This article was originally written for the Katy Trail Weekly newspaper.
From “Keto” to “Whole30”, to “gluten-free” and beyond, people gravitate toward certain diets for various reasons— weight loss, low energy, health complications, or even just because it’s trending.
At the end of the day, we all want to look healthier, younger and feel our best and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.
Each time a new “dietary trend” emerges, it is in our nature to want to focus on the results, especially when we are struggling on a shaky foundation. When the foundation is strong and we are feeling good, we are less inclined to waiver in our dietary decisions.
So what is the big secret? The simple hack I speak of?
Some of you may not like this, but this simple hack is simply adding leafy greens (think mixed greens, baby kale, or romaine lettuce) and low starch steamed, roasted, or sautéed vegetables, at every meal and here’s why:
With any “diet,” the goal, whether subconscious, or not, is to achieve a level of health where you look as good as you feel.
Often, new programs eliminate foods that are already causing inflammatory responses in the body.
For instance, although different lifestyle approaches, the Keto and Whole30 diets both eliminate grains, an ingredient that many people unknowingly struggle with.
Naturally, this sort of elimination diet feels good in the beginning, perhaps even a few months, or a year in, but when a diet does not contain enough water-containing, mineral-rich leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables, our digestion becomes sluggish, the liver congested and our overall energy levels and sense of well-being become sub par.
This is because mainstream diets tend to focus more so on macronutrients— (the protein, fat and carbs in food) and overlook micronutrients. Micronutrients include important minerals, trace minerals, vitamins and naturally occurring acids (like those occurring in citrus fruits). When I discuss the nutritional value of specific foods with my clients, I often refer to a food’s “resume” because if you were a hiring manager looking over a resume, you’d likely look for a “hire” with more than one talent– someone a bit more “well rounded” over the person with one. talent. only.
Vegetables, like broccoli, are rarely looked at as anything other than a good source of fiber, taking up less than a quarter of the plate, if any space at all.
At first glance, broccoli appears to be just a low calorie food that is also relatively low in protein, fat and carbohydrates. If you take a look at their overall “resume”, however, we find that just one cup of cooked broccoli contains the recommended daily amount of immune boosting Vitamin C and bone building Vitamin K, not to mention a variety of vitamins, minerals and anti-inflammatory properties not found in most animal proteins, or fat sources. Vegetables, like broccoli, also contain more than 50% water and when gently cooked, the fiber serves as a natural broom, moving denser macronutrients forward in the digestive system. (An easy way to skip the “colon broom” supplements, if you will).
While one might experience a great deal of initial weight loss and relief on a low carb diet, like Keto, there is a lack of emphasis on overall fiber intake (and micronutrients) and it can cause unwanted side effects, like bad breath, constipation, headaches, and further down the road, far greater issues (like high cholesterol and heart conditions).
When we only focus on whether a food is “gluten-free”, “high in protein”, “rich in fat”, or “low in carbs”, or even “vegan,” we miss out on vital nutrients that keep the body happy and healthy and in a state of balance.
Magnesium, for example, is arguably one of the most important minerals in the body.
A deficiency in magnesium can cause a variety of ailments from: migraines, depression, anxiety and insomnia, to more serious issues like: brittle bones, hypertension and kidney and liver damage. Many of the richest sources of magnesium are plants, like: cooked spinach, dark leafy greens, raw pumpkin and sunflower seeds, legumes, and avocado, for instance. (Read more about magnesium, here).
It’s easy to get swept up into caring about different dietary lifestyle guidelines, but this one simple hack will add vital micronutrients to every meal, digestive enhancing fiber, keep you satisfied longer, while also decreasing the number of overall calories consumed from more dense foods.
Whether you are having a steak, or eating a gluten-free vegan pasta, adding leafy greens and a side of lightly cooked low starch veggies to your plate can dramatically help improve your health without feeling restricted.
It’s the simplest diet hack you will ever get.
Lifestyle changes and diets can feel overwhelming. There is always a focus on what you cannot have.
Do yourself a favor– try this super simple tip. Simply add leafy greens and low starch steamed, roasted, or sautéed vegetables, at every meal.
Even if it as simple as adding sautéed broccoli and spinach to every meal. You will feel fuller faster, be less inclined to overeat the bread and chips and ultimately… come out on top. 😘