Which diet should I follow? Should I be a vegan or vegetarian? Is Paleo right for me? Should I be gluten-free? These are the most common questions I get as a nutrition consultant.
Let’s stop with the dizzying labels and instead embrace our individuality — our bio-individuality, that is: there is no one perfect diet. The foods that are right and best for my body are different from the foods that are good for yours. It's the simple truth, yet it isn't how we've been conditioned to think about food and nutrition in this country.
Think about it: some of us have sensitivities to otherwise healthy foods. Some can digest lactose while others struggle to. Some thrive on vegetarian diets while others can't.
So many factors affect what foods are right for us as individuals: our age, our gender, our genetic makeup, the environment we live in and whether we're marathon runners or couch potatoes.
So, bio-individuality sounds great and all, but how do I know which foods are right for me?
There’s no simple answer. Over time, you can discover what's best for your body through experimentation and noticing how different foods affect you. There are even tests to help point you in the right direction. None of them are perfect and some can be expensive.
While there’s no one perfect diet that fits all, there's one rule that works for everybody: don’t count calories — make calories count.
We've become so obsessed with tracking our caloric-fat this, and carb-intake that — when numbers are only part of the story. Sure, calories and the amount of food on your plate matter, but 2,000 calories of vegetables is much different than 2,000 calories of sugar.
The quality of food you eat matters as much as, if not more than, the quantity. And when you eat more high-quality, nutrient-dense whole foods, your body feels full quicker, so you tend to eat less. Conversely, food loaded with poor-quality oils, cheap sweeteners, hormones, antibiotics and chemicals depletes your body of energy. You end up needing to eating more to feel satisfied.
So my simple answer to some tough questions: make your food count — and enjoy.