It seems like there are thousands of ‘new’ diets and eating plans that proclaim the ‘right’ way to eat healthy. As it turns-out, they are not all bad. Limiting carbohydrate intake, counting calories, eliminating the foods that we are addicted to, all methods to miraculously lose those extra pounds and be healthy, make a certain a mount of sense. The problem is that there is no singular program that is the best, or right method that works for everyone; especially for those of us that have families with differing dietary needs.
So, is there a healthy, balanced diet, that works for everyone in all walks of life? I think there is. I also think that it is pretty painless. Here are a few simple rules that I try to follow:
1. The less done to your food the better. With few exceptions, the closer a food item is to its natural or original state, the more the nutrients in the food are going to be intact.
2. Keep ingredient lists short and sweet. If you wouldn’t add something to a dish cooked at home, why would you pay someone else to add it for you? Ice cream has five basic ingredients, cream, milk, sugar, eggs, flavor (vanilla bean for instance). Any other additives are just money out of your pocket and real food out of your stomach.
3. Eat all things in moderation. Protein in the morning not only helps stabilize blood sugar for the rest of the day but helps stave-off the need for a quick sugar fix later in the day.
Fats, now don’t get scared here, are actually good for you. I am not talking about biting into a brick of lard every day for lunch THAT would be bad. Your body actually NEEDS fat to function. Fats are large molecules that provide lots of energy to you when when they are broken down. Fats need to be categorized though. I have personally found that the fat contained in raw dairy agrees with my system for two reasons. First, the fat molecules in raw dairy are so large that the body has a hard time breaking them down to absorb or store them. But, the presence of the fats still causes the gall bladder and liver to use and keep producing bile (bile is what helps digest fats in your digestive tract). This bile production, when regular, convinces the body that fat is plentiful and doesn’t need to be stored because there will be more later.
Carbohydrates think of these as long chains of sugar. They are. While that doesn’t make carbs evil, it does mean that they should be monitored and well balanced with the fat and protein intake.
4. Further from home is further from healthy. Who doesn’t appreciate the convenience of being able to buy blueberries and tomatoes in December? But consider this, buying produce out of season for your home location means the foods have to travel. To make sure that nothing is rotting by the time it gets to your local grocer, growers have to harvest before the foods are actually ripe. This, naturally, stops any further growing, nutrient accumulation, and actual ripening. On top of this, produce picked this way is chemically treated to give it the appearance of being ripe. Unless vine ripened in a local hot house, those pinkish-red tomatoes in the store in December aren’t actually ripe, meaning they will bear a taste strongly resembling cardboard. Let’s face it, even those most staunchly vegan don’t want to eat cardboard. If it doesn’t taste good we don’t eat it. And if we don’t eat we can not reap the nutrition. (There are of course long term storage options discussed HERE)
5. Don’t eat if you are not hungry and Pay attention to cravings. Your body is not stupid, trust it to know when it does or does not need more fuel. On the same note cravings are clues to something that needs adjusting in your diet. The three o’clock candy hour just might be your system screaming that you need a different lunch plan.
6. Sweets are not friends. This is one rule that can not be avoided. Refined sugar = bad. There is no way around it. And don’t forget the high fructose corn syrup. It is used all over the place because it is cheap and easy for manufacturers, not because it has any benefit to your health.
7. Be aware of calories. This should not be stressful and doesn’t have to be perfect. The basic principle is continuous intake of more calories than you use will lead to weight gain.
Please note, I am not a doctor, nutritionist, or other such guru. I have found a system that works for me and also seems common sense. I would encourage everyone to find the system that works best for them.