There is an unending amount of advice to be found on the topic of diet. Every time I find a food on the “good” list that I can actually stand to eat it seems like there’s a new study declaring it a health risk.
In the end, you either become neurotic about your food or, if you’re like me, you just end up consuming what is convenient, cost effective, or available.
So when I recently went from a size 12 to a size 4, many of my co-workers asked what miracle diet allowed me to drop so much weight and look so healthy. The answer? Relax!
Okay, I also throw in some common sense for good measure.
Here are 5 easy steps to healthy nourishment:
Step 1: Have a healthy serving of common sense with each meal.
You can eat like a caveman or you can plan out your meals a little more effectively. What is missing from most of our diets is really just some common sense. Here are some guidelines to follow when planning a meal.
• Eat real, whole foods, not “food-like substances,” such as artificial and highly processed foods. The old adage that you are what you eat has a basis in fact.
• Don’t overeat. Keeping yourself slightly hungry after a meal is as important as what you eat.
• A mostly plant based diet is not only better for you but better for the planet since meat production incurs incredible expense and inefficient use of energy.
• Mix in a lot of color. Colorful meals are not only pleasant photo ops for foodies. Different colors represent different nutrients packed into that fruit or vegetable. A balanced diet includes all the nutrients your body craves to be strong and healthy.
Step 2: Relax like the French.
Michael Pollan, bestselling author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma, explained to the Center for Disease Control in an address to researchers and leaders, “The French paradox is that they have better heart health than we do, despite being a cheese-eating, wine-swilling, fois-gras-gobbling people. The American paradox is we are a people who worry unreasonably about dietary health, yet have the worst diet in the world.” If eating is causing you to stress out then you are being counter-productive.
Step 3: Make a list of foods that are “good” for you and “bad” for you (free worksheet).
This is a highly personalized list and you have to consider only what fits for you, not anyone else. For example, I might put alcohol (a glass or two a week) on my “good” list while an alcoholic may list it high on his “bad” list. There is no real right or wrong, just what works for you. What foods make you feel sluggish? Put those on the “bad” list. What foods fill you with energy? Putting more thought into what we eat will help start us on our way to a healthier diet.
Step 4: “I can’t promise I’ll try, but I’ll try to try.” – Bart Simpson.
Don’t try to stop eating those “bad” foods. When we try to stop eating something, especially if it’s something we like eating, we put a lot of thought and energy into that food. That makes it even harder to stop because now it is always on our mind. Instead, focus on eating things on your “good” list. I’m not much of a dessert eater but I often crave sugar in the morning (mmmm, donuts…). However, there are a lot of other options. For example, I replaced that donut with a fruit smoothie that I actually enjoy more. Blend ice, yogurt, mango, 4 dates, and a pinch of cardamom for an excellent source of energy in the morning.
Step 5: Allow yourself some slack.
Joshua Rosenthal, the founder and director of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN), promotes and personally follows the 90/10 Diet. The 90/10 Diet simply means that you should eat what is good and healthy for you 90 percent of the time, and 10 percent of the time, eat whatever you feel like eating! We often set diet goals that seem to have no end and we beat ourselves up when we break those impossible commitments. The 90/10 Diet is realistic. I have a weakness for cheese. Cheese isn’t necessarily bad for you unless you’re eating it three times a day, every day like I was doing. But giving up cheese 100% of the time isn’t going to happen. Not only does the 90/10 diet allow me to have cheese, but it helps me to appreciate it more.
We Americans are excellent at stressing ourselves out about everything. But when it comes to food, just relax and bon apetit!