What is the link between our diet and our health? EVERYTHING! A proper diet nourishes your health, an improper diet can destroy it. Want to stay off of medications? Eat healthy foods.
In the 1980s when I was in elementary school, I remember learning the “4 Basic Food Groups.” Grains, meat, fruits / veggies, and dairy, right? We were taught, “You want to have equal portions of all those groups at each meal…” Looking back, we see the short-comings of that approach…what about people with lactose-intolerance or vegetarians? It’s like they are telling us that having a ham and cheese sandwich at each meal is a healthy option.
In the 1940s American’s were taught the “7 Basic Food Groups.” Actually, in a lot of ways, I think this diagram (seen on left here) represents healthier choices than the “4.” Although, the margarine and processed grains should be ousted.
Zoom ahead to the 1990s and the USDA gives us the “Food Pyramid,” showing us the “proper” serving amounts of what types of foods to eat. You may remember – grains are at the bottom, meaning eat mostly grains.
A lot of good that has done…From 1960 to 2010 the obesity rate in the US has TRIPLED! Also rising the the past 50 years are allergy problems. Hmmmm… Maybe, just maybe, eating TONS of grains is not the answer. Well, it may be the answer to the grain industry or the pharmaceutical companies who want your hard-earned cash!
Below I have a diagram of what I consider a healthy way to eat. Mostly, it’s a vegetable-based diet; with plenty of protein; some whole grains; and healthy fats and oils.
1. I like this healthy food pyramid above to give you a visual of how to think about food. “Tons of Vegetables” are the largest portion of this pyramid! Keep this in mind when organizing your plate for each meal, or think about the bigger picture of eating throughout the whole day – mostly vegetables, or at least a portion of veggies at each meal… This will give you a good idea of portion and ratio when you are combining foods. And when you need to go eat BBQ with co-workers for lunch, you will know that at dinner maybe it’s a good idea to go vegetarian! Vegetables
*cleanse your internal organs
*are full of vitamin C, B, and A for a healthy immune system
*can be quite delicious if you learn how to cook them right
2. That being said, Balance is key! We believe if you are 80% good, you deserve to be 20% “bad”! Take a look at the top of the pyramid and notice the Coffee, Butter, and Cream! There is a time and place for indulgence, and having ways to treat yourself and take pleasure in food is a huge key to success in achieving balance with diet – you deserve it. Learn to savor different flavors and enjoy bitter greens or crunchy walnuts. Eating 80% healthy is a sure way to balance out that 20% decadence. Either way, take the time to savor and enjoy your meals. This will improve digestion and absorption of nutrients.
3. To get a little more technical, fat doesn’t make you fat! The combination of unhealthy carbs + fats is what makes you fat. Remember this! Healthy fats like olive oil, coconut oil, ghee, even butter and other vegetable oils (always cold-pressed in glass jars) are absolutely essential to good health. Use these oils regularly in your diet, while reducing unhealthy carbs like refined flours (the muffins, fluffy breads, rolls, boxed cereals, cookies, french fries etc). Other foods high in good fats are olives, avocado, organic eggs, nut butters. Healthy proteins include nuts, eggs, beans, chicken, bison, grass-fed beef, or seafood.
4. Low-carb? No-carb? Vegetarian? Low-fat? What is the best fit for you? To be honest, there is a not a cure-all diet trend for everyone, we are all unique and have different needs when it comes to health. There are no cut and dried “rules.” Some days your protein needs are higher than others; if you eat a lot of protein, then you may want to take a “meat-break” for a while to cleanse; if it’s someone’s birthday “let them eat cake!” Be sure to enjoy your food; eat slowly; and make decisions that support your body’s health. Your body works hard for you and the best “reward” you can give him or her is proper nutrition.
Remember these Nutrition Basics — post them on your fridge or repeat them to your family — and you will be on your way to creating a solid foundation for your eating habits.