“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
Before we start with my 3 foodie tips to live a fuller life, have you read my faithful and fashionable tips? I’ve been spending July sharing some of my top tips for living out John 10v10 in real life. Some of them have been obvious, like checking Scripture against everything, and some of them less so. Living the full life Jesus wants to give us is about the mundane as much as the spiritual. That includes loving the shape God made you. It also means respecting your health and that is the theme of my foodie tips.
Food really is the fuel that enables us to live, making it pretty crucial for a fuller life. This, for me at least, gives a healthy diet a high priority. It’s an old analogy but if you put petrol in a diesel car, it’s not going to go very far. If we fill our bodies with unhealthy food, it is not going to function at its fullest potential. I personally believe that God has given us all the fuel that we need in the form that we need it. My 3 foodie tips are how I try to put that belief into action, alongside lots of fruit and veg. I just adore a green smoothie!
1. Eat Less Sugar
Sugar is the 21st Century’s equivalent to the Evil Queen. By that, I mean the white sugar lumps that everyone loves to suck on. Go on, you know you do! I am all for cutting out white, refined cane sugar. It holds very little nutritional benefit, making it full of empty calories. Unfortunately, brown sugar is not actually that much better even though it tastes so much nicer.
However, were we meant to refine sugar to the point of no nutritional value being left in it? Personally, I don’t think so which is why I prefer to use other ingredients to sweeten food. Maple syrup, panela (the stuff sugar is refined from), honey and dates are all sweeteners I regularly use with a far better nutritional profile than regular sugar. I still use them in moderation though.
You see, it doesn’t matter what form we eat sugar in, the effect it has on our body is still the same. It provides us with a quick jolt of energy before hitting us with a real low as all that energy disappears. We are left feeling tired, sluggish and craving our next sugar fix. This is the unfortunate reality that those who eat a lot of sugar will face; one I know too well from the time as a student eating Haribo and Skittles during all nighters. Not to mention the hormonal and chemical imbalances it can cause inside us, including the insulin that controls blood sugar levels.
So what to eat instead? My recommendation is to replace, where possible, sugar with a more natural/less-refined sweetener. My favourite in maple syrup, even in coffee, but if that’s not to your taste then honey is a good choice too. Another good option is to do some research on what food is good for sweet cravings but low in sugar. Berries of all kinds are the lowest-sugar fruit around so a great option for breakfast, smoothies, dessert or even snacks. My other favourite alternative is sweet potatoes, which has a lower sugar content than white potatoes but perfectly curbs my cravings.
2. Drink More Water
This is my favourite tips out of the three for one very important reason: it means I can drink as much fruit and herbal tea as I like! It means I can drink as much lemon and ginger water as I want! The only problem is that I regularly forget to refill my mug or bottle. Anyone else guilty of doing just the same? You may not realise it but not drinking regularly (I’m not talking alcohol, coffee or black tea here) can have a massive effect on our bodies.
Humans are, on average, 57-60% water but we are constantly losing it, through breathing, sweating and going to the loo. Not replacing the water we lose has nasty consequences, from grumpy tiredness all the way through to dry, sore skin and feeling hungry when we’re just thirsty. According to the beauty therapist I see, your skin only gets hydrated from the 8th cup you drink onwards. As someone with sensitive, prone-to-dryness skin, this was a wake up call to start drinking more!
So what are the benefits are drinking more water? Feel more awake, less hungry, better skin, less grumpy. All good things, right? So how to go about being better hydrated when water, in it’s original form, is pretty boring. Most advice would say alcohol doesn’t count (I hope that would be obvious) along with anything involving caffeine. Whether that means you drink less tea and coffee is up to you as I’ve seen evidence both ways. My personal recommendations are milk or dairy alternatives, homemade flavoured water, veg/fruit juice and fruit&herbal teas. I regularly drink these and use them as bases for my smoothies. They’re a little bit more exciting than water and often have additional benefits.
3. Get More Sleep
What on earth does sleep have to do with food? Two reasons. Firstly, sleep replenishes our energy stores, giving us so much more control over food, including sugar cravings and thirst. Secondly, having enough sleep means that mood swings are less likely (hanger is nasty) so we are less likely to reach for the biscuit tin or chocolate box. Instead, we are more likely to reach for the fruit bowl or carrots and hummus if we really need a snack.
Basically, more sleep means we eat less because we’re not trying to prop up poor energy reserves. This, in turn, means we eat what we need rather than over-indulging in high sugar, high fat treats. That has got to be better for our health and therefore living a full life!
The health experts always tell us we should aim for 7-8 hours sleep a night. Whatever the scientific evidence might be, I think that is an ideal. Personally, I find ideals to be frustrating and constricting. Instead, I like Kat Lee’s advice to set a routine where you aim for the same time to wake up and go to sleep each day. This may not always happen- I fail to have my lights out by 11pm at least twice a night- but it is a fantastic aim to have. Have you ever struggled to fall asleep when you went to bed early or found yourself up at your normal time even though you had time for a lie in? Your body had developed a sleeping pattern and didn’t change on your demand. This is as true of a bad sleep pattern as a good one, so make a good sleeping pattern your priority.
Look After Yourself
The main thing I want to put across here is that we need to look after ourselves, including our bodies. I will always encourage my family, friends and anyone who will listen to eat less sugar, drink more water, and get more sleep because that is what I have found works for me. I’ve tried and tested a ridiculous number of healthy eating lifestyles, with only one result that has been constant: I feel healthier and happier when I’m eating more natural food with less sugar, drinking more non-caffeineated and soft drinks and getting more sleep.
It’s now your turn to figure out what works for you? Use these tips but don’t apply them to the extreme. Instead, remember to be moderate in them and continue to enjoy life. Yes, that means enjoying a glass of wine or chocolate bar occasionally. I’ll be sharing a little bit more about how moderation affects living the fuller life next week so check back then. For now, these are my three tips on what not to do:
- Do not cut out all sugar
- Do not drink only water
- Do not sleep more than your body needs
Basically, enjoy life, be healthy and be sensible.
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