“Dr. Hyman, over and over I find myself making unhealthy choices,” a reader writes. “Even while I am at home, I reach for something that I know is going to make me feel like crap. When dinner time comes around, I get so overwhelmed and end up making pasta or pizza. Please help me make better decisions about what I put into my body.”
Well you are not alone, my friend! This is a challenge that so many of us deal with on a day to day basis, and the only way around it is to do a kitchen makeover. Bringing fresh energy and fresh food into the kitchen and purging it of all of the foods and items that make us sick and unhealthy is an important step to making better choices and overcoming food cravings and addictions.
The cure for what ails us — both in our bodies and in our nation — can be found in the kitchen. It is a place to rebuild community and connection, strengthen bonds with family and friends, teach life-giving skills to our children, and enrich and nourish our bodies and souls.
We need to break the addiction cycle and halt your cravings – likely the same cravings that have sabotaged your weight loss efforts in the past. Why not stack the odds in your favor by removing the items that have kept you trapped, sick and miserable? Or, to put that a better way: Why not set yourself up for optimal success by making your kitchen a happy, hopeful place filled only with vibrant, real, whole foods that will nourish your body and genuinely feed your soul?
If you make your kitchen a safe zone, with only foods that nourish rather than harm, then you will automatically make the right choices. If you fill it with crap, you will eat crap, no matter how much willpower you have.
How to Purge Your Kitchen
Here are my four easy-to-follow steps to start your purge:
Step 1: Reclaim your kitchen by replacing anything that is questionable with real, fresh, whole foods without labels. A fresh avocado or a kiwi doesn’t come with a nutrition facts label or a bar code or an ingredient list. The questionable items are those that come in boxes, jars, cans and other packaging. In other words most convenience foods. It’s important to first shift your focus away from the often misleading nutrition “facts” list (which is mostly designed and developed under huge food industry lobby efforts to confuse and confound your efforts to eat healthy) and instead rely on the ingredients list. When reading through the ingredients, look for items which you don’t recognize, can’t pronounce, are listed in Latin or aren’t items you would normally have in your cupboard. Beware of foods with health claims on the labels. These claims usually signal a marketing ploy to make you think they’re good for you when they’re really just healthy pretenders. Things like sports beverages, energy bars and even multigrain breads (which often contain high fructose corn syrup) fall into this category.
Step 2: Now, you’ll want to remove ALL of the junk. This includes any food which contains added sugar, refined and processed flours and all processed foods. Even seemingly safe foods like spices and seasonings can contain maltodextrin, autolyzed yeast extract and even high fructose corn syrup that have no place in a healthy kitchen. Scrutinize everything!
Step 3: Remove all BAD FATS. The wrong fats can wreak serious metabolic havoc. Toss out any highly refined cooking oils such as corn and soy, fried foods you may have stored in your freezer and margarine or shortening. These products have dangerous trans fats that create inflammation and cause heart disease. Scour labels for the words “hydrogenated fat” (another phrase for trans fat), which has finally been declared not safe for consumption by the FDA.
Step 4: Throw out food with artificial sweeteners of all kinds (aspartame, NutraSweet, Splenda, sucralose, and sugar alcohols — any word that ends with “ol,” like xylitol or sorbitol). Stevia may be better than aspartame but only whole plant extract, not Pure Via and Truvia brands, which are made by Pepsi and Coke and are chemical extracts of stevia. And when using whole plant extract stevia, use it sparingly. A new non-caloric sweetener that comes from monk fruit that is rich in antioxidants can also be used in small amounts. But remember, any sweetener can cause you to be hungry, lower your metabolism, create gas and store belly fat.
Don’t just tuck all of these toxic foods away – toss them into the garbage! We’re going to quickly and easily replace them with delicious, healthy alternatives that will leave you more than satisfied.
Stock Up On the Right Foods
Next, you’ll want to fill your fridge with plenty of beautiful vegetables, fruits, healthy proteins and fats. You’ll also want to keep plenty of healthy snacks around in case you ever run into a food emergency. Instead of reaching for sugary, processed snacks, you can reach for nourishing ones like nuts and seeds, dips and veggies, fresh fruit and more.
Step 1: Focus on non-starchy veggies. These are things like broccoli, kale, tomatoes, bok choy, peppers, asparagus, cauliflower and so much more! Eat as many as you like! Limit fruits because they increase your insulin levels. Berries are your best bet. When possible, choose organic, seasonal and local produce.
Step 2: Stock up on dry foods. These staples usually have a longer shelf life and include raw or lightly roasted nuts and seeds, legumes, quinoa, and gluten-free grains.
Step 3: Include herbs, spices and seasonings. You’ll want to have a range of pantry ingredients, including seasonings and spices, on hand. Buy organic when you can. Because you only use a little of some of these, they tend to last a long time so you get a lot of value from them. Among my favorites include extra-virgin olive oil, extra-virgin coconut butter, sea salt, black peppercorns, and seasonings and spices like oregano, cayenne pepper, garlic and more. Just read all of the labels to ensure the products don’t contain hidden sugar, gluten or other problematic additives.
Step 4: Keep your fridge and freezer stocked with protein. Check out the Environmental Working Group’s “Meat Eater’s Guide” to choose meat that’s good for you and good for the planet. Optimal protein choices include: boneless, skinless chicken and turkey breasts; ground chicken and turkey; grass-fed beef, lamb and bison; pastured omega-3 eggs; whole forms of non-GMO soy food like tofu, tempeh and gluten-free miso; and wild seafood like sardines, salmon, herring, flounder, clams and more. Avoid those fish that are high in mercury such as tuna, swordfish and Chilean sea bass.
Step 5: Get Inspired. It’s easy to just say, I’ll buy tons of veggies and some fruit and healthy meats and fats, but what are you going to do with all of that food? Well, my new book, Eat Fat, Get Thin Cookbook not only goes through a step-by-step guide of how to reclaim your kitchen, but it features over 175 mouth-watering recipes to help you get healthy and stay healthy. I’ve included breakfast dishes, smoothies, some vegan meals, plenty of options for lunch and dinner, and even desserts!
Eating food that is good for you is not about feeling deprived. If you choose the right foods and the right recipes, you can reap the benefits of a healthy lifestyle without feeling denied.
So, if you’re ready to eat foods that taste good and are good for you, be sure to look out for the Eat Fat, Get Thin Cookbook on sale November 29th, pre-order here and receive some great free gifts.
Wishing you health & happiness,
Mark Hyman, MD.