one of the most powerful antioxidants, we dice it small and hide it in a lot of other foods. We add it (along with a lot of other veggies) to our spaghetti sauce (skip the pasta), we dice it small and toss it in our salads, and we add it to our soups. For a good snack on-the-go, try making your own hummus to eat with your broccoli.
Oranges are a great source of Vitamin C (and more fiber), which is very important for boosting your immune system, but more importantly, for keeping your adrenals happy and healthy. Adrenal stress is a huge factor in being able to kick ass every day, stay lean, and play hard. The fiber in oranges keeps our blood sugar lower than most other fruits. The best part of oranges is that they are affordable and easy to take with you. Seriously, many days we only pack oranges, salami, and almond butter and hit the trail or crag.
Also high in Vitamin C, fiber, and loads of other nutrients, blackberries are a great snack or addition to smoothies. They have one of the highest levels of antioxidants of any fruits. Being priced slightly higher than oranges, they aren’t something we can afford on a daily basis (but we wish we could). We love traveling through Oregon in the summer when blackberries grow wild on the trail (and even on the side of the road). If you want ripped abs, go easy on the fruit. Use blackberries (or blueberries and dark cherries) as an occasional splurge.
Another great source of Vitamin C, sweet potatoes are a good way to get in your post-workout carbs while still providing fiber and many other vitamins, making them good at keeping your blood sugar levels low. We bake our sweet potatoes ahead of time so they are ready to eat right after our workout (when they are better absorbed). We like to top our sweet potatoes with walnuts to super charge this snack with extra fiber and healthy fat.
Kombucha is fermented tea that provides probiotics, enzymes and bacterial acids that will help boost your immune system and detoxify your liver. Like cruciferous veggies, kombucha has cancer-fighting properties and health benefits like lowering cholesterol and aiding in weight loss.
Fermented veggies like Sauerkraut and Kimchi are great for promoting the growth of probiotics in your body. Like kombucha, they porvide support to your immune system and support a healthy digestive system. Other fermented foods like miso, tempeh, pickles, kefir, and yogurt to name a few are also beneficial.
The following foods are not recommended if you have severe leaky gut. If you are just looking to improve your overall health, I encourage you to give up your processed foods, including bread and try using sprouted rice and black beans as your main source of carbs.
We are huge fans of a low carb diet, but that doesn’t mean carb free. Carbs are important for athletic performance and keeping your metabolism fast. We eat our carbs post workout and try to reach for potatoes and rice for our carbs instead of breads and pastas. Sprouted brown rice has four times more fiber than white rice, which makes it a better choice (although white rice now and then is fine too). The nutty flavor of this rice tastes great and makes a great addition to many meals.
We actually like all beans, but this one is our favorite. The fiber in black beans helps lower the total amount of cholesterol in the blood and decrease the risk of heart disease. It’s less starchy than a lot of other varieties of beans, which means less of an insulin spike, and tastes great in salads, soups, chili, and by themselves.
I can’t give these two up. I enjoy starting my day with a cup of organic coffee way too much and I enjoy finishing it with a smooth glassof red wine. Again, if you have severe leaky gut, it may be necessary to give these up for a month to heal your gut.
We love what coffee does for our memory, mood, alertness, & energy levels. That’s why we never skip our morning java! Coffee boosts your metabolism, helps you burn fat, and improves athletic performance (it’s loaded with antioxidants and vitamins too). Remember moderation (1-2 cups in the morning only)! Getting high-quality coffee and preparing it a certain way is super important to us. We always buy organic coffee beans and freshly grind them right before we prepare our coffee (don’t buy your coffee pre-ground). We either prepare our coffee using a french press or pour-over in order to get the maximum amount of nutrients and we drink it black.
Bonus: Red Wine
Red wine is another food that reduces oxidative damage in the body. It has received a lot of hype due to its nutritional benefits for the heart through the compound resveratrol. The reason we added it to our list is because of the overall effect it can have on your total calories (meaning it may help you eat less at dinner). We find a small glass before dinner (3-4 oz) helps eliminate a sweet tooth and relaxes the parasympathetic nervous system, which improves digestion. We aren’t partial to wine. One IPA can do the same thing if you keep it to a small serving (12oz or less). Stick with alcohol made in small batches from good quality ingredients.
How to integrate these 25 foods into meals on a daily basis
Breakfast: Sautéd spinach, black beans, eggs, + blackberries
Snack: Smoothie (blog with recipes coming soon)
Lunch: Kale or Arugula salad with walnuts, bacon, and avocado-cilantro dressing (see recipe here)
Snack: 2 squares of dark chocolate + kombucha
Dinner: One glass of red wine, a few slices of hard cheese + salami, roasted broccoli, sweet potatoes, sprouted rice, and grass fed beef cooked with garlic + tumeric. Add a side of kimchi or sauerkraut.
Snack before bed: 2 tbsp of almond butter + 1 orange
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