By this point in your life, you’ve probably heard of about a million diet trends. There’s so much conflicting and mis-information floating around the internet, TV, and advertisements you may find yourself questioning what’s safe to consume besides plain old water these days.
Maybe you’re vegan. Maybe you’re gluten-free. You might be an omnivore, or a pescatarian or perhaps you’re allergic to nuts and corn oil. Maybe you love bread; maybe you don’t. Maybe you heard something on Dr. Oz or bought some books and have convinced yourself the latest diet trend is something you should try.
But when it comes to actually consuming and sticking with a healthy diet, the keys to both maintaining your health and your sanity are actually far less complicated than you might think. The point is, no matter what you call yourself, if you follow these simple guidelines to eating and thinking about food, better health is a few bites away.
Just remember this fun acronym: BE SAM(Balanced, Enjoyable, Sustainable, Adequate, Maintainable).
Think of food choices as opportunities to do something positive for yourself. And next time you read something trendy or gimmicky on the internet, remember that a lot of stuff published on the internet is not-research based, and that real science and health research is never trying to sell you anything (when in doubt, PubMed it out).
Life in general, is all about balance. Much like balancing school with friends and fun, eating is about balance. First, balance the amount you eat with the amount you need (not too many calories, not too few), and make sure you eat a diet that’s complete.
This means you get a sufficient amount of food from all three macronutrient groups – fats, carbohydrates, and proteins. Yes, you need all three. Carbs are nothing to be afraid of, fats are actually quite important for your overall health, and protein is important too. Don’t shun one of the three major food groups.
Yes, food is meant to be enjoyed. So don’t torture yourself to eat kale salad for lunch if you hate kale. Like spinach? Great, eat that instead. Focus on the healthy foods you do enjoy and fill up on those most of the time. And when you’re craving an ooey, gooey cookie and nothing else will do, eat the damn cookie and enjoy crumbly delicious bite.
And spend time appreciating your food. Slow down and taste the things you eat, and share time spent cooking and eating with people you love.
It’s time to face the facts: the world’s food supply is dwindling and population is increasing. We can’t sustain our current agricultural practices and eating habits, and we’ll see effects within our generation on food prices, availabilities, among other not-so-fun consequences of climate change. To find out more about how you can eat a little bit more sustainably, click here.
Make sure you’re eating enough food to sustain your lifestyle, and getting adequate intakes of vitamins and minerals. Eating disorders are no joke, and your brain needs 420 calories per day just to function, so don’t starve yourself.
Also realize that even with adequate caloric intake, you can be malnourished if you don’t have the important vitamins and minerals your body needs. Aim to get adequate micronutrients, aka all the vitamins, minerals, and essential fatty acids. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole-grains, beans, nuts and seeds is a good place to start. It’s not about reaching 100 percent of your Daily Value for every vitamin every day, but about eating a variety of nutrient-dense foods on a regularly basis to ensure optimal health.
No matter what diet pattern you follow, make it a realistic one you can stick to. No one can live on juice alone. Have a healthy diet you enjoy, and that works for you. Make good choices whenever you can, and when you don’t, forgive yourself and move on.
Every time you eat is an opportunity to do something positive for your body and your mind. Give yourself the best fuel to feel and perform your best, and healthy eating will simply become part an enjoyable part of your everyday routine.