By Kara Landau
Every day we are constantly bombarded with conflicting messages telling us what and how we are supposed to eat — no gluten, no dairy, high protein, no carbs. Eat breakfast, drink your breakfast, don’t eat after 7pm. As a result, food choice can be complicated and confusing, as we attempt to decipher fact from fiction. So why not simplify things? Take a step back and rediscover your food. Push yourself to think about where your food comes from, how close it is to its natural state, and what ingredients are contained within. If you’re eating clean, simple foods, these questions shouldn’t be too tough — remember, fruits and veg only have one ingredient! So what does that plate look like when you eat clean and simple? It’s time to go back to the basics.
Step 1: Eat more real foods.
There is nothing better than natural, fresh, and wholesome foods. These are foods grown just like nature intended, free from all the unnecessary preservatives and chemicals. Think about adding in more deeply colored fruits and vegetables, sustainably caught seafood, plant-based protein sources, and quality meats when they are grass-fed and hormone free. Drink fresh pressed juice, eat avocado and local eggs, and hit up the Farmers Market to find local fruits and vegetables.
Step 2: Beware of long ingredient lists.
The number of ingredients in a product is generally reflective of how processed it is. This is not always the case, but when the list gets extremely long, and filled with ingredients you would never find available as individual ingredients in your kitchen, this is probably starting to tell you something. Even products that sound healthy, such as sugar-free snack bars, often contain lengthy ingredient lists with artificial sweeteners like aspartame and sucralose. Instead look for products with natural sweeteners, such as stevia or monk fruit extract, or eat foods that are already naturally sweet, like figs and berries.
Step 3: Don’t believe all the hype on gluten.
Many people think just because something is gluten free, it is automatically super healthy and good for us, but this is not always true. Many gluten-free snack foods are high on the Glycemic Index (GI) and low in fiber, as a result of the replacement ingredients such as rice flour. Gluten free snack foods can also include puffed rice, which although may sound healthy, actually has a very high GI rating, and can leave you feeling less satisfied and likely to eat more in the long run. If you place your focus instead on eating real, well-made breads, as nutty and grainy as you can find — you are on a much better path!
Step 4: Listen to your body.
This is known as mindful eating, and is all about listening to your hunger signals. We are very good at doing this when we are born, however as we grow older, these signals often get overridden. This occurs as both the result of the social norms, which dictate when we should eat, and also by the increased fat- and sugar-laden foods available to us. These foods tend to confuse and counteract the regulation of our hunger hormones, often making us hungrier and likely to eat more as a result. Fuel your body with simple, clean foods, and your hunger signals will stay on the straight and narrow, allowing you to know when your body really is asking for fuel.
So, what does this all mean?
The most important thing is simply to enjoy what you eat! Pick foods that make you feel good, and don’t be afraid to experiment. Try a fruit you’ve never had before, like starfruit or figs. Make a salad with greens you don’t use as often. Challenge yourself to include fruits and vegetables in everything you eat. Buy foods with only ingredients you recognize. Keep it simple.
Kara Landau aka the Travelling Dietitian is a progressive and pragmatic dietitian and nutritionist from Australia, currently based here in NYC. She spends her time juggling her role as a spokesperson and new healthy product developer for her food clients, as well as sharing her healthy foodie finds around the city with her social media friends, sipping on Pinot Grigio in the sunshine, or pushing herself to the limit in NYC’s many awesome barre, HIIT, or yoga sessions.