Nutrition is an ever-changing field. For science-minded individuals like me, that can be exciting, but for those who just want a consistent answer to their health-related questions, it can be frustrating.
Nutrition is a fairly new science, and we're just beginning to understand the complex interactions between nutrients in food and the human body.
However, there are a few solid morsels of information that have stood the test of time:
1. You don’t have to like everything you eat, and you don’t have to eat everything you like.
Now, truth be told, as a nutritionist I want my clients to like healthy foods, but there are some foods that are just worth learning to like. Beets and salmon are on the top of that list.
The second part is a little trickier. Simply put, making a choice to eat healthier may sometimes mean choosing NOT to eat certain foods even though you know you like them. Making peace with this is an important step in making a lifestyle change.
2. Let food be your medicine.
Three to five times a day, every day, we have an opportunity to influence our physical and emotional health.
I divide food into three groups: zappers, neutrals, and helpers.
The zappers are foods that may take more from our body than they give. If you can't pronounce the ingredient, chances are that your body won't know how to make use of it. Stay clear of ingredients with the words hydrogenated, hydrolyzed, artificial, and autolyzed, and ingredients that have a # next to them (like red #3).
Most of us, even those who are already health-minded, are eating the neutrals. These are foods that are neither harming nor helping. Think of whole-grain (although processed) cereal.
Helpers are foods that have a robust offering of nutrients like phytochemicals and antioxidants and increase our vitality and energy. Foods like blueberries, broccoli, turmeric, ginger, and cinnamon are all helpers. For those of you ready to step it up a bit, consider trying maca root or spirulina in your next smoothie.
3. Respect your body.
I used to tell my kids that there was a tag attached to them at birth stating, “You have one body, take care of it. Move daily. Eat well." I believe in that philosophy whole-heartedly.
4. Rest, digest, and stress less.
Think of mealtimes as opportunities for mini-meditative moments in your busy and hurried day. Pause before a meal. Take a moment and some deep breaths to move out of fight-or-flight mode and into rest-and-digest mode.
This practice will allow your digestive system to really engage in making use of those beautiful foods you're about to eat. Your whole body will benefit.
5. Create a colorful plate.
I challenge my clients to get at least five colors of the rainbow onto their plates each day. This can be easier than you think: