“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” - Michael Pollan
Nutrition is a complicated subject. It’s complicated for two reasons:
1. Nutrition is a fledgeling science that is constantly changing.
2. Everyone is different, and therefore requires different dietary needs.
So, how do we figure out what’s good for us if we can’t trust what we’re told and we don’t know what our ideal personal diet is? Unlike nutrition itself, the answer is actually quite uncomplicated. Eat real food and practice mindful eating.
Eat Real Food
Nutrition is important, but counting calories and obsessing over macro nutrients is a battle that you can fight forever and never get right. This is why it is so important to focus on eating a diverse selection of real food on a regular basis, versus eating a restrictive diet. We’re talking vegetables, fruit, whole grains, legumes, nuts, fish, poultry, meat, eggs, etc. Shop for ingredients instead of packages, cook more at home and eat foods that you enjoy and that make you feel good.
Restricting foods from your diet, because you think they are “bad”, will never last long term and can create unhealthy eating patterns, like binging and food moralizing. Enjoy life’s indulgences, and practice moderation and non-judgement.
Eating a diverse diet in all nutrients (versus focusing only on certain ones), ensures that you are receiving everything you need for your body to function optimally. When you do buy packaged foods, focus on what is in the ingredient list versus what health claims are on the front of the package. They are highly unregulated and often very misleading.
Above all, have compassion for yourself and make value-based decisions.
Practice being present. And then, practice bringing that presence into your meals. Notice your eating habits. Do you take your next bite of food before you are finished chewing the first bite? Are you on your phone the entire time you’re eating? Are you chewing thoroughly? Do you rush away from the table as soon as you are finished? These are all habits that you may do unconsciously. By bringing mindfulness to the table, you start to notice these habits and become better equipped at stopping them in their tracks.
You may find, that you don’t need as big of a portion of food as you thought you did to feel satiated. Stomach aches and indigestion from eating too much or too quickly will begin to go away. You will start to notice which ingredients you have trouble digesting, and might decide you are better off without them. You may even lose weight over time.
It’s not about forcing yourself to be a certain way, it’s about noticing your habits and gently adjusting them in order to bring yourself back into alignment with your truest values.
If you are interested in learning more about mindful eating I encourage you to check out the Mindful Meal Challenge, by neuroscience Ph.D Darya Rose.
Written by Sarah Burchard
Sarah Burchard is a writer, marketer and ingredients driven chef. She is the author of The Healthy Locavore, a food and lifestyle blog that focuses on cooking, healthy habits and supporting local. Sarah also leads farmers market tours and hosts farm-to-table events in Honolulu. Follow her on Instagram to learn more about local Hawaiian food.