Nutrition is such an important, yet complex topic. It is of great interest to me and very close to my heart. I think it is the amateur home chef in me. I love creating meals and trying new ingredients. I love the challenge of discovering ways to get my 5 year old and 3 year old to eat nutritiously. I love taking ingredients and seeing how they can transform into beautiful meals and life around a table. But I also love discovering the ways in which food allows my body to grow, heal, function and perform.
There really is no denying that nutrition impacts all areas of our lives – how we feel, how we look, how we function. Yet there seems to be big misconceptions when it comes to nutrition and exercise. Too often I hear people talk about how they exercise so they can eat anything they want. Or they can have an extra serving of dessert because they worked out that day. Nutrition and the way our body works with the food we provide for it isn’t always as simple as it seems. It isn’t always calories in and calories out. Our bodies are complex machines that require love, care and proper fueling in order to perform optimally.
Often times, I think people struggle with nutrition because they focus on what they believe they shouldn’t do. Don’t eat this, don’t buy that, don’t go here. But in reality there are so many wonderful, flavorful and nutritious foods out there and an endless number of ways in which you can enjoy fueling your body. So for now, we’re going to focus on what we CAN do to eat healthfully long-term in our lives.
DO eat a variety of real foods
Our bodies require a variety of macronutrients, vitamins and minerals to function properly. We cannot live on one item alone and during different times in our lives we require more of certain nutrients. The key is healthy variety. Regardless of what diet you follow, whole foods, particularly vegetables, should make up the largest portion of your diet. Not a fan of vegetables? Find new ways to prepare them, like roasting which is an excellent way to enhance their flavor. When a vegetable is roasted it caramelizes and brings out all the natural sweetness and goodness. You can roast just about any vegetable: carrots, green beans, eggplant, squash, cauliflower or brussel sprouts. You will not be disappointed!
In addition to vegetables, a healthy diet should include lean protein, complex carbohydrates and healthy fats. In general, it is best to avoid or limit trans fat, sugar and excess salt. The focus should be on real foods without additives and artificial ingredients. There is no one diet that works for everyone. You have to find what works best for your body and lifestyle. Find a way that you can eat healthfully for the rest of your life.
DO eat mindfully and in moderation
Nutrition really is about balance. Unless you have a medical condition or sensitivity, which requires you to avoid certain foods, there is really no need to cut an entire food group out of your diet. The focus instead should be on moderation. Overeating is often the downfall. Yes, you can have dessert, but keep portion size in mind and balance it out with a healthy dinner. Before you reach for a snack, evaluate how you are feeling, what signals your body is sending you and what you need in that moment in order to function optimally.
DO drink plenty of water
Never underestimate the power of water. Every cell in your body requires water to perform. Our bodies are 80 percent water and without it we will simply shut down. Water helps with metabolism, regulating your temperature, it protects organs, removes waste and helps you absorb nutrients. Water even helps convert food into energy. Water can benefit both how you feel and how you look. More often, choose water over other beverages. Add fruits or vegetables to your water for a little variety and extra flavor. Unsweetened tea is another great way to increase your water intake.
DO become informed
You only get one body and you want to treat it well. It is important to educate yourself on what is in your food, where it comes from and how it is made. You cannot rely solely on what you hear from advertisements or labels claiming to be “healthy.” Do your research and ask questions. Farmers’ Markets are a great way to not only buy locally grown food, but also to meet the people who are growing and harvesting your food. They love to talk about their harvest and ways to incorporate the foods into your diet.
DO focus on lifestyle
Often times diets don’t work because they are too hard to stick with over the long haul. If you think about it, every day of your life is designed around eating. Counting calories and constantly focusing on what you cannot have is not as beneficial as making simple, sustainable lifestyle changes. You will not reach success with quick fixes, but rather behavioral changes. As always, start small. Swap out soda for water, fill half your plate with vegetables, cook at home instead of relying on fast food, eat breakfast with a mix of protein, carbohydrates and healthy fats. There are so many ways to make healthy changes in your life. Fueling your body should not only be healthy and enjoyable, it should be a way of life.
At Pillar Wellness, we counsel and educate people generally on the tenets of good nutrition and help people understand themselves to create a nutrition plan that is right for them. We focus on the relationship with food and lifestyle behaviors associated with nutrition. We do not provide specific diets. Only you know what is right for you.