Nutrition information has never before been as accessible as it is today. Flashy advertisements for new diets promising magical outcomes are on billboards, in magazines, on television, and all over the web. We have easy access to the Internet, television and magazines, along with countless diet books and weight loss programs everywhere we turn. Everyone has his or her own solution to your health problems. At the same time, we have the highest rates of heart disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes, and obesity than ever before. It’s important to consider what this array of mixed information is doing to our society. Clearly, there is something wrong with the nutrition information we are receiving. Even when we’re on what we believe may be the right path for our health and our bodies, it can be extremely overwhelming to know whether we should continue on that journey, make some changes, fine tune it, or add something in or take something out. Everyone is different, so individualization is key; but just as important is keeping it simple. Sometimes we just need to take a step back from it all and bring it back to the basics with healthy eating.
Here are my top five tips for bringing it back to the basics:
Keep it simple and eat real food
Consuming real, whole foods will never be a fading trend. Strive to emulate the eating patterns of your ancestors. Stay away from processed foods like baked goods and packaged items, and focus instead on fueling your body with real foods such as whole fruits, fresh vegetables, meat, fish and eggs. When in doubt, always remember simplicity is your friend. Eat a combination of protein and fat along with your carbohydrates (PFC!) to give your body the balance it requires to function efficiently. For breakfast this could be eggs (protein) cooked in butter (fat) with mixed veggies (carbohydrate.) A snack idea is cottage cheese (protein) with slivered almonds (fat) and blueberries (carbohydrate). Dinner could be a grilled piece of chicken or salmon (protein) cooked in olive oil (fat) with a vegetable salad (carbohydrate).
Don’t count too much
It’s easy to get caught up in counting; whether it’s carbs, calories or something else, when we take it into our own hands to regulate our body’s balance, this takes away from allowing our body to do it’s own job. And it’s a lot smarter than we give it credit for! This doesn’t mean portion control isn’t important. It’s wise to be mindful of your portions and pay attention to how your body feels after each meal and snack (if your blood sugar levels are fairly balanced you should never feel “starving” or “stuffed”). It’s not the portions I’m concerned with — it’s the counting and regulating part that can become a stressful obsession that you need to stay away from. Which brings me to my next point…
Feeling anxious, stressed and getting worked up about what you’re eating can actually be just as much (if not, more!) detrimental to your health than the food you’re eating! It’s smart to try to make the best food choices for your body when you can, but it’s just as important to give yourself a little leeway and not stress too much over the times when you aren’t eating the way you know you could or should be. Part of making lifestyle changes is learning how to deal with life. No one’s perfect and it’s not about perfection. Everyone slips and it’s important to know how to get back on track instead of falling deeper and deeper into a hole of despair. So, cut yourself a little slack by taking a deep breath and relaxing when the food you put into your body isn’t ideal. Then the next time you have a meal or snack, make a better choice.
Be on the defense
Anytime you hear of a product that makes a nutrition claim that seems too good to be true, it probably is. Don’t get caught up in the mixed nutrition information in the media. Instead, focus on what you know to be true and listen to your body. Which brings me to my last point!
Listen to your body
When in doubt, listen to your body and how it responds to the foods you’re fueling it with. Keep the focus on real food in balance and learn to pay attention to your body’s cues. Make connections by noticing how different foods affect your mood, energy levels and cravings and pay attention to how you feel when you restrict or completely leave out one of the three macronutrients (protein, fat and carbs).
Implement these five tips and you’ll be well on your way to a healthier life today. Happy National Nutrition Month!