As we head into a brand new year, it is common for people to start looking into what the next fad diet is to get their health back on track. People make new year resolutions to finally get to the gym, lose that 20 pounds, or start eating more vegetables. But, statistics show that the majority of people give up on their resolutions come the end of February. This is often because we set goals that are too lofty, or more often that their goals are not specific enough.
I speak often about bio individuality. There is no one diet that works for everyone. We have to take into account individual differences. In my Nutritional Psychology work, I assess clients at the individual level, across what I consider to be the foundations of health. The foundations are as follows:
- Incorporate and Nutrient Dense, Properly Prepared, Whole Food diet
- Optimize Digestion
- Balance Blood Sugar
- Fatty Acid Balancing
- Mineral Balancing
- Optimize Hydration
Once I have assessed a client’s unique needs across these core areas, I then work collaboratively with them to create a structured individualized plan. This plan is broken down into achievable steps, in order to help them meet their goals.
I believe that the body has an innate ability to heal itself. When our foundations are optimized and in balance, our body finds homeostasis. In other words…. health. Along with physical health and wellness, we in turn find mental and emotional wellness. Win win!
In the coming months, I thought it might be helpful to start going over some of the core concepts for each of the foundations of health. Today, let’s start with reviewing what a Nutrient-Dense, properly sourced and prepared, whole food diet is. To properly explain this foundation, I think it is helpful to break it down into its smaller parts.
You are probably familiar with the major macronutrients: carbohydrates, fat, and protein. What people often fail to consider is the micronutrient content of the foods they eat. In other words, the vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients that foods contain. One can argue that these are more important for ideal health. The goal when choosing what foods to nourish your body with is to try to maximize intake of these nutrients. Which do you think will feed your cells better? Carrots and hummus (rich in beta carotene, fiber, and minerals), or a Twinkie (rich in trans fats, processed sugar, and white flour)? My general rule of thumb is to look for foods that are the brightest and richest colors… in other words “eat the rainbow.” Color often reflects food’s general nutrient content. Brightly colored fruits and vegetables are the most nutrient dense (think field greens over iceberg lettuce). Quality also matters: butter from grass-fed cows and eggs from pasture-raised chickens tend to have be a richer color due to their superior nutrient content. Instead of asking “How many calories?” Ask “How many nutrients?”
Properly Sourced and Prepared
Sourcing and preparation also influence diet quality. Seek foods that are grown or raised with natural methods and minimal chemicals. These means that organic and non-GMO foods are ideal. Meats that are grass-fed or pasture raised on regenerative farms are the best. Some foods are best eaten raw, while others are more bioavailable when cooked. Soaking, sprouting, and fermenting can also improve digestibility and the nutrient content of certain foods.
If you are easily overwhelmed when you go to the grocery store, you are not alone. When choosing foods, the best guideline is to pick those that are as close to their natural state. So, blueberries over blueberry muffins, grass fed cheese over cheese flavored crackers, and apples over apple juice. If your great grandmother would not recognize it as food, don’t eat it. If it has more than five ingredients (or ingredients that you can’t pronounce), don’t eat it. Try to steer clear of brightly colored packages, and instead choose foods as they are found in nature…. REAL foods.
Tips on transitioning to a Real Food diet
When contemplating a shift or an overhaul to the way you are eating, it is best to start with small steps. You want to be successful, so overwhelming yourself with too much to fast can lead to failure. My tips to help success are as follows:
- Do a pantry purge – what you make available to yourself, you will eat. So get rid of the processed and refined foods, and stock up on those healthy whole foods.
- Aim for 5 colors on every plate, with at least 50% of your plate full of vegetables. This will help you hit your micronutrient content goals, and will also give your digestion a much needed boost.
- Join a CSA (community supported agriculture) or shop at your local farmer’s market. This is a great way to make sure you are supporting local organic farms, while simultaneously getting in higher nutrient dense foods.
- Prepare meals at home and pack your lunches. This is a great tool in helping to limit the consumption of less nutrient dense foods.
- Purchase organic, grass-fed, pasture-raised, and wild-caught whenever possible. This will help to ensure nutrient density, and limits your intake of hormones, antibiotics, steroids, etc.
- Get used to reading labels. Steer away from refined grains, sugars, unhealthy fats, colorings, additives, preservatives, and flavorings.
I hope this provides you with some easy guidelines to follow as you transition to a healthier and more vibrant you in 2022. As always, if you are interested in a more bio-individualized assessment and treatment plan, I am here for a FREE discovery call whenever you are!