By Dr. Shawna Darou, ND
Is it time to put some attention on your nutrition?
When we’re struggling with fatigue, bloating, stress and body aches the first place to look is at our nutrition. Complete the following checklist and see how you do and where you might need some support:
- Do you have signs of unstable blood sugar levels (e.g. intense carbohydrate cravings, feeling tired and bloated after a meal, and sugar cravings in the afternoon)?
- Do you skip meals or delay eating (i.e. go for more than five hours without eating during the day) – Note this does not apply if you are deliberately practicing intermittent fasting.
- Do you eat too little protein (i.e. less than 40 grams per day, or protein with only one of your daily meals)?
- Do you eat less than four servings of vegetables per day?
- Do you eat less than one or more than three servings of fruit per day?
- Are the majority of your fats coming from dairy fat, meat fat, vegetable oils, fried foods (rather than healthier choices of olive oil, nuts, seeds and avocado)?
- Do you eat many packaged foods?
- Do you consume more than four alcoholic drinks per week?
- Do you consume sugar daily?
- Do you eat simple carbohydrates (i.e. foods with white flour and sugar) more than three times per week)?
If you answered “Yes” to any of these questions, there is room for improvement with your nutrition. Take action now! It’s amazing how your health will improve in a short period of time.
The answer to better health is not multivitamins – It’s changing your diet.
Take charge: Take these simple steps to improve your nutrition now
1) Identify and avoid your food intolerances
If you have identified food intolerances, it is important to consistently avoid these foods because they increase overall inflammation in your body. Learn more about food intolerances here: https://drshawnadarou.com/2020/10/06/how-food-intolerances-affect-your-immune-system/
2) Eat enough protein
Many women do not eat enough protein each day, and this is essential for your energy levels, hormone balance, immune system function and optimal body composition and metabolism. Your body needs a minimum of 40 grams of protein daily from either animal or vegetarian sources. (You can find protein in meat, poultry, fish, beans, lentils, eggs, high-protein dairy if tolerated, nuts and seeds, hemp hearts, and more).
3) Decrease inflammatory foods
Top inflammatory foods include the following. Keep your intake of inflammatory foods low and occasional.
- Fried foods
- Nightshade vegetables (potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant)
- Vegetable oils
- Sugar and white carbohydrates
- Packaged food
- For many people dairy is also inflammatory
4) If sugar is your struggle, go on a seven-day no sugar plan to break the habit
Sugar is very addictive—the more you eat, the more you crave. Interestingly, your cravings will drop significantly after just a week eating sugar-free. Substitute with fruits, and small amounts of natural sweeteners.
5) Eat four or more vegetables a day
Enjoy green smoothies, steamed vegetables, roasted veggies, raw vegetables for snacks, big salads, soups, stews. Prep ahead of time! Upping your vegetable intake will greatly boost your energy, and provide a great variety of antioxidants.
6) Eat organic
Prioritize organic meats and dairy (or at least choose grass-fed, free-range, antibiotic-free meats); and use the Environmental Working Group’s list of the “Dirty Dozen” and the “Clean 15” to make better choices with your produce.
7) Choose low-sugar fruits
The best choices for fruits are berries, apples, pears, and seasonal fruits for optimal blood sugar metabolism. Be careful of tropical fruits which typically have much higher sugar content. Optimally you want to have between 1-3 fruit servings daily, depending on your blood sugar and insulin levels.
8) Learn to cook healthy foods
Take a cooking course online or in-person. Healthy foods taste great, make you feel good, and are enjoyable, and remember that if you’re using good quality, fresh foods the recipes don’t need to be very complicated to bring out the best flavour.
9) Minimize sugar, sweeteners, and white carbohydrates
Occasional treats are fine, but try healthier versions (e.g. raw treats or snacks made with whole grain or gluten-free flours and natural sweeteners). For most people, an occasional treat means one to two times per week.
10) Emphasize omega-3 fats and olive oil
Enjoy olive oil, nuts, seeds, and avocado plus oily fish like salmon as your main fats. Remember that fats are essential for hormone balance and brain function. Gone are the days of low-fat eating!
11) Stock your pantry
Keep a good supply of stables for quick and easy meals: nuts and seeds, beans and lentils, sea vegetables, organic olive oil, coconut oil. Stock your freezer with frozen berries, flaxseeds, frozen spinach for soups and stews. Eat the rest fresh!
12) Clean out your cupboards
Get rid of packaged foods, processed salad dressing, anything that says low-fat, and frozen entrees. Replace them with real foods.
13) Plan your menus ahead of time
Planning in advance is an excellent way to save money and time, and stay on track with healthy foods. Batch cooking takes it up a notch, and ensures that you have healthy foods in your fridge at the end of a long day.
14) Don’t focus on calories, low-fat or food restrictions!
Instead, shift your focus to eating highly nourishing real foods. You will find that your unreasonable cravings start to go away. Food can still be pleasure and love—the more healthy foods you eat, the more manageable your cravings will be.
In many cases, diet changes alone will transform your health. I have seen menstrual cramps and PMS vanish; eczema clear up entirely; women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), who were told they would never conceive naturally, get pregnant; energy levels flourish, and life-long depression vanish. My philosophy is to start with food first!
And if you’re looking for some inspiration on eating simply and eating well one of my favourite documentaries is “In Defense of Food” by Michael Pollan (find it on Apple TV and Prime Video).
Please note that content on this website is intended for informational purposes only, and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional, not is it meant to diagnose or treat a health problem, symptom or disease. Always speak with your physician or other healthcare professional before taking any medication or nutritional supplement, or using any treatment for a health problem. If you have or suspect that you have a medical problem, contact your health care provider promptly. Do not disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking professional advice because of something you have read on this website. Information provided on this website DOES NOT create a doctor-patient relationship between you and any doctor affiliated with our website.