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Happy New Year, my friends! It’s 2020, and with the advent of a new year, many people find themselves reflecting on the year that has come to pass, and where they want to go in their future. For some, this may entail thoughts about one’s dietary choices and lifestyle. Perhaps in leaning towards making a change, one might consider different dietary alternatives: whole foods, plant-based, vegan, keto, paleo, low-glycemic… the list goes on.

I’m not here to talk to you today about the ideal diet because, let’s face it, there is no “one-size fits all”, perfect, ideal diet. Every body is different, and you need to find what works for you. That being said, I do believe there are some guidelines we can follow that will help lead us into a more healthful, balanced life.

Here are my 10 rules for eating healthfully. (Some of these are derived from Michael Pollan’s book, “In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto”, which is a fantastic read that I recommend to anyone who wants to learn more about nutrition and the food we eat.)

 

  1. CHEW YOUR FOOD.
    • Too many of us rush through our meals, often swallowing before we finish chewing. This can lead to bloating, gas, and heartburn a little while later because improperly chewed food is more difficult for the digestive juices in your stomach to break down, leading to fermentation.
    • It can take up to 20 minutes for the brain to recognize feelings of fullness. Chewing your food slows down your eating which allows you to recognize signs of satiation when they appear. This could lead to potential weight loss down the road as you tune into your body’s cues.

 

  1. DRINK ENOUGH WATER.
    • Water is the stuff of life. It is the solvent in which nutrients are transported to the cells in the body and proper hydration is essential for optimal function. (See Water: The Driving Force of All Life for more information on how water benefits us.)
    • The amount of water you should be drinking daily is your body weight in pounds divided by 2. This amount is the total ounces you should consume per day. More if you are physically active or sweating (i.e. 140-lbs divided by 2 = 70; therefore, this person should drink 70 ounces per day).

 

  1. EAT MOSTLY PLANTS, ESPECIALLY LEAVES.
    • Plants are potent sources of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phyto-chemicals, omega-3 fatty acids, and fiber. While nutrition experts may disagree on ideal dietary guidelines to follow, you can be sure of one thing: they all agree on the benefits of eating a plant-based diet.
    • A plant-based diet has been linked to lower levels of heart disease and cancer, decreases inflammation, promotes weight loss, lowers risk of chronic disease, and benefits the environment.

 

  1. EAT FIBER WITH EACH MEAL.
    • Fiber is the indigestible materials found in plants such as vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and legumes/beans.
    • It helps maintain healthy digestion and bowel movements, normalizes blood sugar levels, reduces blood cholesterol levels, and acts as food for the good bacteria in our gut.

 

  1. EAT HEALTHY FATS AND PROTEINS WITH EACH MEAL:
    • Fats and proteins are crucial parts of cell and body structures and are needed for a number of important roles: hormonal function, brain health, immune system function, metabolism, and decreasing inflammation, to name a few.
    • Healthy fats include nuts and seeds, avocados, cold water fish, and non-vegetable derived oils, such as olive oil, avocado oil, and coconut oil.
    • Healthy plant proteins include whole grains, beans, legumes, and organic tofu or tempeh.
    • Healthy animal proteins include grass-fed beef, pork and game meats, free range organic chicken and eggs, cold water wild-caught fish.

 

  1. BUY ORGANIC WHEREVER POSSIBLE.
    • Conventionally grown food is often sprayed with insecticides, fungicides and pesticides, and the soil is often depleted of essential nutrients for optimal health. Buying organic helps reduce toxic load, decreases exposure to these harmful substances, and increases the nutrient content of your food.
    • Use EWG’s Dirty Dozen/Clean Fifteen list to help determine which foods you should buy organic.
    • If this isn’t an option for you because of financial constraints, buy local. Local food has less distance to travel from the farm to your table. This means the food can be picked when it is ripe, which means it will be richer in nutrients, and also taste better!

 

  1. EAT DINNER AT LEAST 3 HOURS BEFORE BED, AND ALLOW 12 HOURS BETWEEN YOUR LAST MEAL OF THE DAY AND YOUR FIRST MEAL OF THE NEXT DAY.
    • Sleep is when our detoxification organs do most of their critical work. This is the time for restoring vital brain chemicals and hormones, and eliminating waste and toxic byproducts.
    • As our detoxification organs are also responsible for digestion, eating 3 hours before bed allows your body to finish digesting your meal before you go to bed so that once asleep, it can focus on critical detox processed. Allowing 12 hours between dinner and breakfast gives our detox systems ample time to do their job.

 

  1. SHOP THE PERIPHERIES OF YOUR GROCERY STORE. AVOID THE MIDDLE AISLES.
    • Most grocery stores have the same layout: processed foods in the middle; produce, dairy, meat and fish around the outside peripheries. Sticking to the edges of the store will help make sure that you end up with real food in your shopping cart.

 

  1. READ YOUR FOOD LABELS.
    • Avoid foods with ingredients that are a) unpronounceable (this means a third grader wouldn’t be able to pronounce it), b) unfamiliar, c) or are more than 5 in number.
    • Avoid foods that are not something your great-grandmother would recognize as food (i.e. try explaining to granny what Go-gurt is).

 

  1. BREAK THE RULES EVERY ONCE IN A WHILE.
    • The experience of food was meant to be an enjoyable one. Just as with anything else, life is about finding balance and moderation. It’s okay to indulge – do the best that you can with where you are at in your life and try not to food shame. (But if you recognize that you have unhealthy eating habits or disordered eating, know when to seek the help of a qualified healthcare professional to help get you on the right track.)

 

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NOTE: The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.