Healthy eating habits for better sleep

Healthy eating habits for better sleep

Eating right is the first step towards better sleep. But eating right can be confusing — with so much information out there, how do we know what is ‘right’? Sometimes we need to take a step back and consider how our bodies were made to be used. When it comes down to it, selecting food is only part of the battle. Here are some tools you can use to help with other factors in nutrition. Try one of these challenges each week and see new ways to look at food and our bodies.

1) Wake up and drink up. You have been in bed for the past 6-8 hours, with no fluids. Your body is dehydrated. Hydrating as soon as you wake will help you start your day with energy and kick-start your metabolism. Challenge: Drink a full glass of water each morning upon waking.

2) Serve your veggies first. We tend to find our plates filled with more starches than any one other item, but our bodies value the nutrients and complex carbohydrates in veggies more than those of breads, potatoes, rice and pastas. Filling up on vegetables will help you decrease the overall number of calories you consume, all the while fueling your body with a vital array of vitamins and minerals. Challenge: This week, fill half your plate with veggies first, then add your protein, starch and healthy fat.

3) Swap! Place settings, serving dishes and cooking pots all seem to be supersized, which can leave you feeling as though you need to fill them to the rim. However, this can lead to over-extending portion sizes and have you eating two-three times the amount of food you actually need! Challenge: Downsize your dinner plates to salad plates. Your mind will still feel like you have had a big meal, but you won’t be inclined to overeat. Overeating leads to decreased overall sleep throughout the night.

4) Shop the perimeter. Ever wonder why grocery stores keep meats, produce and fresh foods around the edges? Food is supposed to go bad, so grocery stores keep these perishables around the perimeter of the store for ease of restocking. Processed, high salt/sugary foods are generally kept in the center isles since they don’t spoil as quickly and can be kept on the shelves for months at a time. Challenge: Shop the perimeter of the grocery store first, then head to the centre isles for staples that you need such as tea and spices. Also, keep in mind that sugar will give you too much energy to sleep at night, and spicy food will induce heartburn — which is absolutely detrimental for sleep.

5) Buy local. Harvest is upon us, and even when it isn’t, we are surrounded by growers that use green houses to supply fruits and veggies all year long. Buying local produce means that the growers are able to harvest their crop at a later date, leaving the fruit and vegetables to ripen ‘on the vine’. Fully ripened produce will not only taste better, but it will be power packed with more nutrients than its long-distance shipped counterparts. Challenge: Spend one week purchasing only locally grown produce, either from your grocery store or farmer’s market.

6) No additions. Additives are devoid of nutritional value. They are used as fillers and preservatives to enhance flavour, keep manufacturers’ costs low, or to elongate the shelf life of a product. These additives are various types of sugars, salts and highly refined flours that are produced in manufacturing plants, and will decrease the quality of your sleep. Challenge: Avoid processed foods, or any foods with labels containing more than five ingredients for one week.

7) Go vegetarian. Meats and meat products, while vital to our bodies for their nutritive content, can be difficult for us to digest. Eating tons of meat or protein-packed foods at night will make it difficult for you to fall asleep. Vegetarian dishes don’t have to be tofu and sprouts! There are many ways you can make your favourite meals vegetarian, introducing more nutrient packed veggies and giving your body a rest from meat. Challenge: Try one vegetarian meal per day for a week. If you love it, try one week of vegetarian dishes!

8) Make it yourself. Food labels can be confusing, and ingredient lists can seem longer than your arm. The best foods are simple, fresh, and made from scratch. A big misconception about cooking from scratch is that it will cost more in time. Dressings, spreads and sauces can add life to any dish and are the easiest way to cook from scratch, without a lot of added time. When you know exactly what is in your food, not only will you taste the difference, you will feel better about using it to fuel your body for the day and prepare it for sleep at night. Challenge: Use only home-made dressings, sauces and spreads for one week.