Our daily eating habits are influenced by a variety of things, including culture, religion, politics, environment, media, personal beliefs and preferences, and our knowledge of current health and nutrition information, to name just a few. As new scientific information emerges, however, health and nutrition recommendations are frequently changed. Additionally, there are numerous “fad diets” that misinform us as to what “eating well” truly means. The following guidelines have therefore been written to help the modern day eater cultivate a nourishing and sustaining relationship with food that can apply to any reasonable or medically prescribed eating plan.
Eat Real Food
Real food is: whole food or foods with minimal ingredients, minimally processed, fresh or flash frozen, and in-season as often as possible. Choosing foods grown locally or regionally and if possible, organic, increases variety and nutrition while encouraging seasonal eating. Many foods available today are highly processed and deliver excess calories, fat and sugar in a manner that makes it difficult for your body to discern fullness and satisfaction. Nutrient rich foods contribute to satiety and nourishment much more effectively than nutrient replete choices.
- Nutrient rich food choices: fruits, vegetables, skim and low-fat dairy, lean meat, poultry, and fish, fiber rich grains and cereals like brown rice, oatmeal and buckwheat, legumes, nuts and seeds, avocados, and plant oils
- Nutrient replete foods: highly refined and processed foods like colas and sugary beverages, highly refined and sweetened cereals, pre-packaged baked goods and snacks, fast food and other high fat, low nutrient-dense choices as are often found when eating out
Allow for Pleasure and Joy in Eating
Food is a necessity. As such, it plays an important role in daily family life, religious and cultural events, and many other social activities. Fortunately, many foods are delicious and the experience of eating and socializing with others can be very enjoyable. Choosing a wide variety of foods from every food group and allowing for flexibility in food choices (eating out when asked, including a dessert) is a sign of balanced and appropriate eating. When eating becomes a source of stress, anxiety, or worry, this may be a sign that something else needs attention. If this describes you, it is recommended that you seek the advice of a medical professional.
Eat to Satisfaction, Not Less, Not More
Dieting is an enormous risk factor for developing eating disorders and can even lead to weight gain. Skipping meals, restricting intake and over-exercising lead to increased food thinking, increased cravings, and increased risk of binge eating. At the same time, over-eating is a sign of disconnected or un-attuned eating and can lead to increased risk for developing many chronic diseases. Practice listening to your body's physiological cues of hunger and fullness and you will eventually learn what's right for your body.
Eat Freshly Prepared Foods Most of the Time
Whether at home or choosing from a dining hall or an eating club, minimize the number of times you eat out each week. If you are eating at home or eating foods made in a home-like environment (ala dining hall entrees), you have a better chance of eating real food and enjoying many other social and mental health benefits.
Eat in an Undistracted Manner
For example, eat at a table, not at your desk, eat with soothing music on, not the television, and eat from a plate, not from a food container or bag. Cultivating the practice of mindful eating, including being mindfully aware of portions, will allow you to eat for pleasure and joy as well as for health and satisfaction.