For the diverse cultures and ethnic groups of Guam, food is an essential part of our histories, traditions, and sense of kinship. Food is not only a biological necessity, it defines cultures. The ancient Chamorro people ate together as a community, an entire village feasting on the hard-earned foodstuff they had gathered and prepared together, served at one time instead of three separate meals throughout the day. This allowed the ancient Chamorro people to be lean, strong, and powerfully built.
However, today, as the obesity epidemic spreads across the Western world, it seems that food has also become a hazard on Guam. According to statistics by the University of Guam Cancer Center, 37.6% of the population on Guam are overweight, and 23.8% are morbidly obese.
Now, more than ever, healthy eating habits are essential to the lives of the indegenous people of Guam, and the residents who call Guam home. But how can we enjoy good food, and eat healthy? To many, it seems quite impossible. However, the Guam Food Blog offers five useful tips to begin your journey into healthy eating!
#1. Eat Regularly.
Eating regularly is in fact one of the healthiest choices you will be able to make as a healthy food-lover. Understand that eating regularly does not equal eating excessively (eating too much). Try to have two large meals a day consistently, or two small meals and one large meal a day, or even five small meals throughout the day. No more, no less. As long as everything is consumed in moderation and gives you the appropriate energy, eating regularly is a great choice towards healthy eating!
It is harder than it sounds, but all good things worth keeping are— and good health is certainly worth keeping. Consistency, moderation, and discipline is integral to eating regularly.
Considering skipping breakfast? No problem! Eating regularly is about consistency and quality, not quantity. Studies have shown that perhaps breakfast is not the most important meal of the day, after all. Remember to trust your brain and stomach, both of which care about your survival! Eat when you’re hungry, and don’t eat when you’re not hungry; knowing the difference makes all the difference!
#2. Avoid foods with excess iodized salt.
Iodized salt is the ingredient for many, many local dishes— and equally prevalent in our beloved soy sauce. It is also completely manufactured and processed.
The healthier, natural sea salts and himalayan salts are a much better alternative. In fact, contrary to popular belief, MSG is actually considerably healthier than salt! MSG, or “Aji-no-moto”, contains less harmful amounts of sodium than table salt. However, according to the FDA, just 11% of sodium in typical diets comes from the salt shaker. 75% of sodium is consumed in the form of pre-packaged, processed foods, such as Instant Ramen, Microwaveable Foods, and Canned Goods (especially Spam, corned beef, and tuna).
But the question still remains: how do we remove salt from our diet? Guam is known for its love of intense flavors, and salt is often an essential ingredient to our cooking.
The answer? Read nutrition labels carefully in processed foods, and avoid processed food that contain over 20% of sodium. Invest in salt substitutes, and cut off processed foods with high sodium percentages like Spam, Corned Beef, Tuna, Hotdogs, Instant Ramen (especially Ichiban Ramen & Nongshim Bowl Noodle Soup), and microwaveable food (hot pockets, burritos, tostitos, etc.). Explore flavorful and natural spices like cumin, cayenne pepper, chili powder, paprika, cardamon, garlic (ground or powder), ginger, onions, and many, many more! Buy low-sodium soy sauce. Replace Morton Iodized Salt with Aji-No-Moto Umami (MSG) seasoning. If you’re worried about MSG causing allergies, don’t worry, that theory has been debunked several times.
Of course, as usual, everything must be consumed in moderation. Lower your sodium intake altogether for healthy eating. It isn’t easy, but making an effort to take care of yourself and exercise discipline is never a bad thing, even if you aren’t always consistent.
#3. Avoid foods with excess sugar.
Dr. Robert Lustig, an expert on metabolic health, has spent years researching the dangerous consequences of excessive sugar consumption. “Sugar should be a treat, not a diet staple,” he states. In fact, several studies and articles have recited the same warning, as overeating on sugary processed foods and drinks often lead to obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer, depression, tooth decay, and other health problems. Whether you are thin or large, it makes no difference to the health risks of constant sugar consumption; reducing your sugar intake will help you live a healthier life!
It is also incredibly vital for children’s healthy eating!
Substitute processed sugar with honey, lemon, coconut milk, assorted fruits, or 70% dark chocolate in moderation!
#4. Snack smart!
If you need a snack, choose healthy foods, such as apples, oranges, bananas, grapes, whole wheat and/or oats, cherry tomatoes, carrot sticks, broccoli, celery, asparagus, eggs (no more than two or three eggs), and even sushi or sashimi (with low-sodium soy sauce or lemon)!
Unsure how to make your snacks flavorful and interesting to keep you motivated for healthy eating? Here are some great ideas:
- Eggs are a great source of protein and energy! Boil your egg, fry it in a little bit of olive oil for a delicious sunny-side up or scrambled eggs, or even add it to a healthy sandwich! Worried that eggs may be bad for your cholesterol? No worries! Studies have proven that eggs don’t deserve their bad reputation. In actuality, eggs improve your health!
- Combine toasted whole wheat bread, a fried egg (fried with olive oil), one tomato slice, a dash of grounded pepper, white cheese, and fresh romaine or green-leaf lettuce for a delicious egg sandwich!
- Assorted nuts are a great source of energy, fiber and other nutrients! Almonds, pistachios, walnuts, cashews, pecans, macadamia nuts, brazil nuts, hazelnuts, and peanuts are delicious and incredibly healthy snack options.
- Dip your carrot sticks, celery sticks, apples, and even bananas into some peanut butter or nut butter!
- Combine your warm oatmeal with fresh blueberries, apples, cinnamon, honey, or even chocolate chips! Not a fan of oatmeal? Try adding fruit to whole-grain low-sugar cereals like Cheerios and Kellogs cornflakes!
#5. REMEMBER: It’s a marathon, not a race.
Eating healthy is not the same thing as dieting. Our bodies are as unique as our own minds. If you are trying to eat healthy to lose weight, that’s great! If you’re eating healthier to feel more energetic and avoid feeling tired throughout the day, that’s great! If you are trying to eat healthy to live a longer, healthier life overall, that’s greater! As long as your motivations are towards taking care of yourself and your body, you are eating healthy. It does not matter that you are not a size 3. In fact, for some people’s body types, it is impossible to be that thin!
People are different in more than just their DNA, opinions, and looks. Our bodies are unique, and there is not a single body that is completely identical to another’s; this is why it is simply unrealistic and unscientific to assume that every man and/or woman should strive for a single and very specific body type… when, in fact, there are many, many body types!
Dieting companies on every social media platform will love to sell the fallacy of the ideal body, and the ideal dieting plan, but that is all it is: a fallacy.
Consider the image above, taken from the book: Athlete by photographer Howard Schatz. These are the body types of olympic athletes who excel in their respective sports. Do their bodies all look identical to each other? No, but they are all healthy, and all of them have an athletic physique.
Healthy eating is not about losing thirty pounds in a week, and it is not about harmfully starving yourself. Healthy eating is meant to take care of your body and your happiness, tailoring a diet and lifestyle that is beneficial to you and the physicality required in your day-to-day routine.