Nutrition is one of the 4 pillars to achieving optimal health and wellness. I want to expand upon that by looking both at what I mean by good nutrition, as well as some practical things we can do to implement positive changes. Of note, I will use diet and nutrition interchangeably. Unfortunately, in western culture, diet is described as a certain way of eating that is usually self-limited, and undertaken in an attempt to lose weight; I am not referring to that. By diet, I mean the foods one eats on a regular basis.
A healthy diet is a lifelong undertaking. There is no point where one completes a goal of healthy nutrition. Rather, it’s an ongoing process of educating oneself, developing habits, and adapting to suit one’s desires, lifestyles and health needs. As with any behavior, there must be both continual self-education as well as self-reflection. Once we moved beyond cultivating our own food and have given ourselves unlimited food choices, eating a high-quality diet has become hard work. It’s because of that, we need to focus so much on this topic and continually develop habits and routines that make it easier to eat healthfully.
To maintain healthy nutrition, you must first accept the fact that eating real food is imperative to long-term good health. This remains crucial because as noted previously, eating a good diet is difficult. To consistently accomplish anything difficult, it has to be a priority. That is definitely true with nutrition. It has to be near the top of one’s priorities, if not the top. Life is busy and poor nutrition is easy. You cannot allow yourself to take the easy route; you must make nutrition a priority.
My first rule of healthy nutrition is simply to eat real food the far majority of the time. In fact, if this rule were followed almost always, we really wouldn’t need other rules. Unfortunately, the majority of foods available to us are not what I call real food. What do I consider real food? I use different definitions. A common one is any food that was available prior to the start of the industrial revolution (mid to late 1700’s). Another is eating only things that are grown from the ground or taken from animals and then packaged without combining or processing. That can also be described by saying eat only foods that come with a single ingredient. You can combine foods on your own, but if everything you buy has a single ingredient, you can be pretty sure it’s real food. The opposite of real food is often called processed food and avoidance of such processed foods is important. For this discussion, we’ll consider processed food to be anything that cannot be made with typical equipment and ingredients found in a home kitchen. I’ll defer discussion at this time of organic or GMO containing foods because, while important topics, they are secondary to the basics of what you eat.
A great first step is to review what you are currently eating. Look down while you eat your typical breakfast and ask yourself, “can I identify every ingredient?” If not, think about how you can make adjustments. Even better would be to start keeping a diet log. Computers and smart phones make it extraordinarily easy to keep track of what you eat and can help you keep nutrition a priority as well as educate you where to make changes.