This is a very good question! We are bombarded with so much information, that it can be overwhelming, and sometimes it’s hard to figure out what is good to eat and what isn’t. For many years we’ve been told such a variety of different things: “Fat is bad for you!”, “Dairy is bad for you!”, “Eggs are bad for you!”, “Carbs are bad for you!”. And the list goes on. Sometimes it’s hard to sort out the truth from the marketing campaigns (and there have been many false marketing claims…remember Nutella’s healthy breakfast campaign? Or watch kid’s TV to see how they try sell sugary cereal!).
The first thing I’m going to say is: there’s no one right answer. However, I truly believe that eating as clean as possible is the best route to go. In other words…Eat real food! There has been such a shift in how and what people eat (particularly over the last 50 years or so), with so much of the North American diet relying on packaged food instead of real food. Packaged and processed foods are full of food coloring, preservatives and chemicals and are far from the food our bodies were created to eat. My goal is to try reduce my family’s intake of these ‘foods’ as much as possible, and I want to encourage my readers in this area as well.
The definition of healthy is going to be different for many people. Some people might choose a Paleo diet , the raw food diet, gluten free diet, a vegetarian diet, or a diet based on food sensitivities (and I could go on, there are so many different ‘diets’ out there!). There are a lot of variations to healthy eating based on your lifestyle and personal food preferences. However, I am a little suspect of crash diets, or eating plans that cut out entire food categories (not based on food allergies and sensitivities of course) or super low calorie diets (ie under 1,000 calories/day)…I don’t think these are necessarily sustainable eating or weight loss plans. Since the beginning of my weight loss journey, I have believed that in order to have sustainable long-term weight loss I needed to make a lifestyle change that involved clean eating in addition to exercise.
I think an important thing to remember, is that everyone is different. What works for me, may not work for you. I aim to eat a higher protein/lower carb diet, with a focus on clean eating and less processed food. My body seems to respond best to eating this way in terms of weight loss, and I feel better overall when I eat clean. Carbs tend to make me feel bloated, and it’s not unusual for my scale to go up a few pounds if I eat out and/or have a few drinks…mostly due to water retention, but also the impact of alcohol on my digestive system. It’s a good reminder to me when I do make these choices, that there is a negative impact on my body.
I would highly recommend working to see what foods work and don’t work for you. Tweak what you’re eating (and for more than a few days…it can take weeks or even months for your body to adjust and recover) and see if you notice a difference.
Finding what works best for you is key. If you are just starting to look at how you can improve your diet and/or lose weight, I would encourage a focus on clean and healthy eating rather than just weight loss alone. With a combination of the two, I can almost guarantee you will see some positive changes as you remove these processed foods from your diet and replace them with wholesome healthy foods.
Here are some of the basic truths about healthy eating that I believe in:
1. Water is the best drink for you. Soft drinks and juice should be limited or avoided. Coffee and tea are ok in moderation and alcohol occasionally (afterall, red wine is good for your heart, right?) 🙂
2. Avoid as much processed and pre-packaged foods as possible.
3. Eat your veggies. Lots of them! My motto is: “When in doubt, add veggies!”
4. Stick to whole grain products, and avoid ‘white’ foods that contain white flour and white sugar.
5. Fruit is good for you, but remember that it can contain a lot of sugar. With just 2-3 servings per day you will hit your daily sugar intake. Low sugar options (Berries, grapefruit, etc) are great choices.
6. Choose proteins that are lean (or lean cuts) such as turkey, chicken, lean beef, pork, eggs and fish.
7. Healthy fats are important! Coconut oil, avocado, nuts and nut butters are good for you.
8. Read your labels…if you can’t pronounce something or don’t know what it is, chances are it probably not be good for you.
9. Natural sources of fiber are essential!
What are your healthy eating truths? What have you found that works best for you?