Eating For Renewal

by Kari Hartel, RD, LD

Program Coordinator, Cooking Matters, Operation Food Search

It’s a brand new year, and what better time to think about renewing your body and soul than now. The New Year brings with it promises of new beginnings. One important step on the path to renewal is having a fresh start to your diet. Getting back to the basics and avoiding highly-processed foods are essential to eating a clean, nutrient-rich diet that will help you feel your best. There are many “fad” diets out there that guarantee you’ll feel renewed and refreshed, but most of these diets are more hype than help. Listed below are tried and true tips for success.

Eat a Variety of Whole Foods
Whole foods, which are whole, minimally processed forms of foods—particularly fruits and vegetables—are full of vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants, and other phytochemicals that are good for our bodies. Whole pieces of produce still contain the skin, which is where most of the nutrients (including the all-powerful fiber) are located. Additionally, whole foods are more often free of unwanted preservatives and other unhealthy added ingredients, such as salt, fat, and sugar. Try to grow your own produce or shop at a local farmers’ market. You’ll get a variety of fresh, organic ingredients and feel more connected with the people in your community.

Drink Plenty of Water
When it comes to beverages, water reins king in regards to your health. Unlike many beverages that are consumed in the United States, water has no calories, fat, sodium, or sugar. Another added bonus if you drink tap water (which is safe): it’s free! Water is needed to keep our bodies hydrated and aids in digestion and absorption of nutrients. Try to limit or avoid completely your intake of caffeine. People who give up caffeine often say they feel better both mentally and physically.

Avoid Drastic “Cleanses”
Other fad diets that have been enjoying their time in the limelight due to their popularity among celebrities are cleanses. These diets promise to rid your body of toxins, cause a rapid loss of weight, and leave you feeling an overall sense of wellbeing. However, none of these claims are backed by sound, scientific research, and more importantly, many of them can be downright dangerous. Cleanses can cause extreme fatigue (due to their dangerously low calorie levels), dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, gastrointestinal issues, and headaches. Also, any weight loss you experience is likely temporary and due to fluid loss or muscle wasting, not actual fat loss. As soon as you start eating a normal diet again, the weight will return.
Your body does an excellent job of ridding itself of unwanted materials through two very effective organs, which are your kidneys and your liver.

Avoid Overly-Processed Foods
Become accustomed to checking food labels and trying to choose those with fewer ingredients. The longer the list of ingredients, the more processed the food is. A general rule of thumb: if you can’t pronounce the ingredient or have no clue what it is, don’t eat it.

For more information on Operation Food Search and our nutrition programs, visit www.operationfoodsearch.org.