I’ve developed my own little food philosophy over the last few years. Nothing new here, but as I love reading about other people’s eating habits and beliefs, I thought I would share my views. Disclaimer: I am by no means a nutritionist, dietitian, or scientist. These are just my personal opinions!
1) Veggies are your no. 1 priority
If I had to name only one way to improve your diet, I’d say eat your vegetables. The recommended daily minimum is 2 and a half cups. So get them in whenever you can! Lunch and dinner is obvious but don’t forget that you can add veggies to certain breakfasts or make snacks out of them. They are low in calories and so high in nutrients. Eat them.
2) Cut out processed food
I know, I know. It’s so much easier to pick up a jar of pasta sauce, a box of cookies with an unnatural shelf life, or full meals from the frozen section. But there’s nothing convenient about the damage all the sodium and preservatives do to your body, even if the packaging is labelled “organic” or “healthy”. You need to eat real food, people. Processed stuff is not real food.
3) Prepare most of your meals
This kind of goes hand-in-hand with the previous point. But it’s not only important to prepare most of your meals to avoid processed crap, but it’s also important to avoid eating out all the time. If you have the funds to eat at places with really high-quality, healthy food, that’s great. Go for it! But for the rest of us, we’re probably eating at places that do not use quality ingredients, and the meals are probably a lot higher in calories than we think. But the scariest part is that you just don’t know what exactly is in your food and how it was prepared. I have heard horror stories about what goes on in some restaurants’ kitchens!
4) Choose seasonal/local/non-GMO/organic foods when you can
I’m sure you’ve heard enough about what genetically modified foods and pesticides may do to our bodies, and how food that’s traveled a long distance loses most of its nutritional value, so no need for me to go into it. If you’re not already convinced to spend your money on quality food upfront and would rather spend it on medical bills later, at least lessen the damage. Make these two swaps: choose organic when you are purchasing the Dirty Dozen, and please choose organic/non-feedlot dairy and beef. It’s bad, bad news if you don’t.
5) Watch your portion sizes
I’d much rather be heavier but eating tons of healthy foods than skinny but subsisting on junk. Nutrition comes before weight, but if you’ve got the nutrition thing down, tackle your portion sizes. We need to leave behind the ideas of all-you-can-eat, stuffing yourself, and snacking non-stop. It’s not good for you and too much excess weight raises your risks for all sorts of health problems. You know this.
6) Forget the fad diets
I swear, fad diets are an addiction. People cannot get enough of them. Just stop, already. None work in the long-term. It’s too difficult to maintain restrictive and depriving diets. If you want to lose weight, eat balanced, healthy meals, which is how you want to eat for the rest of your life anyhow (instead of cabbage soup or no carbs, for example). Just count your calories and exercise. There will always be fad diets and they will never be the answer. Just accept it!
7) Eat a balanced diet and switch it up
So what is this balanced diet? Healthy fats, healthy carbs, healthy protein. You need ‘em all. There’s no reason to cut out any major food group. And because different foods are higher in different nutrients, you want to switch it up to get all the nutrients you need. Anyway, isn’t that a better way to eat and live? Variety is the spice of life!
8) Don’t judge others
It’s a wonderful thing to have a healthy diet. But there’s no need to judge the eating habits of others. I’m guilty of it occasionally–I giggled when I saw some dude at the supermarket buy nothing but 20 Chef Boyardee cans and 20 Gatorades. But when someone asked me why I “put that garbage” in my body, referring to my home-baked cookies, I understood how awful it is to be judgmental about people’s food beliefs. You can disagree with them, but it’s not your place to judge them. If people want to change their eating habits, they have to want to make a change. Your unsolicited advice will not help.
9) Don’t get neurotic about it and don’t be a snob
I’ve listed a lot of guidelines here but I want to point out that they are not rules. Eat right 80% of the time. There’s no need to be difficult, be inconvenienced, or upset others the other 20% of the time. As much as I love making food from scratch and shopping at the farmers market, I enjoy a good street taco or post-holiday discounted Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup.
10) Enjoy your food
Last thought. Enjoy your food. Savor it. Eat what makes you happy. Try new things. Don’t forego taste for health all the time. I don’t believe in living to eat; there are more important things in life. But there’s no need to purely eat to live, either. Food and flavor is a wonderful gift and we should embrace it.