Healthy eating should not be complicated. I know, it’s sooo easy to overcomplicate it, especially with all of the different dietary theories, weight loss programs, clean eating guidelines, and calorie trackers out there. Heck, I do healthy food for a living and even I get confused sometimes!
Well, I will let you in on a little secret: Dietary theories are made to sell. They lure you in with appealing headlines, promise unrealistic results, and leave you feeling frustrated when you are unable to incorporate them into your life longterm. You get re-routed to square one and start the process over again.
If it’s too good to be true, it probably is. So, if all of the fad dieting, calorie counting, and hoopla doesn’t work, what does? Basic, simple principles that you can incorporate into everyday life. I know it’s not glitzy, but I will take plain jane over a dead end fad diet any day.
I talk to my clients about the simple principles below day in and day out and I want to share some of the love with you. These principles will help you un-complicate healthy eating and set you up for a life of balance and food freedom.
Eat real food. Yes, real food, as in like what your great-grandma ate. No packages, bags, or boxes of sugary delight. Not to get all cave-(wo)man on you, but think about the types of foods your ancestors ate. They ate from the land and I am pretty sure chemicals, preservatives, and artificial sugars weren’t growing in the green, grassy knolls they were hunting and gathering on.
Build 1/2 your plate with vegetables. Most Americans are not eating enough vegetables. In my opinion, this is the single most important thing you can do for your health. Vegetables purify your blood, detoxify your body, strengthen your immune system, fight disease, give you energy, improve your skin, and more. This is actually one area of nutrition that is not heavily debated. Most (if not all) dietary theories agree on the fact that you should be eating a diet rich in vegetables. Finally, Veg-heads and Paleo-ites can unite! Don’t hold back on eating vegetables because you feel like you have to purchase all organic, fresh vegetables. If you don’t eat any vegetables right now, start with canned. Don’t be shy of frozen–they have just as many nutrients as fresh. Eventually, move into fresh and start exploring organic if that interests you.
Eat carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. Don’t eliminate any of the macronutrients. Your body is designed to need carbohydrates, fats, and proteins in large quantities to survive–that’s how God made you. You are not made to live in extremes and if you completely cut one of these macronutrients from your diet, your body won’t cooperate and you will eventually get cravings, have deficiencies, and more.
Keep it simple. Don’t get caught up in the numbers–calories, macronutrient grams, and weight. This principle is a nightmare for analytical people! As a rule, I don’t like to give people specific numbers to follow because they become caught up in them and make decisions based on the numbers vs. how their body feels. When you focus on eating real food with a variety of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates and fill half your plate with veggies, you will be in good shape.
View food as your friend. Food is to the body as gas is to a car. You need it to run. Too many people fear food, feeling like it will make them gain weight. They skip meals, deny hunger, count calories, and debate between this item or that. I don’t mean to sound harsh by getting all italics on you, but listen up people, food is your friend, not your enemy. It is about time you got acquainted with it, thanked it for nourishing your body, and started inviting it into your life in a healthy way.
Cook once, eat twice. If you are going to spend time in the kitchen making a meal, make a double batch of whatever you’re cooking. This is a no brainer that a lot of us don’t think about. This little tip can save you a lot of time in the long run. You can use extra vegetables in eggs the following morning, add leftover protein to a salad, or freeze things like enchiladas, pasta sauces, chilis, and soups for another dinner down the road.
Be adventurous. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Food is an adventure. You will make mistakes in the kitchen–it’s inevitable. You will burn a meal, forget to add ingredients, and make a mess. You will have epic fails, but you will also have epic successes! The epic successes make it all worthwhile. You will impress your family, be able to use and develop your creativity, and have the satisfaction of knowing you provided your family with real, wholesome food.
Sneak a few treats. Yes, I just gave you permission. This might actually be my favorite principle. I don’t want you to go ‘all or nothing’ on yourself and forget about the 90/10 rule. The 10 percent is there for a reason: to enjoy it.
Do the best you can with what you have. You aren’t always going to have the perfect choice. Give yourself grace for when these situations arise. The off-time that you eat something sub-optimal because there is no other choice doesn’t mean the world is ending. You will be just fine! One off-meal doesn’t define you, but all of the little choices you make day in and day out, do.
I hope these principles help you to approach food in a new way. Food is love and is meant to nourish and energize you. I encourage you to back away from overcomplicating it and view it for the life-giving source that it is. Whenever my clients start to get overwhelmed, I tell them to take a deep breathe and remind them that it is as simple as ‘eat real food’.