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Healthier Eating: Sensible changes and a new outlook can have a huge payoff

Sometimes it seems like there are two kinds of people in the world: those who can enjoy a diet of healthy food, full of fruits and vegetables in balance with what their bodies need, and those who struggle with sugar, salt, and fat cravings to the point of food addiction, yo-yo dieting and obesity. Many people fall somewhere in between. Could it be that a little willpower to change your eating habits could propel your body into real physiological responses that tell your brain what your body needs?

This fall, one NSCC Culinary Arts student from the Dominican Republic, Ms. Kirsis Batista, began to fit healthy eating into her hectic work and school schedule since arriving back in Canada in September.

“Medically speaking, I was obese, and I was just going in the wrong direction,” she said. “I have diabetes in my family, and I love sweets so much; I don’t want to have diabetes.”

After watching documentaries online about food—where it comes from, what’s in it, and how her body absorbs fat, sugar, and nutrients—she decided that her diet was too rich in meat and fatty animal products, and lacking in nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables.

Batista said she would eat out every day, buying burgers and fries. Now, she eats out maybe twice a month. If she does go out for a meal, she buys a salad or a sandwich.

When Batista purchased a juicer, that’s when she began to see a change in her eating habits.

“It was only $25,” she said, “and it’s made eating healthier so much easier for me.”

For breakfast every day and sometimes lunch to-go, Batista whips up fresh juice by mixing together fruits, vegetables and herbs. She likes to mix lettuce, kale, carrots, cucumber, apples, grapes, parsley and cilantro, but her favourite juice is fresh pineapple (but she said the other ones are also delicious).

Batista drinks raw vegetables because studies have shown that cooking them can destroy the nutrients they contain. Juicing your vegetables also allows your body to absorb the nutrients faster than if you were cooking and eating them.

Couldn’t we just chew our raw vegetables?

“Sure, but juicing allows you to ingest more nutrients quickly instead of having to eat like two heads of broccoli and a whole bunch of kale!” Batista said. She added that it takes 10 minutes in the morning to juice breakfast and lunch.

For dinner and sometimes lunch, Batista makes stir fry with rice, lentils, chicken, and, of course, lots of vegetables. The internet is full of quick, easy and healthy recipes. Every Sunday night,she recommends you take a moment and think about what you’re going to eat each day that week. Write it down. Go shopping. If you still prefer to chew your food, chop up everything in your fridge and make a variety of salads in large mason jars for a whole week’s lunches.

Is it expensive?

Buying more vegetables and fresh food than packaged items and animal products can be a lot cheaper. Also, if her roommate’s produce is going to go off soon and they don’t have time to use it, she takes it off their hands to juice it. You can also take into account the money saved from not eating out at restaurants.

How does it feel?

“Can’t you see I have so much energy?!” Batista said as she bounced around her kitchen. She’s been feeling more awake and clear-headed, and has been losing weight without going hungry. She has the energy to squeeze in workouts, like running and swimming, before or after classes and times between her job cooking for event banquets.

Batista said her cravings for unhealthy foods like deep-fried chicken fingers and ice cream have depleted. Anything deep-fried now makes her feel ill. She feels like her body is more sensitive to digesting foods that are high in fat and sugar.

To fight those occasional chocolate ice cream cravings, Batista eats the healthier coconut milk ice cream.

Batista hopes that she will be able to keep up with her new healthy-eating habits. She has confidence that she will because she feels good about what she is putting in her body and it works for her. It was easier than she expected, fun, and it feels like she is moving toward finding that balance of giving her body what it needs.

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