I would like to suggest to you a radical (really, it shouldn’t be radical at all, but I fear it is) suggestion that the only ‘diet’ most of us need to follow is this: Eat. Actual. Food.
If you are wondering what makes one item food or not, Michael Pollan’s book “In Defense of Food,” gives a great answer. He says food is what you find mostly around the perimeter of the grocery store. Fruits, vegetables, meat, eggs, etc.. Food products are primarily what lines the internal aisles of the grocery store. Think cereal bars, twinkies, potato chips, cereal, eggo waffles, flavored yogurt.
Here is Pollan’s advice on how to choose what to eat. He says “Avoid food products containing ingredients that are A) unfamiliar, B) unpronounceable, C) more than five in number or that include D) high-fructose corn syrup. None of these characteristics, not even the last one is necessarily harmful, but all of them are markers for foods that have been highly processed to the point where they may no longer be what they purport to be.” (In Defense of Food, pp 150-151).
Going a little deeper, we need plates that are filled, in descending order, with:
* Vegetables (mostly raw or lightly steamed) and fruits.
* Protein in the form of nuts and seeds whether whole, ground or in oil form, and/or meat/seafood that is not from a factory farm (free range, organic, grass-fed are good words to associate with your meat).
*Whole grains and dairy.
** In small, infrequent portions, treats of choice. Mine is dark, dark chocolate. YUM!
Here are some tips to get you started:
Sit down on a weekend day and plan out a week’s worth of meals – breakfast, lunch and dinner. I do this taking into account the schedule for a given week – kid activities, my work schedule, my husband’s travel, date nights etc.
Make a grocery list based on those meals and any snacks you will need.
Don’t go shopping when you are hungry.
Read labels on food products to see if they fulfill the list of suggestions above.
Commit to trying new foods that you might previously have not liked. You can change your taste buds that have been deadened by years of processed food intake.
Portion size still matters. Just because you are eating well doesn’t mean you have permission to eat all the things!
This isn’t about being perfect and never, ever eating something that is processed. It is about making the best choice you can in a given situation. I don’t think I’ll ever give up cookies, but I can give up pre-packaged cookies or the pre-made dough and just make my own from scratch at home, thus eliminating the ingredients that I can’t pronounce!
Let me know if there are things you do that have helped you move towards eating more actual food.
In the next post we’ll look more closely at how food can be viewed as medicine.
* I’m not a doctor, and none of this is medical advice, it is just common sense. If you’ve worked an eating plan out with a doctor or nutritionist that is working for you, stick with it!