I want you to ask yourself a question.
How long do you want to live ?
This might not be something you have given much thought to. I remember my dad always telling me he wanted to outlive his own father. He was about six months short of that goal when he passed away at 85. But like any good goal, it should be SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound.
For me, I want to live to become a centenarian, meaning into my 100’s. I set this goal for myself in my early thirties. But, it wasn’t until I had my daughter that I realized the ‘why’ behind my goal — the specific piece that sets a goal into action. For me, the goal is to see my daughter become a grandmother. And because I had her at 43, I need to live for a long, long time.
So, I will ask you again…how long do you want to live ?
Now that you have your personal longevity goal in mind, it is time to take action. Dan Buettner’s research on Blue Zones — areas around the globe with the highest per capita number of centenarians— provides fascinating insights into the similarities in diet and lifestyle that these people share. I encourage you to follow him on social and sign up for his newsletter for incredible stories and information.
While I am no guru, I do think I know a thing or two about living my best life. And as a nutritionist, I wanted to share my five key habits for living your best life with food.
1. Eat delicious and nutritious fruits and vegetables as often as possible. To live into your 100’s will require ten or more servings every single day. Your plate should be two-thirds fruit and veg at every meal, with fruit or a veggie tray for a snack, and eating every color of the rainbow every day. Find the fruits and veggies that you love and eat them often. Get to a place where when you bite into a fresh from the garden tomato and you truly savour it. You should enjoy fresh berries off the bush in your backyard like a kid loves an ice cream cone on a hot summer day. I want you to really enjoy the flavour, the taste, and most importantly how it makes you feel. Healthy. Energized. Youthful.
2. Find a grocery store or market that you love shopping at. Grocery shopping shouldn’t feel like a chore. It should be a task you enjoy, and a place you enjoy going to and trying new things. In North American culture, grocery shopping tends to be rushed, crowded and stressful. Alternatively, it should be a place that you can stop and smell the produce, take your time to read labels, see what is fresh in the fish and seafood section. I want you to enjoy the entire process of food…and this process starts in the grocery store.
3. Get into the habit of asking yourself ‘How can I make this meal one step healthier?’. This is a life-changing habit. Perhaps this means topping your salad with olive oil instead of a store-bought dressing; adding half of an avocado to your rice and veggie bowl; eating a handful or two of unsalted nuts as a snack; or adding nutrient-dense seeds to your meals. Our health is really in the little things — the little habits that set us up for success. And making these changes into habits takes time. But if we want to live a long, healthy and happy life, we have to eat in a way that our body enjoys.
4. Listen to your body. This takes work— a lot of work actually. But our body is on our side more than anyone. Your body wants you to feel incredible every hour of every day. Things to listen for include:
a. When your body is telling you it doesn’t like a food that you are eating, stop eating it. If you are getting gas, upset stomach, diarrhea or constipation from something you are eating, it is damaging your digestive system. Stop eating that food.
b. When you have better sleep, more energy, feel clearer headed or overall just really good, think back to what you have been eating for the last couple of days. Eat more of that.
c. Eat until you are 80% full. This might be hard to gauge in the beginning, but is really important. We don’t need to stuff ourselves, but we also don’t want to under-eat as well. We need to nourish our bodies with every bite, and when you feel 80% full, you can stop.
5. Lastly, don’t aim for perfection when it comes to nutrition. Depending on where you are starting, we should reach for the 80/20 rule. Eighty percent of the time you are eating healthy, nutrient-dense food. The other 20% of the time you have a little more wiggle room. Once that feels really natural, aim for 85/15 and then eventually 90/10. But that is where we stop. We don’t need to be perfect, but 90% is really great.
Most importantly, food should bring you joy! It shouldn’t be something you overthink, over-measure, or over-stress about. It shouldn’t be a source of emotional comfort or how you maintain a sense of control in your life. It should simply be fuel that nourishes your body so you can do all the things you want to do today, tomorrow, and when you are 100 years old!
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