I’ve been discussing the Mindful Eating Cycle over the last two weeks. You’ve learned that your eating patterns are affected by life’s emotional roller coasters and that you probably ignore your natural signals of hunger and fullness because you’re too busy mindlessly eating. Somewhere along the line you may have started using food for reasons unrelated to true hunger, i.e. a coping mechanism for boredom, loneliness, frustration, stress. Go back to my previous posts here and here to start increasing your awareness of WHY? and WHEN? you eat. You can’t really improve eating patterns until you do this. Once you’ve become more aware, then it’s time to focus on the WHAT?
Let’s talk about the WHAT? First and foremost, it’s important to accept the following tenet:
ALL FOODS FIT INTO A HEALTHY EATING PLAN
There are way too many rules out there that restrict certain foods on the basis of quite frankly, unsubstantiated trends that have no science/evidence to back them up. I came across a great article that talks about this very thing. Here’s the link: The Eight Nutrition Trends That Drive This Dietitian Crazy by Abby Langer (This article is definitely worthy of a blog post in the future.)
The more restricted our diet, the more we feel deprived or sad or frustrated. This is not an easy concept because we’re constantly bombarded with diet plans so specific about what to eat, when to eat and how to eat that we never learn to make choices of our own; we’re constantly comparing our choices to someone else’s perception of what is healthy for us. We’re smarter than that, and we can make good choices. It starts with trusting and realizing that we have within us the ability to decide what our bodies need. I know I feel a lot better when I eat nutritious foods that give me energy, focus, immunity, and many more good things. The bottom line is, WE (not anyone else or any book or diet plan) get to choose what we eat based on availability, personal preferences, what we enjoy, what will nourish us, etc.
A Simple Plate Guide to Healthy Eating
Think about the WHY? If you want to be more healthy than you probably will choose foods that nourish and heal (like my blog recipes!). The body needs a combination of all major nutrients: protein (needed for healing, immunity, muscle maintenance, cell repair, vitamin/mineral transport), carbohydrates (needed for energy, healthy digestion), fat (needed for heart health, anti-inflammation, transport of vitamins/minerals, insulation), vitamins, minerals (needed for immunity, energy production, blood pressure control, muscle contraction, anti-inflammation) and water (needed for blood pressure control, proper organ function). Yes, there are more nutritious combinations and healthier choices within each of these nutrient groups (like high fiber, whole grain, low saturated fat, low sugar, whole, unprocessed). If you want a simple guide, I’ve provided a look at how I divide my plate:
1/2 my plate (about 1-2 cups) = Fresh Fruits/Vegetables (these are water-rich, high fiber, high volume foods loaded with vitamins, minerals and healthy carbohydrates. Vegetables also have a little protein)
1/4 of my plate (about 1/2 cup) = Whole Grains (choose as unprocessed as possible like brown rice, oats, whole wheat, quinoa, barley, millet, spelt. These foods are loaded with fiber, healthy carbohydrates and a little protein)
1/4 of my plate (about 3-4 ounces) = Lean Protein (this includes low-fat dairy products, lean meats, fish, poultry, eggs, beans, legumes. These foods are rich in protein, vitamins and minerals)
Added to the plate (about 1-2 Tbsp) = Healthy Oils (this includes olive oil, avocado, nuts and seeds. These foods provide healthy fat)
I came across this graphic from Harvard School of Medicine which comes very close to my plate:
We want to choose healthy options most of the time, but there is certainly room for foods that don’t necessarily nourish, foods that we eat just because they taste so good right out of the oven (can you say chocolate chip cookies?). Keeping the balance in mind, I started using an 80/20 ratio a long time ago. 80% of the time I choose foods based on health and nourishment; 20% of my food choices are for enjoyment. This ratio allows for plenty of flexibility in my food choices.
For example, when someone at our house suggests we eat a little “sweet treat”, my reasons to eat for health go out the window. My desire for a sweet hit stimulates a whole cascade of chemical excitement which seems to override any logic against it and I give in. A way around it ? Give in . . . really?! Use the 80/20 ratio and allow yourself the enjoyment of the food. Eat it with complete mindfulness, enjoying every bite. That leads us to the HOW? Stay tuned…