16 Food Rules You Don't Need To Follow
There are so many rules for our food, don’t you think it’s time we start to follow just one rule?
Don’t you think, if we just listened to our bodies, we’d know when we’re full, or hungry, or thirsty? Don’t you think that we have the power to look past all of that marketing hubbub and know that our decisions on what to eat or drink are exactly what we need?
With 10 years of disordered eating habits (you name it, I've tried it), it’s safe to say that I’ve had a lot of time to think about what I'd like to change when it comes to food and the rules of eating. With my long history of restrictive eating, and with the help of several of my certified health expert friends and top chefs, we’ve devised for you, the 16 food rules you don't need to follow.
1. Eat five meals a day.
Seriously? The only person who has time to sit down for five meals a day is a fitness junkie training for her next bikini contest. I’ll take breakfast lunch and dinner and snack on the run if I feel like it. As long as we listen to our body, our inner compass will guide us to the kitchen when our hunger beckons.
2. You need protein at every meal.
Sure we all need protein, but it lurks in even the greenest of veggies—did you know that? Protein is an essential building block to everything that grows, it’s not just found in animal meat. So, who’s to tell us that we need 50 grams of protein a day to grow lean muscle mass? Let me debunk that myth for you. Muscles are grown in the gym, not by any pill, powder, or piece of meat.
3. If you're watching your weight, watch your portions.
Now here's a rule that's a gateway to eating disorders. The moment we restrict the food we’re eating and stop listening to our hunger levels, we forfeit our ability to nourish our body the way it's asking to be nourished. Instead of portion control, let’s try asking ourselves, Am I full? Am I still hungry? These are healthy questions to ask. If you’re worried about overeating, try practicing mindful eating habits, get outside, and start exercising to feel good.
4. Milk does a body good.
Another species’ breast milk, which is pumped full of hormones, is not designed for human bodies to consume. (Not to mention that it’s extremely cruel to impregnate cows over and over until their dying day.) Of course, if I were withering away on a farm and happened to have a nursing cow near me, believe me, I would suck the milk straight from her teet! I'd probably eat the dirt she stood on, too. Our bodies are designed to combat foreign substances in small amounts (isn’t that awesome?!), but that doesn’t make it right to market the cancer and diabetes-causing dairy milk to our young children. If you really want milk, opt for plant-based kinds.
5. If you want to stay slim, don't eat carbs.
Oh, there was a time when the Atkins diet peaked in popularity that my Grandfather swore that my whole family were “Carboholics.” He happily ate bacon for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Later he realized how unhealthy he'd been when he contracted cancer (which he went on to beat). Remember this: fad diets may help you lose weight temporarily, but they are marketed to sell books, and to sell packaged foods with the labels and point amounts on them—not to help you get healthier. Don’t give in to trends; eat what feels right!
6. Cereals and sweets are fine for breakfast.
In America, and now in many parts of the world, we’re serving up addictive refined sugars in every breakfast meal: Pop Tarts, Frosted Flakes, Cinnabons. In many European countries, people drink tea or coffee and have a piece of simple bread (made from five ingredients or fewer). If you need something sweet to start your day off right, try whole fruit, or make a creative smoothie at home.
7. Eat low-calorie to be healthy.
When you buy something that’s labeled “reduced calories,” you’re buying junk, literally. Our bodies need the entire food that we’re eating in order to digest it and to retain its nutrients properly. If we can’t stomach the real product, why not make our own, healthier version, and leave out all of the added sugars and heavy creams?
8. Avoid fat.
When we substitute the real deal with toxic fillers in order to create a "fat-free" product, our body isn't getting the nutrition or satiation it’s craving, so we keep eating. Healthy fat is essential for brain function, duhhhh. Don’t skimp out or cheat yourself on healthy fats: Go for it!
9. Don't eat gluten.
Oh what a taboo topic these days! I was gluten-free for three years, so I have permission to speak freely about this. If you have celiac or a gluten intolerance (like I had), by all means, steer clear. If not, let me debunk this new craze for you, gluten-free is not going to make us skinnier, or less lackadaisical. Our size and feelings are based on exercise, food choices, and genetics.
10. You need fish oil for Omega 3s.
Omega-3 fatty acids are found in the green leaves of plants, like algae and seaweed. Fish eat these plants, which makes their body rich in Omega 3. However, don’t you think it’s better to go straight to the source? Let’s eat the blue green algae and seaweed directly and give our bodies the nutrition to make it happier and healthier. Free Willy! Enter seaweed. My favorite way to eat seaweed is around a warm avocado sushi roll (sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds), which is absolutely the best thing on a menu at sushi restaurants. Interestingly enough, my dog Spunky loves to eat sheets of seaweed, too.
11. Take your multivitamins.
Don’t you think that if we’re deficient in a certain vitamin or mineral, that we should just eat it straight from the source? Low in calcium? Try broccoli. Need more iron? Let’s make a spinach salad. In order to process vitamins and minerals, we need the entire whole food to help aid our bodies in digesting and healing.
12. If you want to be healthy, be vegan.
Oreos are vegan. Yes, despite their cream filled center, these kid magnets are free of dairy and animal products. This doesn’t mean that they’re healthy, when they’re chock full of refined sugars and preservatives. Next time you’re picking out a special sweet treat for yourself or the kiddos, think, Is this healthy? not just, Is this vegan?
13. You need 8 glasses of water a day.
How about instead we tell ourselves: Drink freely! It’s good for you and your skin. When we encourage habits to consume certain amounts of something (even if it’s water), it creates a competitive mindset that masks our ability to use our natural instinct to drink when we need it and to push it aside when we don’t. Think about your family dog. You take him for a walk, and he drinks two big bowls of water. We don’t lecture the dog to consume more or less; this is how we should treat our bodies. Forget the numbers and go primal.
14. "Cholesterol-free" means it's good for you.
NYC’s plant-based super chef, Jessica Young says, “A lot of packaging uses cholesterol-free as a gimmick to seem healthier. Most people don’t even know what it is: Cholesterol is animal fat. If there is no animal product in the food, there should automatically be no cholesterol! So next time you see a salad package or a juice-based drink (which shouldn’t contain animal fats anyway) tooting its horn for not having any cholesterol, ask yourself, Why?”
15. To be healthy, eat eggs.
Eating an egg white seems so strange to me, like sucking down the amniotic fluid that surrounds your baby in the womb. Cringe. If you want protein, try a cup of beans and steer clear of all the health issues that high cholesterol and animal protein can cause us.
16. Avocados and coconuts make you fat.
Ever heard of fruititarians? They're the incredibly food dedicated and super fit people that walk this earth. They will sit down and eat five avocados and a coconut in one meal. The healthy fats in these fruits makes your skin glow and your brain fire like Ken Jennings. I even use these products on my hair and skin to give me that perfect model glow.
I would love to know the food rules that you don’t follow; there are so many to share! The important takeaway is that we start to follow one simple rule and forget the rest: Listen to your body.
Now that is something that I can do!
Ready to learn more about what anxiety, brain health, and your diet all have in common? Register now for our FREE Functional Nutrition Webinar with Dr. Mark Hyman.