INSIDE: This article explains the ins and outs of holistic eating alongside my total honesty about my successes and failures at eating this way. I hope that this will help you realize you can do this even if you don’t do it perfectly.
I’ll be honest…
I’d like to say I eat healthy and holistically all the time, but it’s just not the case.
Honestly, I’m not sure anyone with kids, a career, a house, and anything else that takes a considerable amount of time and effort can abide by any certain way of eating all the time.
I do feel eating a healthy diet is extremely important, however, and I do my best to eat healthy as much as I can.
That’s why this article isn’t going to spell out all the ins and outs of holistic eating without also sprinkling in my honest interjections about how I eat.
I’m not going to sit here and pretend I eat correctly according to this diet all the time. Actually, I’d say I’m successful about half of the time.
The point, though, is that striving to follow a healthy diet is one of the most important things any of us can do for our health, and I hope this mixture of information and honest input helps you understand how you can realistically achieve the healthy diet that works for you and your family.
Why I Suggest Holistic Eating (as much as you can)
Before we get into the stuff that’s more fun, I think it’s important to first get the not so fun stuff out of the way because we need to understand why we should bother eating a holistic diet to be successful at it.
Unfortunately, the American diet has turned into a smorgasbord of processed foods, sugary treats, and fried fatty foods that are void of nutrition and full of toxins and chemicals.
It’s no secret that there are more Americans who are overweight, diabetic or suffering from a slew of other chronic diseases, and it’s no coincidence that we eat the way we do.
When you think about it, it’s easy to understand how this happened…
- Most of us are so time-starved, overworked, and stressed that we turn to convenient packaged or fast food.
- We eat more than we should be eating because we have a mentality that more is better.
- We scarf our food down in between running here and there, without even realizing we are full.
- We eat when we are stressed, and it’s never the healthy foods we grab during those times. It’s chips, pastries, ice cream, etc.
- And we don’t exercise as much as we should.
Here are some shocking statistics about the way we eat:
- According to Fitness.gov , the typical American diet exceeds the recommended levels of calories from solid fats and added sugars, refined grains, sodium, and saturated fat.
- Americans eat less than the recommended amounts of vegetables, fruits, whole-grains, dairy products, and oils.
- About 90% of Americans eat more sodium than is recommended for a healthy diet.
Reducing the sodium Americans eat by 1,200 mg per day could save up to $20 billion a year in medical costs.
According to Kansas State University, a healthy diet has the power to reduce the risk of chronic health conditions, including the three leading causes of death: heart disease, cancer, and stroke.
- 37% of Americans have cardiovascular disease.
- 34% of U.S. adults have hypertension, which is a major risk factor for stroke and heart disease.
- 36% of American adults have pre-hypertension (blood pressure levels that are higher than normal, but not yet in the hypertension range).
- 41% of the population will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime.
The World Health Organization states that at least 80% of all heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes, as well as up to 40% of cancer, can be prevented if people eat healthier foods, engage in more physical activity, and quit smoking.
But there is Hope!
What if you could eat delicious food that makes you feel amazing, maintain an ideal weight, and enjoy optimal health and vitality?
Holistic eating makes that possible!
By eating natural, unprocessed, whole foods, we provide our bodies with the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients we need to function at our best, without unnecessary added sugar, salt, and unhealthy fats.
What the Heck is Holistic Eating?
You can think of holistic eating as eating the way our ancestors did because it involves eating foods that are as close to their natural state as possible. Our ancestors didn’t have processed foods, so they had to eat whole food meals from scratch all the time.
Otherwise known as clean eating, holistic eating means that you consciously choose to eat foods that are unprocessed, unrefined, organic and locally grown. Whole foods (real food that comes from nature, as opposed to man-made, unhealthy food) is the majority of what you’ll eat if you choose a holistic diet.
Having said that, I can tell you that I only succeed at this about 50%-65% of the time. It’s just too hard to always make things from scratch when you have five kids to tend to, but it is worth it when I succeed!
Holistic eating or clean eating isn’t concerned with how much food or calories you eat, rather it’s about being mindful of where your food comes from and the processes it goes through before it gets to your plate.
The shortest route to your plate is always preferred, which means you want to avoid as much processing, refining, flavoring, coloring, and packaging as possible, and locally grown foods that can be consumed closer to when they are picked are ideal.
The idea is to eat foods that are free from chemicals, additives, unhealthy fats, and sugars in order to support a strong immune system and prevent chronic disease.
But holistic eating isn’t just about what we eat. It’s also about leading a healthy lifestyle in general and being mindful about your whole being as you make choices to promote optimal health and vitality physically, mentally, and spiritually.
The Many Benefits of Holistic Eating
Holistic eating comes with numerous benefits that will help you enjoy optimal health and vitality. Here are 13 reasons why holistic eating is the diet I try to live by.
1. You’ll Feel Better
Nutrients are the foundation of the structure and function of the cells in our body. Our health and the way our cells operate is directly determined by what we eat. The saying, “we are what we eat,” is in fact, a fact.
Holistic eating is a nutrient-rich diet that gives our cells and organs the best shot at optimal function. When your cells and organs are functioning optimally, you’ll feel incredible! You’ll experience more energy and less unwanted symptoms.
I can attest to this because when I am rockin’ it by eating mostly whole foods, my fibromyalgia is almost non-existant. I also notice I have more energy and feel like I can tackle the world.
2. You Don’t Have to Feel Deprived
Holistic eating is not a fad diet and it will not help you drop pounds quickly. It will help you lead a healthy lifestyle so you can prevent disease and enjoy a better quality of life.
It doesn’t restrict the amount of food you eat, which means it doesn’t leave you feeling deprived. It simply requires being mindful that you are choosing foods that are closest to their natural state.
There are so many amazing clean eating recipes available these days that it’s rare that I feel deprived when I eat this way. Believe it or not, you can pretty much quench any craving you might have with foods you can make from whole food ingredients.
Yes, every now and then, I want to order a pizza or have a hot dog, but it’s rare, so I do sometimes give in and I do so without feeling guilty because my goal is to be healthy, not to deprive myself. When I have too much of the foods that aren’t good for me, my body tells me so because I feel like crap, and then it’s easy to get back on track.
3. You’ll Manage Your Weight More Easily
Although holistic eating is not a typical diet that people go on to lose weight, there are definite weight benefits to it.
Since vegetables and fruits are such a big part of clean eating, most people notice an improvement in their metabolism as a result of moving to a clean diet. Processed and sugary foods also pack on the pounds, so avoiding them will often allow you to shed some pounds.
4. You’ll Enjoy Improved Focus & Mental Clarity
Consuming processed foods and an abundance of sugar clouds the mind, and makes us feel unfocused and sluggish. Holistic eating, on the other hand, makes us feel sharp and focused because it makes our brains function at peak ability.
I love how I feel like I can take on anything as a result of maintaining a holistic diet. It’s a noticeable difference that makes it easier to eat healthy because I want to feel on the ball.
5. You’ll Have More Energy
The foods we consume on a clean diet are packed with nutrients that provide us with more energy. You’ll no longer feel sluggish and ready for a nap when you eat the right foods, and you won’t need a rush of caffeine to get you through the day either.
I take it to heart that I am what I eat, so I really enjoy eating whole foods because I think about the life force of the plants or whatever it is that I am eating and it makes me feel good and energized. On the other hand, when I eat things that aren’t good for me, I just try not to think about it – LOL – because I don’t want to think about the crap that is becoming part of me.
6. Your Hair & Skin Will Benefit
When we eat clean foods, we promote cell growth, which helps strengthen your skin, hair, and nails. Healthy foods naturally reduce inflammation on the skin which is often brought on by consuming too many sugary foods. This will improve your complexion, and you’ll also enjoy the anti-aging benefits since clean eating helps prevent collagen in the skin from breaking down.
7. You’ll Sleep Better
The food we eat has a direct bearing on our hormones which in turn affects the quality of sleep we get. By removing so much of the excess sugar and caffeine that is in many processed foods and replacing them with whole food choices, we calm our nervous system and allow our natural sleep patterns to develop so that we experience the deep sleep we need to feel well rested.
8. You’ll Feel Happier
Studies have indicated that reducing your sugar intake has a direct correlation to your mood and happiness. That’s reason enough to make healthier food choices, don’t you think?
I certainly feel moody when I eat junk food and I feel happier when I eat whole foods. If you haven’t noticed a difference, try it! Just give yourself a couple days of eating only whole foods and then throw in a junk food and notice how you feel.
9. Your Immune System Will Be Stronger
Nutritious foods help build a strong immune system, so you’ll notice that you get sick less often and when you do get sick, you’ll recover a lot faster.
10. You’ll Reduce Your Risk of Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is a lifestyle disease that is primarily caused by consuming too much sugar and junk food. People have been known to prevent and even reverse diabetes by making the right food choices.
One of my clients wrote a great book about how he reversed diabetes. Check it out here.
11. You’ll Enjoy More Mindfulness
Instead of being a slave to your cravings and appetite like so many people, holistic eating teaches you to be more mindful about eating, which helps you gain control and improve your eating habits out of conscious choice.
Mindfulness is something that can really benefit us. When we go about our days like drones, just going through the motions, we aren’t really living. By being more conscious throughout the day, you create a much richer experience for yourself.
12. You’ll Prevent Chronic Disease
One of the biggest reasons to make the switch to holistic eating is to prevent chronic disease, such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, and even arthritis. So many of the foods we eat cause harm and lead to disease.
By avoiding man-made chemicals and sticking with what nature intended, our bodies experience more balance, and our organs can function at optimal levels. When that is happening, there is no reason for disease to inhibit our bodies.
I don’t take medication for my fibromyalgia. Instead, I take supplements, exercise daily, and I make healthy food choices as often as I can. When I slip up on those things, I have a flare up and then I’m reminded to get back on track.
13. You’ll Even Save Money
While eating healthier foods can seem more expensive at first, you will actually save more on a holistic diet inadvertently. That’s because you won’t get sick as often, saving you money on medical bills and prescriptions.
The Principles of Holistic Eating
Holistic eating is a relatively straight-forward way of eating that is fairly easy to follow and can be adapted to almost any lifestyle. There are five principles that can help you successfully bring this healthy lifestyle diet into your life.
Here are the 5 principles of holistic eating that I follow:
1. Choose Whole Foods & Avoid Processed Foods
This is the main guiding principle of holistic eating. To sum it up, you just want to choose foods that are minimally processed or that have the shortest route to your plate. These are foods that are free from chemicals, additives, and artificial flavors and colors. Anything artificial is considered unclean.
By avoiding processed foods, you will naturally reduce the amount of salt, sugar, and unhealthy fat in your diet. I’ll provide more in depth information about processed foods in the “Tips For Eating Clean” section.
By eating more whole foods, you will naturally eat more vegetables and fruits, which are packed with minerals, vitamins, and fiber. Plus, they are low in calories. Load up at least half of your plate with fresh veggies and fruit for optimal health.
Include healthy proteins at every meal. Choosing the right meats are important – choose grass-fed beef and poultry that contains no hormones or antibiotics (organic is really the only way to ensure that what the label says is accurate in these cases). Beans, whole grains, leafy greens, and eggs are other forms of healthy protein.
2. Eat More Often & Be Mindful As You Eat
Not only does holistic eating mean being mindful of the foods you eat but also of the portions. While you aren’t restricted in calories on a holistic diet, you do want to be mindful that you aren’t loading up on hefty meals. Five or six smaller meals are best because it will serve to keep your energy levels consistent throughout the day, which keeps your blood sugar levels in check.
The best way to do this is to be mindful as you eat. That means you slow down, engage your five senses, and notice how your body feels as you eat. Instead of eating until you are full, stop just before. By slowing down, you will be able to find that perfect stopping point.
I was pretty good at this until my latest baby came along – now I have to eat my food way too fast most of the time. As he gets a little older, I should be able to practice this again and I’m really looking forward to it!
3. Exercise Consistently
Holistic eating means that you are taking the whole body into account, and that means you can’t only be conscious of your food while skimping out on exercise.
Your body requires movement to function optimally, so daily exercise is important. My favorite forms of exercise are walking and yoga. Find something you enjoy and stick with it on a regular basis to enjoy the full benefits of holistic eating.
4. Drink Water
Don’t consume extra sugar and chemicals by drinking soda, juice, iced tea, and any other concoctions. Our bodies are made up of about 70% water, and we need to replenish those fluids each day, not with crap but with water.
Try to drink half your weight each day in filtered water. So for example, if you are 150 pounds, you would want to drink at least 75 ounces of water each day.
There are some healthy alternatives to water if it just isn’t your thing. You could try green tea, herbal tea, water with lemon, or infused water, for example.
5. Engage Your Mind, Body & Spirit
Eating is only holistic if it engages all of us – our mind, body, and spirit. Everyone will go about this in different ways, but here’s what works for me…
- As often as I can, I engage my mind when I eat by 1) choosing healthy choices, 2) by being mindful as I eat (engaging my five senses in the process), and 3) thinking about what I’m putting into my body.
- I engage my body by being aware of how I feel as I am eating so that I know when I have had enough.
- I engage my spirit by choosing foods that feel clean, which to me feels more spiritual. Eating a salad, for example, feels spiritual because it is from the earth while eating a processed meal with a laundry list of chemicals I can’t pronounce does not feel spiritual because it feels dirty and dark to me.
- Sometimes, I also like to engage my spirit by lighting some candles and playing some peaceful music while I eat (but that hasn’t happened since I had my latest baby!).
Tips For Eating Clean
Eating clean requires you to be deliberate about making healthier food choices. As you become aware of what you should be eating and what you should be avoiding, it becomes easier to make those healthy choices.
Here are the most important holistic eating tips to get you started:
Replace Store-Bought Food With Homemade Versions
You can make almost anything healthy by cooking or preparing it yourself. Salad dressings, energy bars, baby food, and even ice cream and potato chips can be made with whole food ingredients.
Eliminate the Bad Processed Foods
Processed foods are those that were altered in some way during preparation, which can even include baking, drying, canning, and freezing.
There are plenty of processed foods that are not bad for you and actually need to be processed to make them safe, such as pasteurized milk. Healthy processed foods that are only packaged for convenience include things like pre-chopped vegetables, whole grain pasta, baby spinach, and chickpeas.
What constitutes a bad processed food is when it contains added salt, sugar, fat, and chemicals to add flavor, extend shelf life, or improve texture.
The easiest way to tell if a processed food is bad is to check the ingredient label. Avoid foods that have ingredients that are not simple whole food ingredients. Also check the levels of salt, fat, and sugar.
Eat More Veggies & Fruit
You can’t get more natural than fruits and vegetables, particularly when they are organic and fresh.
Since organic produce can be expensive, you might choose to go by the EWG’s Dirty Dozen & Clean Fifteen list. Simply purchase the dirty produce organic and the clean produce non-organic.
Choose Healthy Fats
Fats are not bad as a whole, and actually, we require some fat in our diet to survive. It’s the quality of the fat that makes the difference.
You’ll want to swap out unhealthy saturated fats for healthier choices. Here’s a reference to help you choose those healthy fats:
- Saturated Fats – meat, cheese, butter, baked goods, fried foods
- Healthy Fats – coconut, avocado, eggs, fish, nuts, seeds, extra-virgin olive oil
Monitor Your Salt Intake
If you are reducing or eliminating processed foods from your diet, you will likely not have a problem with salt, and you might actually need to add some salt to your diet in that case. 2300 mg is the recommended sodium limit per day.
Choose Whole Grains Instead of Refined (White) Grains
Whole grains are breads and pastas that contain healthy grains like bran, whole wheat, whole oat, whole rye, freekeh, whole grain barley, buckwheat, bulgur, and quinoa.
On the other hand, refined grains have had all of the healthy parts of the grain removed, leaving white bread or pasta that spikes your blood sugar levels and offers no nutritional value.
Mixed drinks can contain tons of sugars, and in general, alcohol introduces toxins into the body. Drink in moderation and make healthier alcohol choices, such as red wine (I love me my red wine!).
Choose Lean & Organic Meats
Many types of meat contain saturated fats, and eating lean meats can help reduce your saturated fat intake. It’s also important to choose organic meats when possible to avoid the hormones and antibiotics that are given to the animals for non-organic meats.
Remember, we are what we eat! Hormones in your meat can mess with your hormones, which can lead to a whole bunch of health problems. I don’t know about you, but I don’t need any more hormonal issues!
How To Be Successful With Holistic Eating
It can be easy after reading this article to feel excited about beginning a holistic diet, but it’s also easy to lose that momentum, especially because eating a healthy diet takes more preparation time than the typical Americal diet.
There are three keys to being successful with holistic eating: plan ahead, make delicious foods you’ll love, and be realistic.
1. Plan Ahead
The worst thing you can do is let yourself get to a point where you are starving, and you have no idea what you are going to eat. Here’s what can happen:
- Yeah, there are apples on the counter, but you’re not in the mood for one of those, so you grab a candy bar for a snack.
- Mealtime rolls around and you have no idea what to make. You have to throw something together quick, so you whip out the hot dogs.
- You didn’t have time to pack a healthy lunch, so you order Chinese food with your coworkers.
Planning ahead avoids all of these scenarios. You’ll be able to know what to grab in an instant, you’ll have the ingredients on hand or you’ll cook them up ahead of time, and you’ll have choices that you can’t wait to eat.
When I don’t plan ahead, that is when I fail at eating holistically, and I pay for it, that’s for sure!
Here are some suggestions on how to go about planning ahead:
- Choose a day of the week, such as Sundays, to plan out your meals and snacks for the week.
- Find an assortment of recipes you will enjoy and work from that. Make sure they are relatively simple to put together.
- Plan ways that you can use leftovers and the same ingredients for multiple dishes so you don’t have to buy as many things.
- Make sure you plan to have healthy proteins and vegetables/fruits at every meal.
- Create a master shopping list, go shopping (especially around the perimeter of the store where most of the whole foods are located), and portion out what you will need (freeze any extra meats or ingredients). Consider signing up for Once a Month Meals, which makes all of this sooooo much easier!
- Stock up on veggies, fruits, nuts, seeds, eggs, chicken, ground turkey, and whole grain rice, pasta, and bread because you can create tons of meals with those ingredients.
- Cut up veggies or anything that will make cooking and snacking easier. Precook rice, quinoa or dried beans so they are ready to go. Prepare salad dressing that you can use all week. Pre-marinate chicken and meats so they are ready for cooking a couple days later.
- Spices are your friend – learn what spices to use when and experiment. They make food taste incredible and are a great replacement for salt.
- Include fun snacks so you never feel deprived. You can make your own chips and cookies, for example, using clean ingredients.
- Consider making some crock pot meals, portion them out, and freeze them for when you need quick meals that you can just heat up.
- HelloFresh, Blue Apron, and Sun Basket are services that deliver all the ingredients for healthy meals to your door. You can’t get much easier than that!
- Most recipes can be adapted to be clean. In my Holistic Eating E-Course, I include several easy tips for adapting any recipe.
2. Make Delicious Foods
You can make so many amazingly delicious meals, snacks, and desserts by using only whole foods that there is no reason to feel deprived.
For example, here are some mouthwatering and simple recipes to get you started:
(I provide a lot more recipes like this in my Holistic Eating E-Course)
3. Be Realistic
Holistic eating is a healthy way of life that can improve your health, your mood, and so much more.
Like any other lifestyle change, it can be difficult at first, so make sure you go into it expecting some setbacks. Each time you have a setback, simply decide and commit to doing better next time.
If you are time-deprived, this way of eating will be particularly difficult for you. If eating this way is important to you, however, perhaps you need to consider enlisting some help with preparing meals either from family members or by hiring someone.
You might also decide to slowly add this way of eating into your life. Maybe you want to start with breakfast, then add lunch later, etc. The only right way to go about this is to do it in a way that will work for your lifestyle.
One thing that I have found helpful is to join a meal planning club like Once a Month Meals. It makes it so much easier because you can choose your meals for the week/month, and then simply print out the combined shopping lists and recipes. That is such a time saver, let me tell you!
You can also keep eating your favorite meals; just adjust them to use whole food ingredients. In my Holistic Eating E-Course, I provide some great tips for how to do that.
In the end, holistic eating can be a fun way of trying new foods and being more mindful about what we are putting in our bodies.
As you try it, comment below with your successes and difficulties, and I’ll be sure to follow up with an article that addresses those things.
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