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Getting Back on the Healthy Eating Wagon

Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”  ~Hippocrates

healthy eating

Is it time to get back on the wagon?

Do you ever ask what the best diet is? I don’t mean the best way to lose weight. I am talking about the healthiest way to eat. Between vegan, paleo, low fat, Mediterranean, gluten-free, and so on, my head starts to spin.

“What is the best diet?” may seem like a simple question, but telling someone what to eat is like telling them what religion to join. There is not a simple answer, and no single nutrition plan works for everyone. Also, there are quite a few opinions about what we should and shouldn’t eat, and treading on those opinions is risky.

I like I like Michael Pollan’s food rules: “Eat food. Mostly plants. Not too much.” Simplicity is my guide.  I stock ingredients that I can transform in to a quick, delicious meal when I am short on time and big on hunger. On a moment’s notice, I can make a healthy omelet, frittata, polenta or quinoa dish, salad, or wrap. I always have whole grain ingredients, veggies, fruit, herbs, dried tomatoes, nuts, eggs and beans in my kitchen.

Although there is wide variation in nutrition advice, nearly all experts agree on foods to avoid or limit. These are:

  • Sugar and unrefined carbohydrates
    • Soda, many fruit drinks, and sweetened energy drinks and teas
    • Most bakery goods such as pastries, donuts, cookies, white bread, white pasta
  • Trans-fats, saturated fats, and high-fat foods
    • Fried foods
    • Butter, cream, and full-fat cheese
    • Bacon, beef, ham, lamb, sausage, organ meats
    • Trans fats are being phased out, but check ingredients for partially hydrogenated oil in foods such as microwave popcorn, frozen desserts, crackers, and stick margarine
  • Sodium
    • Processed food, frozen foods, canned foods, and deli-meats
  • Snack foods with empty calories (potato chips, candy, etc.)

As to what to eat, here are the guidelines I follow:

  • Eat vegetables—lots of them and in as many colors as possible.
  • Consume fruit and whole grains in moderate amounts.
  • Eat plant-based or lean protein choices, such as egg whites, nonfat yogurt or milk, beans, nuts, fish and poultry.
  • Choose healthy fats, such as canola and olive oil.
  • Eat a fiber-rich diet.
  • Reduce sodium intake. Avoid processed foods, which are often high in sodium and other additives.
  • Don’t overdo it. A serving of nuts is healthy; a can of nuts is not.

Someone told me that summer bodies are made in the winter. I’d expand that to, “The food you eat today determines tomorrow’s health.”  Food tastes good in the moment, but the effects can be devastating. To me, most indulgences are not worth a lifetime of coronary artery diseases, fatty liver, diabetes, and so on. When I do indulge, I make it a small and savor it. I do this so I can also savor my health.

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