By Ania Dunlop, Health Coach at Food for Zen, for Bikram Yoga NYC
Despite the abundance of diet books, countless wellness websites and TV shows, many people are still confused about what to eat. Why is nutrition so difficult these days? Well, the answer to that lies in your local neighborhood supermarket. Take a look around and you will see food-like products that our ancestors would not recognize. These products have been made with unpronounceable chemicals, additives and fillers turning our food into a science experiment. We are focused on eating more or less carbs, fat or protein but rarely think about the nutrient content of each food.
The Devil is in the Labels
If we want to escape the processed food trap here is some advice from nutrition author Michael Pollan worth its weight in gold: “Eat (whole) food. Not too much, mostly plants.” After reading his book “In Defense of Food”, I figured out the recipe for eating without writing a whole book: Eat food that spoils quickly, doesn’t have an ingredient label and makes no health claims. What does that mean? Au natural. I firmly believe that when we eat clean foods, our bodies self-regulate and heal, while overeating, cravings and weight gain disappear.
Eating Clean, Whole Food
So what’s a clean, whole food? “Whole” food is a single ingredient food, such as apple, rice, or beans, while “clean” refers to food that has been grown naturally, on a plant, not made in a plant, without pesticides, antibiotics and other nasty stuff. So let’s get back to basics! Choose real food that your great-grandmother would actually recognize and cook like your life depends on it, because it does.
While a lost art for some people, cooking real food at home solves our nutritional dilemma. Yes, it’s less convenient than grabbing takeout on the way home, but good nutrition not only affects how we feel today but influences our health and the health of our children in the future. If we truly want to transform our health, the first place to start is with changing our eating habits, eliminating processed food and replacing it with clean whole foods.
Ok, so what exactly should we eat?
We are about to geek out on some nutrition fundamentals. If you get bored with too many rules here is all you need to know: the key to optimal health and weight is a plant based diet. That does not mean you have to become a vegan, it simply involves making earth friendly plants a big portion of your diet with staples such as veggies, berries, avocados, nuts, seeds, coconut oil and whole grains as the cornerstone of your meal plan. If you eat meat, making it a side dish rather than the main event, may help you extend your good health.
And if you are the type of person who can only follow one rule? Simply don’t eat anything with more than 5 ingredients on the label. Trust me, you will not be eating many processed foods if you stick to it.