I'm a dietitian who loves food. What I've realized after working with many clients over the past few years, is that we tend to make food way too complicated than it needs to be. It’s just food.
And while I absolutely adore food, it really is just food. Living in a culture obsessed with weight and “health” — it’s almost second nature to develop your own set of rules.
I don’t believe in dieting, restricting certain foods, or calorie counting. That’s not healthy mentally or physically. And health is so much more than the food on our plates. It’s also about stress management, getting enough sleep, and exercising appropriately. But I do believe you need cake to balance out the kale, just as much as you need kale to balance out the cake.
I’m a dietitian. And here are the food rules I follow (most of the time!):
1. Include a healthy fat at every meal.
If for some reason a meal doesn’t include some sort of fat — I love nuts, coconut oil or avocado — I’ll be hungry within an hour or two. Not only do fats provide satiation since they empty your stomach the slowest, they’re imperative for good hormonal health.
2. Always eat breakfast.
I can count on one hand the number or times I’ve skipped breakfast. It’s my favorite meal of the day and I’d feel lethargic and cranky if I didn’t eat it. I might sound like a broken record, but breakfast replenishes your glycogen stores after a night of fasting, and suppresses counter regulatory stress hormones that get released when you’ve gone too long without eating.
3. Sit down whenever you eat.
I used to eat standing up, eat while walking to the train, eat while cleaning, eat while doing a trillion other things. And then I’d get done eating and feel like I never ate at all because I was multitasking while eating. This would then lead me to feeling snacky and wanting something else to eat, because I felt like something was lacking in my previous eating experience.
Eating while sitting down is the first step to creating awareness around what you’re eating, making eating a restful experience, and allowing you to actually taste your food.
4. Eat dessert.
Every night I eat dessert to some extent. And it absolutely doesn’t include fruit. Sometimes it’s a few pieces of dark chocolate dipped in peanut butter. Sometimes it’s a slice of banana chocolate chip bread smeared with butter. Sometimes it’s a cupcake or an ice cream cone. But I eat dessert every night.
By de-villainizing dessert and eating it often, I’m satisfied on less and I never have the urge to eat two three or five cupcakes because I know I can eat dessert anytime I want.
5. If I’m hungry, I eat.
You wouldn’t let a baby cry and never give him a bottle, right? So why do we let our stomachs grumble and not feed them? Hunger cues are the only justification you need to eat something. If you’re hungry, you eat. It doesn’t matter what time of day it is, when the last time you ate was, or how much you’ve exercised that day. When you’re hungry, you should eat. It’s as simple as that.
Photo courtesy of the author