Wednesday, July 25, 2012

What Should I Eat?

First, I must state that I am not a dietitian.  However, I do have some formal education in nutrition and a lot of instruction in physiology taken on the way to earning my degrees and certifications.  Additionally, I read a lot and continue to learn more and more about nutrition for my own benefit.  Of course, this is of great additional benefit to my clients, patients, and readers as well.  If you read my profile you will see a sampling of nutrition books that have influenced my perspective.  I also glean a lot of information periodically from and various other sites and news outlets.  Generally, if I see an article on nutrition, I will at least skim through it, consider the information, and perhaps, incorporate it into my nutritional paradigm or research it further.

There are several challenges to eating well.  It requires knowledge, planning, time, and it is generally more expensive but, it is certainly worth the effort.  Good nutrition combined with regular physical activity will prevent many chronic diseases.  It will improve quality of life and probably length of life.  I see my role as helping with the challenge of knowledge, and perhaps, forming a plan.

The challenge with improving nutritional knowledge is that there is so much information around us about food--advertisements of all types, labels, news stories, personal testimonials--and not all of it is good or accurate.  It can be overwhelming.  It's also very easy to eat poorly because of the ease of access to junk food.

I generally avoid telling people exactly what to eat.  I'm afraid they might eat only those foods and nothing else, then get tired of it and return to old habits.  I prefer to tell people how to eat and what to emphasize in their diets.  You know, "teach a man to fish and he'll never be hungry again..."

I also avoid telling people what they cannot eat.  I don't want them to feel deprived.  I don't want to introduce a negative; I want to take a positive approach.  Look at all these wonderful, healthy foods that you can eat...  By the same token, I avoid labeling foods as "bad."  Some foods are just better choices than others.

So, what should you eat?  If you look at the really good diet plans, they have a few things in common. They emphasize whole foods and limit or eliminate processed foods.  That is the key.  Eat real food and emphasize quality over quantity.  

So, eat what you like, but emphasize fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables (organic and local, if possible), whole grains (that is, you should be able to recognize it as a grain, not a flour), nuts, beans, and lentils.  This should compose two thirds to three quarters of your plate or of your daily intake.  Fill the rest with portions of fish, seafood, meat, poultry, eggs, dairy.  Try to eat this way about 80% of the time.  Then, 20% of the time, if you've earned it, you can eat whatever you want without guilt.

I decided to include the following diagram as a representation of my guidelines.  Just don't get hung up on the title, it's just happens to be the best visual representation I could find.  Several other "diets" are similar, the glycemic index diet for example.

My last blog discussed how to eat.  I've shared general guidelines for what to eat here.  Now, choose to make a healthy choice in your life by improving your nutrition.  Educate yourself about nutrition--read, talk to professionals, find good resources.  Tip: mainstream media should only be a starting point in your search for nutritional knowledge, e.g. Good Morning America, Dr Oz, Runners' World, Men's Health, Yahoo News, etc.  Then, take the time, spend the money, and plan your meals, making healthy dietary choices most of the time.  Bon appetit!

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