So many diets, so little time. Which one to choose? Is your diet making you crazy? If you answered yes, read on.
I've never worked with a client that wasn't concerned, in some way, about what they ate. And they should be. What we decide to put in our mouths plays a very big role in making or breaking our health, both mental and physical. It's certainly worth knowing the difference between what's healthy and what's not. We're all familiar with the usual information, and can generally make heads or tails of the garden variety rules of healthy eating, such as:
- A square of dark chocolate is better for you than a square of milk chocolate.
- Skipping breakfast is usually a bad idea.
- Eating plenty of fresh vegetables is always a good idea.
- Drinking water versus soda is always preferred.
- Eating trans fats hurts our heart.
- Whole foods are infinitely healthier than fast or refined foods.
There are lots of things we know to be true, but also lots of things we don't. Science is constantly discovering the ways different nutrients and minerals help us in some way or another. Then there's the gray area - a giant abyss of nutrition information that's been doctored, capitalized and convoluted in ways that make our heads spin. This gray area is in our line of sight at the kitchen table, in the grocery store, at the coffee shop, in bookstores and on the television. We're inundated with overpriced trendy foods, diets and supplements - all of which preaching the messages like heart healthy, boosts metabolism, improves digestion and burns fat. With most of American overweight or living with a weight-related disease, who wouldn't pay attention to those claims?
The Generations Before Us Knew More
Rather than going through a laundry list of dos and don'ts when it comes to what we should and shouldn't eat, I think Michael Pollan, author of In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto, offers the simplest and best advice: "Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food."
I didn't know my great-great grandmothers, but I did have the privilege of knowing three amazing great grandmothers. If they were alive today, I think they'd be shocked by not just how much we eat, but also what we eat. Food has devolved so much in the last 30 years that, unless it's fresh, it's hardly recognizable. Pollan's point is to simply eat in a way that we might have at the turn of the 20th century. This pre-Crisco, pre-Super Size, pre-Soy, pre-Microwave generation ate foods that were fresh and closer to the ground. Grocery stores were family-owned corner shops, not super stores fully-equipped with clothing, make-up, sporting goods and books. Meals were small, not enormous monstrosities largely comprised of cheap starchy carbs and well-preserved meats. Desserts were often fresh fruits (if it was in season), and not a cookie pulled from a package that's been sitting in a kitchen cupboard for a couple weeks. Our portion sizes were reasonable, not enormous. We appreciated food for what it was. Today it's difficult to appreciate anything made up of 20+ chemically-altered ingredients as food.
Fast forward 110 years or so and we have trans fats help to stabilize foods so they can sit on shelves for months and months on end. Fresh dairy is mostly non-existent. Soy, an industrial product that wasn't even in our food system until 1913 now provides 66% of the edible consumption of fat and oil in the US (Soy Stats 2012). The food industry pumps billions of dollars into marketing imperfect foods to make them seem healthier and more appealing. Organizations that should be an advocate of the people, like the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetic, formerly the American Dietetic Association, receive substantial funding from the companies that produce junk food, including Coca Cola, SoyJoy and Mars, Inc.
I Get Why Your Diet Might Be Making Your Crazy
If you've got the ability to turn on your blinders and ignore most of the messages around you, do it. Your life will be a lot easier. If you're already dealing with a weight-related concern, take a deep breath and relax. You can do something about it.
Here are 15 tips to healthier eating:
- Become a food snob.
- Read ingredient labels so you know what's in your food. If you can't pronounce it, don't buy it.
- If the shelf life is more than a week or two, the food is dead and probably won't do your body one bit of good.
- Entirely avoid foods that contain the words partially hydrogenated oil on the label.
- Great snacks always come without fancy packaging and never use the word diet.
- Keep hunger away by stocking your kitchen, desk or car with fresh-cut veggies, fruit, cheese, nuts or homemade trail mix.
- Don't diet or deprive yourself of nutrients. Rather eat lots and lots of vegetables, salads, lean meats/poultry.
- Even though they're low fat, makestarchycarb servings small.
- Don't be afraid to eat good, healthy oils and fats, like avocado, olive oil, coconut oil.
- Stop eating late at night.
- Start drinking water instead of coffee, soda, juices or sports drinks (even if they're calorie-free). You might be surprised with the results.
- Make sure you're getting enough protein and fat in your breakfast, or you'll might have cravings all day long.
- Don't eat cereals or yogurtthathavesugaradded them. Go plain Jane, and add fresh fruit or even a little honey for flavor.
- If you have cravings, make cinnamon a staple in your diet and use it generously.
- Remember you are your best advocate. You need to take care of yourself. NOTHING could taste as good as feeling great.
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Traci is a nationally recognized health and fitness expert who has been featured on The TODAY Show and Dr. Oz. Traci is available for corporate speaking events and wellness coaching, as well as private training. Contact Traci here.
"Soy Stats 2012." 2012 Soy Stats Homepage. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 July 2012. <http://www.soystats.com/2012/Default-frames.htm>.