Q: If you had to give someone, with very little nutrition knowledge, a single piece of nutrition advice what would it be?
A: This is tricky and I’m going to stretch this “single piece” a little but I’ll make it a single sentence…
The best thing you can do for a balanced diet is to focus on minimally processed foods, eat a little bit of everything and listen to your body.
Here’s my rationale. But first a reminder – a diet is the way you eat NOT a restricted plan. When I say “diet” I am not talking about dieting but just the way you eat.
1. Minimally processed foods – food companies are smart. Their goal is to sell more products and they have spent millions of dollars figuring out how to do that. They understand how our taste buds works just how to get us to choose their product over another or eat more than we need. The less processed, the less stuff put into the food to get us to eat more. Try making homemade products instead of buying them packaged and you’ll see the difference. This advice is similar to the “shop the perimeter” at the store.
2. Eat a little bit of everything – this is talking about balance.I think ALL foods can find in moderation – even donuts. The key is to only eat a small donut once in a while (like once a month). Some people say follow an 80/20 method – eat wholesome foods 80% of the time and indulge the other 20% of the time. There’s a hundred ways to do this, but it comes down to moderation. If you restrict foods, you will likely crave them later because you are choosing to restrict them. Think of a the trick we often play with kids – don’t you pick up those toys… The second you tell someone they can’t do something they want it. If you just eat a little less you will be able to actually enjoy the item when you have it as a special treat.
3. Listen to your body – this is often the missing piece of every “diet” people go on. I truly believe THIS is why we are in this mess with food and weight. Somewhere along the way we stopped listening to our bodies and became mindless eaters. I’ll post on intuitive eating more another time, but basically we need to go back to understanding what hunger and fullness feel like. Too often we are rushing around just eating when it can be pushing into our over-committed schedule. We eat at computers or on our phones. We eat whatever we can find last minute because we didn’t have time to plan. We get to the point where we are famished and we overeat whatever sounds goods. Then when we have a moment to breathe, we feel guilty that we did this and starts another cycle of regret, negative self-talk or binging. We restrict foods out of our diet so we can feel more control. Our relationship with food is a mess and once we fix this, we can get back to the basics and start enjoying eating – not just the enjoyment of a great treat (i.e. indulging in cake) but enjoying everyday eating and how it fuels our bodies.