There’s a lot of buzz about the best foods. Superfoods, super shakes, super supplements, everything seems to be super something when it comes nutrition.
Let’s simplify it a bit because, really, something like eating deserves some simplicity and grace.
With access to world foods all year long and the advent of more and more overly processed and even fake foods, health has hit a crisis when it comes to nutrition.
We want to make sure our families get the best. Our kids deserve the growing power of good nutrition and your body deserves the natural energy and longevity that comes from a well-balanced, nutritious diet.
So, there’s a lot of hoopla about what is the best, most ideal diet out there. Is it raw foods only? Is it vegan? Vegetarian? Paleo?
I’ll be honest and say I have been down every one of those roads. And, I came out with the best lesson in nutrition to date: there is no one ideal diet. In fact, no one person or child needs to eat one way only for the rest of their lives.
As your child’s body develops and grows, so will her nutritional needs. If allowed the guidance of her natural appetite, her body wisdom will help her determine what works for her body.
Your body also continues to develop and change. It is affected by the seasons, your mood, your stress, your lifestyle, and age. Naturally, what foods serve your body best will also change over time.
How do you figure it all out? First, let go of needing to know what’s the perfect way of eating. Here are the top 5 guidelines I share when it comes to feeding your family and yourself the best foods.
1.) Fresh is best: Fresh foods are those that have travelled little, have not been modified greatly, and can mostly be eaten in their whole form. You will find most fresh foods in the produce section of your grocery store, at farmer’s markets, and in the bulk section. They are fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. They smell good, they have flavor, and they are appealing.
Just imagine if you were a wild human, are these the foods you would find most attractive in the wild? Would you be able to find them in nature at all? You’ll be pretty hard pressed to find a box of a Trix cereal, right? Following the fresh rule automatically encourages you to avoid some red flag ingredients such as high fructose corn syrup, refined sugar, refined flours, preservatives, food colorings, and fake sugars.
Fresh foods are best because they retain their most nutritious properties. They don’t go through a lot of processing and they have the most phytonutrients that will help your body and your children’s’ bodies fight off illnesses and colds.
2.) Seasonal Foods: Closely related to fresh is best is the general principle of eating what’s seasonally available. Just as the weather changes, so does your body’s nutritional needs. You probably notice a shift in your cravings when the dark winter days roll around. Cooked vegetables, soups, and warm comforting foods feel best. When spring arrives, your palate might perk up again. You feel drawn toward fresh vegetables, salads, sweeter fruits, and smoothies.
Letting the season guide your eating is a step closer to following body wisdom. It also means you generally eat fresher foods that had very little distance to travel before landing on your plate. Personal gardens and local farmer’s markets or CSAs are a great place to start.
3.) Variety: Whatever season it is, the next general guideline is to mix it up. Continuously eating the same foods day in and day out limits the nutrient potential for your body. Kale smoothies are wonderful. However, if you’re drink the same banana kale smoothie every single day, you limit yourself to only the nutrients available in those foods. If you can mix up your breakfast menu from time to time, you expand the amount of vitamins and minerals and macronutrients available to your family. It also keeps things interesting. It helps to avoid health food fatigue. Healthy food should not be bland and uninteresting.
4.) Palatable Recipes: That’s why it’s extremely important to give effort to enjoying healthy whole foods in palatable, stimulating, mouth watering meals. If you only had a meek salad of cut up veggies to look forward to every lunch, you might find it hard to feel interested in food.
Strive for some Vitamin P for pleasure with most meals and snacks. Pin some interesting recipes on Pintrest, save and print off your favorite food blog recipes, and even invest in some cookbooks or cooking classes. If you have the option, research restaurants in your community that already serve amazing, fresh foods. Try some of their dishes for inspiration and ideas.
This is a great rule for children. They are greatly guided by the what looks appealing. That’s why cake and ice cream usually wins out to cut up carrots at most Birthday parties. However, that doesn’t always have to be the case. Invite them to try all foods in different ways. If a salad didn’t win them over, how about a smoothie? If they won’t eat avocado alone, what do they think of a warm quinoa, avocado bowl? Or an egg baked into an avocado? This goes back to the third guideline on variety.
5.) Eat for Nourishment: Finally, model more than eating healthy foods. Demonstrate to your family, and to yourself, the pleasure and benefits of eating mindfully, slowly, and for nourishment. Sit down for meals. Breathe between bites. Smell, taste, and savor each time. Turn off distractions and make meal time about meal time. Don’t stuff food in your face while working, driving, or watching TV.
Digestion is a whole experience and the more you make eating about eating and enjoyment the better you will digest foods. Your body will naturally relax, assimilate more nutrients, and you easily avoid eating too much. It takes twenty minutes for the brain to catch up and figure out if the belly is full. Slow it down and let your mind and body work together.
Like with most advice I offer, these are guidelines, not rules. Guidelines are flexible, customizable, and can flex with the seasons just like you. If you do anything, relax. The more you relax the better your body will be able to digest, burn calories, burn fat, and get the most out of every meal.
Let me know what you’d add to the list. Which guideline do you think is the most difficult?