When people find out I am a dietitian they always ask me questions about their diet. The interesting thing is these questions are almost always centered on weight loss, and if (insert the newest fad here) diet works?
As much as I love talking about nutrition, people seem to always ask me questions at the most inopportune time, such as when my children are arguing with each other or when I’m trying to checkout at the grocery store after waiting in line for 15 minutes (these two events are usually happening at the same time).
For the longest time, the questions that people asked me left me baffled because I didn’t know how to give them an all-encompassing answer to what is usually a tricky question with a lot of different answers.
In my head, before answering their questions, my inner monologue was running like this:
I should tell them about cholesterol and how it does not cause heart disease, it is only when the cholesterol is oxidized that it becomes unhealthy. Then, I have to talk about oxidation and free radicals, and how sugar leads to oxidation, and inflammation is initiated by oxidation. But then, I need to explain that carbohydrates are broken down into sugar and that raises insulin and high insulin level leads to chronic inflammation, which then increases your risk of obesity, heart disease, and cancer.
Then I remember that glazed over look in my husband’s eyes when I try to explain nutrition to him using what he calls the “instruction manual approach” to nutrition. For your sake, I’ll end the example of my rambling to spare you my husband’s fate.
Seriously, who wants to know all of that detail, especially when my kids are having a stage ten meltdown or when there is a long line behind me waiting to check out at the grocery store? People want short, easy answers that they can remember. They don't want eating to be complicated, and I don't either. The truth is healthy eating is not complicated (I can just hear all the fad diet publishers screaming at their monitors, who am I kidding they don’t read me haha!!).
So, here is my simple answer to this question:
Eat real food, and balance your meals with fat, carbohydrates, and protein.
It is really that simple. You can use this answer as a guiding principle or a litmus test when it comes to selecting the food you eat.
If you have a few more minutes and want some additional tips, I would add the following:
· Consume saturated fats (butter, cheese, coconut oil) and unsaturated fats (olive oil, avocado, nuts), and stay away from trans-fat (processed foods) and fat free labeled foods.
· Consume carbohydrates, vegetables and fruit, and limit or cut out grains and other processed carbohydrates.
· Consume proteins, meat and fish (or beans for vegetarians).
· Don’t eat too much. Instead of using a dinner plate, try using a smaller plate to help you control portion sizes.
· Drink water before and during your meals.
· Eat every 3-4 hours to keep your blood sugar stable.
I could go into the details, but I do not want to come off like an instruction manual telling you prescriptively what you should and shouldn’t do.
However, now that you have my simple answer what do you think? Is that answer too simple or do you have a different opinion on healthy eating? Are there any tips that you follow to help you get through the day and stay on track to eating healthy?