I found my passion for nutrition during my sophomore year in college while taking an introductory nutrition class. I was fascinated by the complexity of the human body and how nutrition affects virtually every cell - after all, we ARE what we eat! But I always had this nagging question: How does the average person, who does not have a degree in nutrition manage to eat well? There is so much to know!
As I went on to get my degree in nutrition I learned each individual has a unique genetic makeup that influences their nutrition. And even more, that unique environmental factors such as family traditions, cultural influences, economic circumstances, past illnesses, etc, etc add an infinite amount of variability as to what good nutrition means for different people.
I now know that yes, nutrition is complicated, but eating to improve health does not have to be! As I help people every day to reach their health goals with better nutrition, I spend very little time talking about specific nutrients and recommending specific foods. Its not that the science of nutrition isn't important, but keeping the balance of how food is involved with the rest of our life means thinking about more than just nutrients or a list of "good" foods and "bad" foods.
Those who are most successful in reaching their health goals tell me that what helped them most was when I told them it was important to actually enjoy their food. It was helpful when they began to understand how to approach nutrition with the positive attitude of caring for their body, not punishing it for being outside the "normal" size, shape or health metrics. They tell me that it made a big difference when I reassured them that they could trust their body and its amazing capacity to regulate how much food it needs each day. And they tell me that once they realized and mastered a few foundational skills to manage meals and eating in this crazy, busy culture we live in, they got better and better at feeling their body's cues signaling hunger and fullness. And THEN, they could actually make food choices based on their needs and their preferences and see sustainable improvements in their nutrition.
Here is my list for you that outlines the 3 priorities to improving nutrition. Keep these in mind, in this order, and eating for your best health is simple - no college degree required!
- ATTITUDE - Think of eating as a positive way to take care of your body. Give yourself permission to enjoy eating and feel relaxed about it. Trust your body to tell you how much it needs to eat.
- FOOD MANAGEMENT - Prioritize meals (and snacks if you need them), plan to feed yourself on a reliable, not haphazard, schedule and pay attention to your food when you eat (instead of watching TV, driving or working on your computer) so you have the opportunity to register satisfaction with all your senses, as well as listen to your body's cues.
- NUTRITION - Choose a variety of protein foods, grains, fruits, vegetables and oils. No good foods/bad foods lists but an overall eating pattern that is based on foods that you like.