Eating nutritiously. Sounds good right? But what exactly does it mean?
According to the Cambridge English Dictionary, nutritious means “containing substances your body needs and can use to stay healthy; containing many of the substances needed for life and growth.” So to eat a nutritious diet would include nourishment or energy from the food you consume and provide substances to your cells in a form they recognize and can use for life, health, and growth.
That seems pretty straightforward, but what kind of foods will provide true nutrition? It can get a little confusing when you think about all the different food plans out there: Paleo, keto, vegan, vegetarian, Atkins, Mediterranean, Zone, Weight Watchers, South Beach, low carb, low fat, high protein. Yikes! It’s enough to make anyone throw their hands up and reach for a donut! But before you do that, I want to share my take on what eating nutritiously looks like.
Can we all agree that the foundation of health is nutrition?
This is true from conception to death. What a woman eats before she gets pregnant as well as while she carries her child powerfully impacts that baby’s development. That’s true for each of us at each stage of life, so nutrition is the foundation and we build from there.
Clients I work with all have different needs, likes, dislikes, allergies, sensitivities, and beliefs. So I don’t believe there is one perfect diet that is right for everyone. I do believe, however, that each of us has an optimal fuel blend that works best for our metabolism and stage of life.
The fuel needs to be real food! Unless you provide real, nutrient-dense, whole food that your body recognizes as food, you simply fill your belly and satisfy momentary hunger. Without providing nutrients your body needs to maintain health, you simply fill your belly (and expand your waistline) while starving yourself at the cellular level. You can be overweight or even obese and malnourished at the same time and many people are!
Food is more than just something to fill your belly with. It is information that speaks to you at the cellular level!
I like to keep things as simple as possible, so here is how I explain it to my clients. Whether they prefer to eat a vegan, paleo, or Mediterranean diet doesn’t really matter. What does matter is food quality. What I tell them is to choose the highest quality, properly raised or grown, one-ingredient foods available to them and create the fuel blend that works best for their body from those.
One-ingredient foods are those that would be ingredients like chicken, zucchini, apples, lamb, lettuce, strawberries, avocados, sweet potatoes, salmon, beef, beans, cucumbers, you get the idea.
Properly raised or grown means for produce, organic, locally grown when possible, fresh or frozen, non-GMO; for animal foods, pasture-raised, free-range, grass-fed and finished, wild-caught. If a vegetarian eats all genetically modified, pesticide-laden produce, and someone else eats animal products from grass-fed and finished, pasture-raised animals, guess who would be eating more nutritiously?
Each of us has a unique metabolism and biochemistry. This is why what works for me may not work for you. Also, our bodies can change over time and during specific seasons in life. What worked well in our 20’s may not be so good at 45.
Eating nutritiously should be individual, since each of us is different, and fluid since our needs change over time.
Being mindful to choose the highest quality, real, whole foods is the key to eating nutritiously. Once you create your unique fuel blend from those foods, eating nutritiously as a lifestyle becomes easy and enjoyable.
The bottom line and ultimate goal, regardless of what diet plan you prefer, is to live a longer, healthier life. A temporary diet won’t provide that. A healthy lifestyle and eating plan will. It doesn’t have to be complicated or restrictive.
It can be as simple as choosing the highest quality foods, listening to your body, and finding what works best for you.