Updated: Jul 23, 2019
For Starters, it’s impossible to do this topic justice in a simple article; it's really more like a *book*! Plus, there’s no one-size-fits-all. So please know this is just the “intro” stuff.
I’m going to keep this simple but I really do think that if you are ultimately going to assume responsibility for your own individual health and food choices, you are going to need some basic nutrition knowledge. Why? Because (gasp) a calorie is NOT a calorie and it simply ain’t that simple!
Ultimate health is achieved only through loading your body up with nutrients. ALL of them (macros & micros).
Macronutrients = carbohydrates, proteins, and fats (calorie-carrying components of foods) NOTE: NO! All calories are not all created equally!
Micronutrients = vitamins, minerals, trace minerals, organic acids, and phytochemicals (non-calorie-carrying components of foods that are needed for your body to function properly)
Build every meal around:
#1 – Vegetables – I’m not going to be super specific here except to remind you that corn is not a vegetable and that starchy veggies can be easily overdone (and more importantly, take the place of better choices).
Please note this is a pleural. It’s in your best interest to have numerous veggies. That’s all there is to say about that for now.
#2 – Healthy Fats – The truth is that in the Standard American Diet, our dietary fats are secondary, meaning they’re added to make food more palatable which isn’t, in an of itself, a no-no. The point here is that fats are necessary and we should be included them with intention which is probably a big ol’ shift in mindset for most people.
I’ve blogged about health fats here.
#3 – Protein – Odds are good that some of your fat choices (especially if they’re in the form of food & not just an oil) will also deliver you protein. As a rule of thumb though, animal proteins are more digestible (meaning you actually get the benefit of the food, not just the calorie!) than plant sources (beans, grains, fruits and veggies).
#4 – Flavor – I genuinely believe that food can & should be incredibly tasty!
How Much Should You Eat?
The hardest part of knowing how much you should eat is learning to listen to your body and taking the time to allow the information to be of some meaning to you.
The second hardest part is learning to identify & change the subtle beliefs & stories your tell yourself about how much food to eat. What our body needs and what our mind tells us we need don't always line up.
Once you've built a solid & nourishing diet, you can better trust the signals it's sending you. So I always recommended tending to
Pay really close attention when you eat (I know…I am suggesting the insane!) and eat until you are full but not uncomfortable.
If you find you are hungry between meals, consider that you either didn’t enough food or that you didn’t eat the right food. With the right nourishment, our bodies were designed to go for very long times without food.
One last thing to consider (maybe this should be first) is if you are dehydrated. Thirst is often mistaken for hunger. I’m not saying you always need to drink something before you eat. I am saying you need to know your body well enough to know the difference.
How Frequently Should You Eat?
The answer to this question is very individual. But almost unanimously it’s less than we think. I don’t want to get all caveman-mentality on you, but our bodies were designed (as I mentioned just a bit ago) to go for long periods of time (if needed) without food. Think about it, we’d be extinct if we needed a steady supply of food, right?
The steady-stream-of-carbs dogma and mentality…it’s just not working. It’s not working because it’s not accurate. The theory behind all of this is worth exploring more deeply but not today. Just know that there’s science to support this. Unless you’re a one-off (and there are always those), you’re probably really safe to not eat every two hours!
Still. How frequently should you eat? I don’t want to give you an exact number but I will say that I think it’s best to shoot for no more than three meals a day. No snacks (not never, but not usually). If you’re hungry between meals, again, you either didn’t eat enough or you didn’t eat the right foods.
Snacking (for the Die Hards)
If you aren’t successful in transitioning away from needing a snack and you simply must snack, eat meal food instead of snack food. Have a mini-meal following all of the same meal-building above principles.
There’s still one small potential trap even if you follow all of the above principles. Most of us find certain food “hyper palatable” meaning they taste so good to us that we have a hard time moderating their consumption. Avoid those foods.
As usual, I am not saying “never”. But I am saying “not often”.
Almost Nothing is Hard & Fast – Or Forever
Conventional health fails to allow for all of the variables and individual differences that effect our nutritional needs. It also is intolerant to new discoveries.
Keep an open mind about food & health & wellness. Seek new knowledge and put it to the test!