Healthy Eating - It Starts with a Healthy Relationship to Food
Deciding how to approach food choice has gotten needlessly complicated. It’s easy to feel disempowered with all the misinformation and contradictions that abound on food, nutrition and health. (For me personally, while it took me some time to get here, all foods fit (with the exception of a few confirmed intolerances). That said, I’m drawn most to the foodways of the Mediterranean - with a focus on simple, fresh ingredients, well-studied for its positive impacts on health, mind and aging, so delicious and most importantly, food choices that makes me feel great! (It's also an eating pattern that supports the health of the planet, but that's a topic for another day.)
But there definitely is not one definition for healthy eating and the good news is there really is no such thing as perfection. Given that food affects us all in different ways, “healthy” varies from person to person, but while needs do vary, there are some basic principles to follow...
It all starts with a healthy relationship with food.
Having a good relationship with food is the foundation and the place from which all food choices should be made. What does this look like?
Letting our own internal hunger and fullness cues help us make intuitive choices on what and how much to eat.
(That said) knowing there are times we might eat a little more than we need and others a little less, yet trusting that all will come into balance in the end.
Choosing foods that provide the energy we need to stay productive, healthy and happy. Why not fuel ourselves for greatness? (More on that later.)
Knowing which foods are worth avoiding because eating them is not worth the consequences. Whether it’s the salty foods that raise blood pressure, avoiding nuts due to an allergy and risk for anaphylactic shock, or spicy foods that inevitably lead to indigestion. I repeat, why not fuel for greatness?!
Making room for indulgence. Life is short and food is one of life’s simple pleasures. It’s also one of the ways we come together in community and celebration.
Reframing your relationship to food can lead to freedom that inevitably will help you make the choices that your body intuitively craves and which will bring you back into balance, better health and vitality.
But so, how does one approach "healthy eating?"
“Balanced” is the name of the game.
Whether you are walking through your company’s cafe, or scanning the restaurant menu, here are a few basic questions to ask that will help you make great choices in a way that are the backbone of an optimal eating pattern for health, for life.
1. Is the item prepared with fresh, whole ingredients or is it overly processed? The latter are typically stripped of their nutritional goodness while a lot of additives, preservatives, sweeteners and other junk are added back to preserve flavor and shelf-life.
2. Was the food prepared using healthful cooking techniques such as baking, roasting, broiling, steaming or searing or was it prepared with too much added oil (ie. fried).
3. How much color do you see? Generally found in plant-based foods, the more color on the plate, the better. The colors of the rainbow present in the foods we eat are typically indicative of the food(s) antioxidant content. We know how important antioxidants are in reducing inflammation, boosting immune function and protecting against chronic health problems.
4. Are all the "food groups" represented; ie slow burning, high fiber carbs (whole grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables), sustainably produced/sourced protein (fish, eggs, poultry, soy) and a source of heart healthy, anti-inflammatory oil (ie EVOO, nuts, seeds, avocado)? Our body needs and wants each of these - when we don’t honor our body’s needs, it tends to fight hard to get what it wants.
Consistently incorporating these foods and nutrients into meals helps us stay in balance and maintain great food practices that sustain and protect us for the long-haul.
Alison Acerra MS, RDN is Founder of Strategic Nutrition Design, a Nutrition Strategy consulting business where we help businesses and their eaters thrive. We specialize in building innovative corporate cafes that nourish thriving employees.
Connect to us here.