Many people are overwhelmed by the food choices and diet trends that make the news. What should you eat? What should you feed your kids? How do you teach kids about food and health, food and sports?
In a nutshell, my advice to my kids and my patients is: Eat simple foods, the fresher the better. Eat only what you need and only fill up to three-quarters full. Drink water.
Let me dive a little deeper. Assuming you have not been diagnosed with some specific reason why you cannot eat a certain food, then food is for fuel. (Notice I did not use the word food allergy since I believe that the field of immunology and its understanding of what allergic reactions really mean, and whether or not they are temporary, is in a state of flux.) Food is not for pleasure, yet should be extremely pleasurable. The difference is important. Food is fuel needed for specific output needs. The better you come to understand your energy requirements, the better you will manage your food intake and choices and the more pleasurable the meals will be.
Here is how. Eat when you are hungry. Start with a protein-centric diet and use carbohydrates and fats as condiments. Protein fuels your muscles and your brain. Foods that are lean protein-rich (i.e. low-fat, high-protein) are fish, lean meats and quinoa. Make protein the main ingredient of each meal. Surround that protein with enough carbohydrate and fat to fill you up to three-quarters full and you have your meals. Since we do not judge ourselves to be full until we have overeaten, we are much better off stopping when we know we could eat more but choose not to, thus the three-quarters full recommendation.
If you are growing a lot or exercising heavily, follow the same rules but eat more frequently.
If you want to lose weight, drop the carbohydrates significantly. Focus on protein and vegetables and water as your primary beverage. Excellent new studies demonstrate that it is the carbohydrate in the diet that increases the cholesterol, drives blood sugars abnormally and increases the fat deposition. Eliminating much of the unnecessary carbohydrate leads to weight loss, especially when combined with daily exercise that raises the heart rate for an hour a day will help you reach your ideal body weight more rapidly than any specific diet program.
Choose foods that have been minimally processed. Farm to table or wild, sustainably harvested sea to table means no intermediary manipulation of the key ingredients. Avoid packaged or processed foods whenever possible.
Drink a lot of water. Think of washing your insides as frequently during the day as you wash your hands. Make plain water your key beverage and always have a glass before you lift a fork and between any alcoholic drink. Finish the glass of water whenever you lift it.
Cook food lightly and present it beautifully so as to inhale the pleasurable aromas that make food such an emotional sensation. The pleasure in the eating is matched by the pleasure in knowing you have tuned your intake to your needs.