We live in the age of information overload. Having such abundant knowledge at our fingertips can be overwhelming—and nutritional knowledge is no exception. Thanks to the incredible breath of resources at our disposal in the natural health space, parsing out the perfect nutritional plan can seem like a full-time job.
Eating healthy does not have to be complicated!
Once you understand this one simple concept, you will KNOW which foods to eat and which foods to avoid.
There’s a few very simple nutritional guidelines that will always steer you in the direction of optimal health and vitality. These fundamental rules could save millions from a life of obesity and disease.
One major guideline to follow is… Stay AWAY from processed food. Period.
And this is the major mistake so many of us make, often without even realizing it. We buy and choose processed foods over the real thing, over whole foods and home-cooked meals, but because processed foods contain so much salt and sugar (and things like trans fats), we inevitably gain weight and become very unhealthy after eating them.
Despite being calorically dense, these foods are often nutritionally void, even if they have been ‘fortified’ with vitamins and minerals. This simply isn’t the same as getting them from their natural sources.
The principles discussed below will help you change your diet, so that you can avoid the pitfalls that lead to unhealthy dietary habits.
Let’s get started…
If it comes from a plant, eat it; if it’s made in a plant, avoid it
There’s a lot of talk about which plants and whole foods to eat—which ones are healthy enough to be considered “superfoods,” why you should or shouldn’t eat fruits, legumes, or veggies.
But here’s the bottom line: choose a wide variety of real, plant-based foods instead of processed, packaged foods, and your health is sure to benefit. All nutrition arguments aside, this should be one principle on which everyone can agree.
This is where trending diets can be dangerous. They allow us to convince ourselves that processed foods are healthy, simply because they fit the mold of the latest and greatest dietary fad.
The low-fat, Atkins, and other subsequent dietary crazes have all seen a surge of processed and packaged foods suited to the “rules” of each diet. Gluten-free and low-sugar products suffer from the same false logic—these cookies must be good for you, as long as they’re gluten-free, right?
Choosing whole foods over processed foods takes some thought. After all, food corporations make sure that their products are as convenient and addictive as possible. And because it’s so easy to become addicted to these foods (due to the excessive amounts of salt, fat, and sugar used to make them), people begin to rationalize their reasons for eating them (even calling their diet-branded foods healthy, when they are not!).
I once conversed with a woman who warned me of the dangers of my kale salad while she liberally applied processed cheese spread and cold cuts onto packaged crackers (you may recall the hullabaloo in recent years about the oxalates that kale contains). The reality is that the “dark side” of kale is easily neutralized, and in no world is eating kale all day less healthy than eating processed foods all day.
So how do we avoid the endless temptations of perfectly crafted processed foods?
Cook your food at home!
Committing to making as much of your food as possible at home is an excellent way to reinvent your relationship to food.
Here’s why: because of how much time and effort is required to make homemade fries, chips, and refined desserts, you simply won’t be able to eat as many of them. You’ll find that whole foods (and simple recipes made with them) are much more time-efficient, so you’ll naturally eat more of them by confining your diet to home-cooked.
Here’s Michael Pollan explaining this principle…
Break your food addictions
The key to gaining mastery over your health is to break the food addictions that keep you locked in the same unhealthy eating patterns. Processed foods are designed to be drugs and entertainment tools, not nourishment. And because instant dietary gratification is so easily obtained from the nearest grocer or corner store, too many of us end up as the puppets of our cravings.
But breaking these addictions is as easy as following the suggestions above. As Michael Pollan says, “Eat anything you want; just cook it yourself.” Stop counting calories. Stop fretting about following the “best” diet, especially if you’re just beginning the process of taking control of your health and nutrition.
Instead, simply eat a wide variety of organic whole foods, avoid processed foods, and anytime you crave some kind of comfort food or dessert, make it yourself at home (I guarantee you won’t have them as often).
Before long, cravings will give way to the genuine desire for nourishment. And once your relationship to your diet has shifted in this way, the hardest part of the battle against obesity and poor nutrition will already be over.