By Gina Cousineau
This month as we enter National Nutrition Month, I will continue to share “lifestyle shifts” that will move you toward improving your health, which in most cases will involve helping you reach your weight goal.
We are going to focus on Mama G’s “priority foods” this month. Notice, I purposefully didn’t say “super foods,” as this is quite a pet peeve of mine. We need to understand that one food group will not save our lives, and instead move toward a more wholesome food approach that can save your very life.
While I encourage a mostly plant-based nutrition approach, meaning the bulk of our food choices are coming from wholesome grains, vegetables, fruits, legumes, and nuts/seeds, we can and should feel free to incorporate lean animal proteins, no fat/low-fat dairy products, and healthy fats (which are actually plant-based) to round out our plates.
For my vegan counterparts, we have to be very thoughtful to make sure we are getting enough protein and supplementing where needed to fill in the gaps that are easily managed in this lifestyle approach.
There are certain foods that I encourage my clients to consume more regularly, which happen to be mostly from plants, in the form of greens, legumes, berries, and digestives.
Let’s dive in:
“Greens” in my mind are any leafy foodstuffs that are green in color. So many choices abound in the produce department and freezer section. Whether you wash and chop yourself or purchase ready-to-go options, I suggest you choose items that are just the “green” itself, with nothing added.
As a chef, I will always defer to fresh, tasting the best to my palate, but throwing greens in a soup or smoothie is an easy way to incorporate this healthy habit. Try simply picking a new green to try weekly, sautéing in a bit of olive oil, seasoned with salt, pepper, and fresh garlic.
“Legumes” are a much bigger category than most know. This category incorporates all beans, peas, and lentils in fresh, canned, or dried forms. Canned beans are cheap, easy, and nutrient-dense.
No- and low-sodium versions are readily available, and if not, rinse/drain prior to consuming. Chickpeas (aka garbanzo beans) in your salad, boiled pinto beans paired with lean protein and fajita-style veggies for Mexican-themed bowl, or substitute half the meat with a can of kidney beans to your favorite chili recipe.
“Berries” are readily available here in Southern California and approaching peak season. Simply rinse well in water, pat dry, and enjoy. These fiber-rich, low-calorie, nutrient-dense foods are a wonderful way to start your day.
I love my “Euro-style” breakfast with nonfat plain Greek yogurt, topped with berries, muesli (a beautiful whole grain dried oats, nuts and seeds cereal), and a favorite nut—mine happens to be walnuts. The berries add sweetness to what can often be a meal that can be high in “added sugar.”
And finally, “digestives” is likely a term with which you are not familiar. Digestives are fermented foods that can aid in boosting the healthy flora in your gut, supporting better digestion and immune function, and are “probiotic” in nature.
They are found in Greek yogurt and kefir (liquid yogurt), but also in kombucha, miso, tempeh, apple cider vinegar, and non-vinegar-based sauerkraut, kimchi, and other fermented vegetables. Read the ingredient label to look for these “live cultures.”
These foods can be paired with all cultures and are game-changers in terms of helping increase your longevity and providing joy in your daily food choices. Enjoy.
Gina Cousineau is an interventional culinary nutritionist. With an extensive education with her BS in Dietetics and MS in Integrative and Functional Nutrition, as well as being a trained chef and fitness professional, her goal is to help her client’s health thrive using “food as medicine.” She is offering a complimentary, four-week webinar series this month (all sessions recorded). Subscribe at mamagslifestyle.com or at firstname.lastname@example.org to participate.