What to eat for health, energy or a weight concern
One of the most common questions we get asked as Calgary nutritionists is simply “what is the best diet to follow?” If you are seeking better health, energy or have a weight concern it can be very confusing to know what to eat. Some programs have you counting calories, macros, points, servings, grams of carbs and more. Just about everyone has an opinion on this subject and often times the opinions are completely opposite or have changed and evolved with time. Take keto and paleo diets for instance, the foods you would be so-called “allowed” to eat are dramatically different than vegan and plant based diets. So how do you make sense of this? What should you eat according to our team of professional Registered Dietitians?
What truly is the best eating style?
Any time one of the nutritionists in our practice is working with a client regardless of the goal or concern they are coming to see us for, our answer to the question “what is the best diet to follow?” is actually quite simple.
The best healthy eating lifestyle is the one you can sustain for life.
If we break this down further there are a couple of key words to look at here.
First of all our goal is to have you think about the best lifestyle you can follow rather than the best diet (after all the word diet has the word die in it and often brings about negative feelings of deprivation). Building a lifestyle means you have thought about eating FULLY. Eating fully is the balance between eating healthfully (foods chosen for geeky nutritious reasons that improve health) as well as eating soulfully (foods chosen purely for fun, social enjoyment and taste). One without the other leads to imbalance in either wellness or quality of life.
This brings me to the second word that is really important in the statement “the best healthy eating lifestyle is the one you can sustain for life.” Another important word here is sustain. Ideas of what to follow are endless but actually being able to stick to an eating plan is difficult. Any short term cleanse, detox, rigid plan or diet that will end in a matter of days or weeks simply lacks benefit in your long term health and often leads to feelings of failure when you are unable to follow this. Time and time again we see “food rebel” behavior happen when our clients go off a rigid diet plan (aka overeating forbidden foods). The worst part is the heavy emotional toll our clients feel when feelings of guilt, shame and failure creep in.
For the record – there is nothing fundamentally wrong with YOU if you have not been able to stick to a diet. The diet was fundamentally flawed from the start.
As with most things in life, one size does not fit all. Be wary of any eating plan that says there is one way to eat that is superior. Scientific evidence does not suggest this is the case. You can be healthy following a wide range of eating plans (including both eating meat or as a vegetarian).
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What about simply following a so-called “clean eating” plan?
While there is no firm definition of what clean eating is all about, clean eating articles, magazines and social media posts are generally associated with consuming a diet of highly nutritious foods.
Clean eating posts are usually full of so-called trendy superfoods like kale, quinoa, avocado, kombucha tea and bone broth. If you check out the images online associated with clean eating you will find a wide range of selfies that showcase abs, muscles and many sculpted bodies drinking green shakes.
The problem with “eating clean” means that you are labelling your intake as clean or good foods which then labels other food choices as “dirty” or bad foods. Clean eating often means striving for perfection. This is unnecessary, often demotivating and leads to feelings of deprivation and failure.
You won’t see white foods, sugar or potato chips on clean eating posts. You often won’t see carbs, unstylish plain meals that your family might actually eat or a diversity of meat choices (outside of boneless skinless chicken breasts). You also won’t see images that showcase the wide range of body shapes and sizes that define health. These bodies may have cellulite, stretch marks, curves and non-hourglass shapes.
The most sustainable eating plans for good health, energy and help to move you to your personal best weight help you balance out a wide range of foods – both nutritious options but also those that we eat for non-nutrition reasons which is a normal and essential part of life.
So if clean eating isn’t the answer, how does someone begin to figure out a balanced lifestyle you can sustain for life?
- Shift your mindset to #balancednotclean
Food choices do not need to be thought of as good or bad. Food is just food. We eat for different reasons, not simply to add nutrients into your body. Move to a philosophy of balanced, not clean.
There are no bad foods, only bad diets. It’s all about choice. Nothing is off limits. Just like budgeting your finances, you need to develop the skill and awareness of spending and saving where it counts. Similar to our bank account, what we choose to spend on is highly individual. There will always be key basic needs we must spend on (similar to a basic level of nutritious foods that need to be consumed for health and productivity in our day). Then we have some money left to spend on fun stuff (just like we have some calories left to spend on soulful foods chosen for taste and enjoyment rather than any type of nutritional need).
- Determine your food personality profile
Success starts in first taking some time to reflect on what type of food plan will work best for you and then determining if a book, website or hiring a health professional is in alignment to include this and has the professional education and training to help with this. Answer these questions:
- What do I enjoy eating based on my food preferences and culture?
- What will realistically work for me based on my time, budget and cooking skill?
- Are there any health and medical concerns or family food preferences that I will need to consider?
Where can I learn more about building a sustainable healthy eating lifestyle?
Join my upcoming FREE public webinar at www.pursuithealthiness.com/webinar happening on Oct 23, 24 or 25th.
Webinar overview: Why Clean Eating is Destined to Fail and What to Do Instead: How to ditch dieting, rock meal planning and move to your personal best weight (still eating foods you love).
If you have ever felt stuck, defeated, stressed, too busy or overwhelmed when it comes to the topic of healthy eating, this webinar is for you. As a Registered Dietitian for close to 20 years, I’ve been studying solutions to help you achieve better health, meal planning success and move towards your personal best weight.
Find out more about how I will help you eat well and still have a life (that includes chocolate, chips and other yummy things). Join me on this free upcoming live masterclass Oct 23, 24 or 25th! www.pursuithealthiness.com/webinar