With years of extensive research and life experience (which includes parenting seven children, one with huge digestive issues, four adopted with extra nutritional needs) and the overall desire to help my family to be healthy, I have still not “arrived”. However, I have learned several things. First, when I was growing up we were taught about the four basic food groups, to exercise and avoid illegal drugs or too much candy. That’s about it. Now, it is much more complicated to get a handle on everything we are supposed to know. The four food groups have given way to the Pyramid and most folks don’t recognize that as very authoritative. (And there are several Pyramid versions.) We didn’t have much on our radar in the stuff to avoid category either. Now there are helpful nutritional and ingredient labels with lots of words that you may not be able to pronounce, and even if you can, it’s another thing to really know what it is and whether it is safe or not.
So, the first basic tip is to limit yourself to safe foods as much as possible. It may sound and feel like deprivation, but you may find yourself branching out to a whole host of items you never even tried before and liking them! This may require a lot of label reading and a learning curve. The second tip is to continue learning. Whole foods in their least processed forms are generally pretty safe. (Organic and non-GMO are even better safety nets in many cases.) If you have any food sensitivities or allergies you may already be good at reading food labels. In most cases the lower the added sugar the better. There are varied types of sugars to be aware of as well. High fructose corn syrup is one to be careful of. (We have discovered Soda Stream for our carbonated beverage fix so that we can have soda without HFCS. It is a compromise between cutting it out completely and having the worse kind.) Eating more fruits and vegetables is not deprivation, but more of them will necessarily cut back the volume of other less healthy alternatives. Third, preparing food at home is huge. This will go a long way toward eating healthier and help your food budget as well (a good stress-buster)!
My next tip is not to stress over the small things. Make good choices based on what’s available and don’t beat yourself up with guilt if you are not perfect. No one is. Stress is as damaging to your health as an unhealthy diet. Stress management is something we are going to be working on in the coming weeks in our family. Knowing my joy — my true, deep down never running out joy — comes from having Christ as my Savior, is my number one stress-buster! I hope it is yours as well. It trumps all other stress-management techniques.
The third tip I have (these are in no particular order by the way) is of course, move. If the thought of “exercise” makes you tired, then just move. If you have stiff joints upon awakening, do some gentle stretches, even before standing up while sitting on the side of your bed. Walk and sit with good posture (goes along with moving so that your moving will be more helpful and you can breathe deeper). Branch out into moves you haven’t done in a while, or encourage the kids to move in different (fun) ways. A little faster walking, some impromptu dancing, or take up a new, active hobby. Lastly, get outdoors every day. Even if it is just a little while, it will give you vitamin D and a better attitude on life which is helpful in your stress management. You might even find yourself moving a little more out there. But beware of you or your children doing damage by doing anything dangerous, and pushing themselves to the extremes when they aren’t supporting their body nutritionally. Lead up to strenuous physical activity in a safe way.
Tip #4 . Many folks take vitamins and supplements for various reasons. I have found (with much research, again) that Juice Plus is a whole food supplement that provides a lot of nutritional value in a little package. Other supplements may be needed to fill particular deficiencies, but for an overall nutritional foundation, Juice Plus fits the bill for my family’s overall health — another stress buster knowing that we have that firm foundation, even on days when our diets fall flat.
My last tip is forgive. You ask how is that a health basic? It’s kind of like stress, eating you up and destroying your health when you fail to forgive — little things, big things, grudges, pet peeves — and it all adds up so that you have a bad, grumpy attitude and are tired all the time, feeling like poor, pitiful me, and begin to have real physical ailments from it. Forgiveness is a choice we can make, even when we don’t feel it. Feelings are wishy-washy. Don’t make your choices based on your feelings, but let your feeling follow your right choices. Have a happy, healthy family!