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Eat for joy

By MONIQUE TODA, The Philippine STAR Published Jan 13, 2022 5:00 am

My yearend pandemic musings have led me to this obvious and most important thought: health is wealth. People have been saying this for decades, but it had to take a horrific global event for me to experience the reality of this statement.

To start the year, I am certain that many New Year’s resolutions include a healthy lifestyle. It is an armor that will protect us from disease. Also, scientific studies indicate that being healthy somehow correlates with being happy. There are numerous findings that healthy eating is not only good for the body but for mental health as well. Depression, too, can be caused by an unhealthy consumption of food.

The key to eating and feeling your best is to allow yourself to make peace with food and acknowledge that food not only feeds your body but also your soul.

So, does this mean that chocolate cake will not make me happy? Because it does. Perhaps I am just simplifying all this data.

Healthy food can be delicious, right?

ISSA-certified nutrition coach Carmina Anunciacion’s personal and professional advocacy is “Eat for Joy.” Her journey to healthy eating started as she grew up an immune-compromised child. She had medical conditions like thyroid problems and PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome), to name a few. Her doctors would always encourage her to eat well and exercise.

Nutrition coach Carmina Anunciacion believes in “eating for joy.”

Being around a family who loved good food let her appreciate what she was eating, but also made her realize how it affected her lifestyle.

As Carmina became conscious of her appearance, she tried fad diets for years but nothing worked in the long term. She eventually studied and got certified in nutrition by the International Sports and Science Association (ISSA), one of the most prestigious international educational institutions for fitness, nutrition and professional healthcare.

She then stumbled into the concept of sustainable dieting, which allows no restrictions on any food as long as everything is eaten in moderation.

Carmina explains, “Sustainable dieting allows you to eat with curiosity and actually enjoy your food, which I found refreshing and actually doable compared to other diets I tried in the past.

“My eating habits and relationship with food evolved through the years, and it will be so with a lot of people. The key to eating and feeling your best is to allow yourself to make peace with food and acknowledge that food not only feeds your body but also your soul. It’s 360-degree sustenance.”

In her role as a nutrition coach, Carmina helps people achieve sustainable dieting through “mindful and intuitive eating.”

“I don’t restrict my clients from eating the food they love as long as everything is consumed in healthy amounts. This gives way to having a better relationship with food down the road. My goal for my clients is for them to discover what eating habits can work for them and benefit them in the long run.”

This is what it means to find joy in food — that happy and healthy balance. Carmina believes that years of brainwashing and misinformation about diets and food make people stay away from “bad” food like cookies, chips, and deep-fried food. Whew, this is a relief for me to hear.

“In reality, there is no such thing as ‘good’ and ‘bad’ food, as food has no moral value, but there is such a thing as nutrient density. This means that there are foods that are more nutritious than others. The sooner people realize this, the faster it will lead them to a better relationship with food.

70% of a holistic, healthy lifestyle is nutrition and 30% is exercise. Combining well-balanced nutrition with daily exercise of at least 15-30 minutes can make the biggest impact on boosting the immune system and creating a more resistant body to any disease.

“Having said this, I create my meal plans based on my clients’ food likes and dislikes. I make sure that these are accounted for in order for them to actually enjoy and stick to the program.

“On the other hand, I also try to understand some dislikes. For example, I’ve had clients who are not too keen on eating vegetables and fruits. Fruits and vegetables are an essential food type that everyone needs to consume in order to get enough micronutrients; that is why in my meal plans, fruits and vegetables are a staple.”

Understanding why her clients dislike certain nutrient-rich foods is essential for Carmina, as she works towards enabling them to tolerate and even end up sincerely savoring it as part of their daily diet.

Aside from enjoying and finding joy in everything she consumes, Carmina has three tips to maintain a healthy lifestyle especially during this pandemic. These are:

  • eat enough macronutrients;
  • don’t overlook your daily micronutrients; and finally,
  • make sure to find a few minutes of intentional movement in your day.
Recommended plant-based meat options from The Green Butcher have vegetables in them.

“To be honest, eating healthy doesn’t have to be super-complicated! For most people, there is really no need to follow any diets that require removing food types.

“By simply consuming enough macronutrients like protein from tofu, chicken, eggs; dietary fat from nuts, coconut oil and olive oil; carbohydrates from grains and starchy vegetables; and micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals from vegetables and fruits you can already create a healthier and more sustainable diet.

“Nutrition is 70% of a holistic, healthy lifestyle and 30% is exercise, so combining well-balanced nutrition with daily exercise of at least 15-30 minutes can make the biggest impact to boosting the immune system and creating a more resistant body to any disease.”

Carmina does one-on-one coaching on nutrition and even fitness training. She creates personalized programs, as no two clients are the same. This includes health assessments, weekly check-ins, and unlimited online support. People can choose a food zone/block, or a meal-plan type of program for those who prefer to cook on their own.

For clients who have medical conditions, she makes sure that she gets clearance first from their doctors before they can engage in her lifestyle improvement program.

In addition to creating programs, Carmina co-owns a plant-based meat depot in the south called The Green Butcher. The store is perfect for people who would like to introduce healthier, plant-based meat options into their diet.

She also recommends their products to her clients who are not vegetable eaters. It’s easier for them to transition to healthier eating habits because they’re introduced to meat substitutes that actually have veggies in them. Hopefully, this can help people who are struggling to become healthier.

3-day meal plan

I asked Carmina to create a three-day healthy meal plan to start the year healthy. A well-balanced and delicious meal plan should include all essential macronutrients and micronutrients. It's also very important to drink plenty of water throughout the day. Happy eating!

Day 1

Breakfast: Cacao, coconut and almond butter overnight oats

Cacao, coconut and almond butter overnight oats

Lunch: Thai basil chicken with a side of grilled zucchini and mixed-grain rice or brown rice (for added fiber)

Snack: Rice crackers with hummus

Dinner: Tuna, olives, capers and Parmesan pasta

Tuna, olives, capers and Parmesan pasta.

Day 2

Breakfast: Vegetable omelet with a slice of wheat bread

Lunch: Vegan bulgogi tofu with kimchi and rice

Snack: A piece of fruit

Dinner: Honey-garlic shrimp with a side salad (lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber and any available veggies) and mixed-grain rice or brown rice

Honey-garlic shrimp with a side salad and rice

Day 3

Breakfast: Peanut butter-and-jelly protein overnight oats

Lunch: Panko-breaded chicken breast with a side salad (lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber and any available veggies) and mixed-grain rice or brown rice

Snack: Yogurt and a small piece of fruit

Dinner: Tomato, basil and meatball pasta