When it comes to nutrition, we’ve taken something that should be quite simple and intuitive—nourishing our bodies—and made it quite complicated. In fact, some people like to joke that we have “abnormalized the normal and normalized the abnormal.”
But it doesn’t have to be that way. If you want to nourish your body and feel energized, the rules for healthy eating are actually quite simple—and they don’t require you to purchase any diet books or products. A little common sense goes a long way. Ready to get started? Here’s the plan:
1. Eat real food. Real food is easily identifiable because it doesn’t come with nutrition labels. Real food grows in the real dirt. The best nutrition plan you can ever follow is the one that shifts you back to the basics—back to the food that Mother Nature provides.
2. Eat breakfast. We get it—you’re in a hurry. Everyone is in a hurry. But breakfast is critical. Breakfast stokes your fire and sets you up to make healthy food choices for the rest of the day. Skipping breakfast is a recipe for disaster. If you want to make the healthiest food choices, make breakfast a commitment that you keep every day.
3. Stay hydrated. Most Americans suffer from chronic dehydration. We often mistake thirst for hunger. If you feel hungry all the time, it may be a sign that you’re not drinking enough water. Drink plenty of water to stay on track to optimal nutrition.
4. Eat what you love. This is not a hall pass to gorge on pastries and French fries all day—but the truth is, you’ll travel further down the road to nutrition if you eat foods you actually like. In other words, if you despise broccoli, you’ll get nowhere by forcing yourself to eat it. Instead, find fruits and vegetables that you like and you’ll be far more likely to incorporate them into your diet.
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5. Make variety the spice of your diet. Sure, mixed greens with grilled salmon is a wonderfully healthy dinner—but do you want to eat it every night? It’s easy to get stuck in a nutritional rut, but this usually backfires on us. Create a recipe file of countless healthy choices so that you can enjoy variety and avoid falling into a rut. If you eat the same lunch day in and day out, you’re liable to grow bored and start reaching out for tempting snacks to fill the void.
6. Stay balanced. It’s never a good idea to abandon an entire food group. Instead, choose a variety of foods from all of the food groups. Carbs are not “bad” and nor are fats. Choose wisely. Choose in moderation. Give your body what it needs.
7. Be prepared. When we reach for unhealthy snacks out of a vending machine, it’s often because we are not prepared. Instead, set yourself up for success by packing healthy snacks and keeping healthy snacks on hand. There are plenty of portable foods that provide quick energy and nutrition—apples, bananas, carrots, nuts, or cheese are just a few simple suggestions.
8. Slow down. Eating on the go often results in overeating. You may think you don’t have time to sit down and eat like a civilized human being—but when will you have time to lose the weight you’ve gained as a result of eating fast food in the car? Even if you think you don’t have time, take ten minutes to sit down, take a few breaths, and pay attention to what you’re eating. You’ll eat less—and enjoy it more.
9. Stop when you’re full. There may well be starving kids in Africa, but overeating will not help those starving children. Banish the “clean plate club” from your home. Instead, eat slowly and stop when you are full. You can always save the rest for later if you’re worried about wasting food.
10. Enjoy. Food provides us with critical nutrients that nourish our bodies. It is also a source of pleasure and connection. Stop battling your food and start enjoying it. As soon as you quit viewing food as the enemy, you’ll start to enjoy it and you will naturally gravitate toward foods that nourish and satisfy you. Bon apetit!