Simple nutrition. Sounds like such an oxymoron, doesn’t it?
In today’s world, nutrition seems anything but simple.
As a nutrition practitioner, I am regularly invited to weigh in on the latest diet trends, both fads and evidenced based recommendations.
And while these trends can be helpful when backed by science, I want to focus on the simple concepts of nutrition and how you can implement them today, because feeding your body is not supposed to be hard.
As a dietitian, I didn’t get into this field because I love to know how many calories are in a potato or because I love to tell people what to eat. I got into this field because I love food! The vibrant tastes of different cuisines, the pleasure of biting into a succulent fruit, learning what flavors compliment each other best, and sharing these experiences with others provides me with a joy and connectedness to the food I’m eating.
I can’t count how often I’ve heard this doozy of a belief - “Eating healthy means not eating what tastes good.”
Often times, when we’ve decided on what tastes good and what tastes bad, we’ve really limited our options.
When did most of these beliefs get chiseled into our minds? For a lot of us, it’s when we were young, eating a bowl of mom’s famous barley soup, and we detested it. As adults, we might see anything resembling the barley soup and reject it completely.
Look, not everyone cooks like your mother (although we can be grateful for her effort), and there are so many ways to prepare and incorporate barley and other nutritious foods into our regimen.
Challenge: Next time you find yourself dismissing a health-promoting food as tasting “bad,” ask yourself, when did I form this belief? How true is it, really, that there is no way this food can be prepared to taste scrumptious? Try searching recipes online such as “world’s best brussels sprout recipe” or “delicious asparagus recipe.”
Environmentally conscious production of food, whether it be organic, grass-fed, free range, or ethical farming in general has become a growing demand from consumers. If these practices align with your personal values, you will likely want to incorporate food from these producers in your diet. For more information on ethical farming, visit https://www.ethicalfarmingfund.org/ethical-farming.
When I educate patients and clients about general healthy eating, I get really excited when I talk about plants, specifically, fruits and vegetables. Like, absurdly excited! Did you know that each individual color of fruits and vegetables play a healing and protective role in your body? Meaning, when you eat spinach, you are getting the vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals. Phytochemicals are the building blocks and supporters of antioxidants, which fight excess free-radicals. Free-radicals cause damage to living cells and are thought to be linked to diseases such as atherosclerosis, cancer, macular degeneration, and diabetes.
A few examples of the variety of phytochemicals are leafy greens being high in flavonoids, phenolics, folic acid and Vitamin C. Lycopene is a phytochemical found in red fruits and veggies, anthocyanin is rich in purple and blue fruits and veggies, beta-carotene and leutin are found in orange and yellow fruits/veggies, and allicin is found in white fruits/veggies like garlic. Ginger is also a powerful antioxidant.
This may sound a little hippy-dippy, but hang with me. It appears that much of the nutrients we need to be our most vibrant, health-full selves are available through the herbs, fruits, and vegetables that are cultivated from the Earth we live on. And while traditional medicine has its place in healthcare, it seems like we have a natural “medicine” to assist in preventing disease, and it is available at the local farmer’s market, grocery store, or even our own backyard.
Challenge: How would shifting your focus from “having to” eat fruits and veggies, to “wanting to,” change your motivation to consume more plants? When it comes to the Earth, what are you grateful for? This week, see if you can incorporate more colorful plants in to your meals.
Nutrient Density and Balance
Choosing nutrient dense foods supports you in getting a wide range of macronutrients and micronutrients, which are needed for optimal energy, metabolism, and growth. Macronutrients include complex carbohydrates (whole wheat, quinoa and other grains, lentils, beans, peas, starchy veggies - sweet and white potatoes, corn, acorn/butternut squash), protein (lean, less processed meats, fish, tofu, nuts, seeds) and fat (oils, avocados, seeds, nuts/nut butters). Fruits and veggies are also nutrient dense, which we talked about extensively in #3.
In my experience, one of the main opportunities for improvement in people’s daily eating habits is balance. Often, people eat a “healthy” breakfast of oatmeal and a banana, but are leaving out 1-2 macronutrients (in this case, a protein and a fat), which leaves them feeling hungry 30 minutes after they eat. Or they may leave out carbs all together, which might make them feel tired or brain foggy.
Challenge: I like to think of meal planning as a game. The first objective is to see how I can get all three macronutrients in my meal. The second objective is to see if I can incorporate 1 fruit and 1 veggie with that meal. It’s not always perfect, and that’s okay. We have more than enough meals to practice on in the future. You’re welcome to try it out!
I want to pause and ask you how it feels to read this information.
What comes up? Is it a feeling of dread? Excitement? Boredom?
I encourage you to get curious about this emotion, and start discovering where this feeling is coming from.
Some nourishing beliefs about you, food, and your body that have worked for me:
I know more than I think I know
I’m always doing the best I can
It’s easy to know what to eat
I nourish myself well
I choose food that makes me feel good
I am grateful for my body and all it does for me
My body is wise and resilient
I am wise and resilient
I can do hard things