A Blueprint for Eating Right
Here are 10 simple pillars for eating right. Here’s a primer: Choose foods with high water content that still look like they did on the farm. Consume small and frequent meals. Pre-plan your snacks.
IN THE USA, confusion about what’s good to eat and not abounds — there’s no better testament to that fact than the inverse relationship between our girth and diet books.
The Zone Diet, Dr. Atkins, The South Beach Diet, The Mediterranean Diet, etc., etc. have been mega best sellers, but don’t appear to have had a lasting, material, positive impact on the health of those who buy the books. (Of course, there is that small part about actually reading and following the program.)
There’s got to be a simpler and more effective way.
But I don’t have it.
I mean, I have these “10 Pillars” for eating right that I’m about to share, but just like those diets mentioned above, I don’t have any magical means to both learn and do them.
That’s up to you.
So, let’s get to it…
Your 10 Pillars for Eating Right
1. Organic is best
Almost daily there’s another news story about food contamination, whether by bacteria, virus or pesticide.
There’s debate among the scientific community about the value of organic food relative to that conventionally grown.
Is it really better?
For my money and health, eating right means eating organic food when I can. It’s safer, taste better, and buying organic supports a sane, chemical-free, usually local, family-based farming community. And that’s good for everybody, including the planet.
2. Choose carbs with a low Glycemic Load and Index
Suffice to say: The more processed the food (ie: comes in a box or can), the more likely it has a high Glycemic Index and Load which affects your blood sugar negatively and, if consumed excessively, causes girth-expanding propensities.
3. Eat foods with the highest water content
If you cut or squeeze it and it wants to leak or burst, it’s a whole lot better than the food that resembles wet, soft clay when dunked in water.
In other words, choose foods with water inside as opposed to foods that when introduced to water, become gunk.
Think veggies/fruits vs bread/crackers/chips et al. The former is clean and makes for a happy body and digestive systems; the latter soon becomes sludge when eaten, clogs the digestive system and offers little nutrition.
4. Favor non-animal protein over animal protein
Back to those daily news stories… yes, add to the high incidence of food contamination the recent plethora of studies demonstrating a causal link between cancer and meat consumption, particularly red meat.
Now, some would argue that this link is not causal, but correlated. The reasoning goes that the typical meat eater has more unhealthy habits than, say, the typical vegetarian, the implication being that it’s those other “bad” habits that combine to increase the incidence of disease like cancer.
That’s possible. But I’m not betting my health on a diet dominated by red meat consumption, particularly meat fed corn and soy and pumped up with antibiotics and growth hormones. Moreover, it’s not simply a personal health matter, nor an animals right matter, but an environmental one.
It’s simply impossible to feed now some 7,000,000,000 meat eaters meat without cutting down more rain forests, and then dealing with the ecological issues that follow, from increased carbon, to waster run-off that pollute sources of potable water…. not to mention (and I get a chuckle outta this) that the millions of grazing animals raised for food are a known cause of carbon dioxide pollution due to the methane gas produced by their flatulence!
So, how about reducing your red meat consumption, and adding some pasture-raised chicken, low mercury fish. Instead of fish, and high protein rice/bean combinations, along with seeds and nuts and tofu (organic, sprouted only). And if the bean is not your thing, add protein supplements to your diet.
If you are muttering to yourself that there are plenty of smart, informed Paelo eaters that convincingly argue the merits of meat, so what about them?, well I say the whole issue can get confusing. Do your best to be informed and follow your own conscious.
To get the science behind vegetables, check out the wonderfully informative and entertaining videos produced by Dr. Michael Greger at http://nutritionfacts.org/.
I’ve also plowed pretty deep into this controversy, and two others in my article, What You Need To Know About Coffee, Saturated Fat and Meat, where I present the pro and con arguments from some of the most well known proponents and opponents of these three substances.
5. Three medium + two small meals are better than two or three big ones
Think about it. You chow down a big, heavy meal and then what happens?
All your energy gets usurped by the digestion process and you become a sleepy and lethargic zombie. Instead of this scenario, why not eat smaller meals of a size sufficient to make you satisfied, but not full.
This is a better way to fuel your body, as long as you can control portion size… you can’t make those small meals big.
In fact, try making your breakfast, lunch and dinner smaller than usual — high quality, balanced, but smaller — and then should hunger be so rude as to intrude between these three regular meals, indulge in high quality snacks, such as a protein drink, a hand full of nuts, half an avocado, or carrots.
6. Eat breakfast
Yes, eat breakfast, but one that sets you up for a healthy, productive day.
No frosted flake cereal. No super sized bagel lathered in something. No Coke. (Yes, I know people who drink soda for breakfast.)
Eating right means that at every major meal, consume a balance of quality micronutrients — protein, carbs and fats — such as eggs/salsa/spinach, or slow-cooked oatmeal mixed with fruit and almond milk, or bran cereal and milk mixed with whey protein powder.
A good breakfast replenishes your spent reserves and gives your body the energy it needs to begin the day with zest. Make sense?
7. Satisfy crunch cravings with food bars and sweet cravings with bittersweet chocolate
Even those with Herculean will power succumb at times to their cravings. Knowing this, plan for these humbling moments by stocking up on the right snacks.
For things that go “crunch”, try the best quality “food bar” you can find. (Go here and scroll down.) This isn’t easy, for most of them are filled with high fructose corn syrup and various artificial sweeteners, but if you’re vigilant you should be able to make a decent selection.
And for you with that sweet tooth, there’s, alas, bittersweet chocolate. Why “bittersweet”? Well there’s a whole science to it,but suffice to say that there’s less sugar, higher quality coca and the taste is strong enough to encourage moderation.
8. Make veggies the dominant portion, followed by protein, and carbs
Despite what your eyes tell you when scanning a restaurant, or perhaps your kitchen table, pasta should not be the dominant food in your plate. Rice neither. Or any other starch or simple carbohydrate. These foods are fine in small doses, so give them supporting roles in your meal, by eating less of them than the vegetables and proteins in each meal.
9. Choose high quality fats
Contrary to popular belief, fat is good. Well, not when rolling around your midsection, but if it’s the right fat — a high quality fat — consuming it in measured amounts is a healthy thing. Our bodies need various omega-acids (particularly numbers 3 and 6). Good sources are cod liver oil (in capsules or gulp it from the bottle, but better get the mint or cherry flavored variety), krill oil, flax seed oil, etc.
10. Eat Slowly
Confession: I routinely, steadfastly and consistently violate this “pillar for righteous eating”. Eating fast is an entrenched behavior pattern of mine, and it’s been hard to break. But it’s worth doing because it takes about 20 minutes for your stomach to signal the hypothalamus in your brain that its full:
“OK control central, you can stop loading me up now”.
If you don’t eat slowly enough, you’ll eat more than is necessary. One other advantage to eating slower — it makes you more mindful of what you’re doing. If you aren’t paying attention, there’s no presence of Self to change anything for the better.
How to Start
Adding 10 new behaviors to get you eating right straight away is an improbable event. My recommendation, then, is for you to choose whichever “pillar” may be easiest for you to do, because that will grease the skids for some others.
Add another, one at a time, until all of them become habitual.
If you need to grease the skids to get going, check out the ideas presented in How To Make Tiny Habits Big.
For more articles about diet and nutrition, look in the sidebar on the right of your screen, and under “Categories”, click “Diet/Nutrition.