People are often curious about how I would break down the many, many nutrition messages out there into three things that everyone should start doing. To answer this critical question, I offer three strategies for healthier living that I truly believe lead to a better relationship with food, help maintain a healthy weight and ultimately enable individuals to reach nutrition and diet goals. Yes, all that from just three principles.
#1 Learn what it means to be hungry…and full.
Yes, you read that right. With only three tips to give, I start with this skill that you may believe you mastered more or less from birth. But, think about it. Do you truly only eat when you are hungry…and by hungry I mean it starts in your belly and grows gradually until you are moved to prepare yourself something (healthful!) to eat?
It is important to realize that there are several reasons that we feel hunger…possibly we are hungry for more sleep or a less chaotic day. Or maybe we are hungry for peace or to settle something in our life. The point is that hunger is an easy thing to feel, especially when tougher emotions are uncomfortable and difficult to feel. Use a Hunger-Fullness scale like this to identify when you are truly hungry and appropriately full. Ideally, you will always fall between a 4 and 7.
#2 Make food a priority.
It’s a common fact…for most people life happens, chores get done, work is completed on time and somehow between it all we eat. Last minute decisions, poor choices and usually a less nutritious dinner than we would prepare for ourselves is the common result. You may be thinking that while trying to prepare food ahead of time is a good idea, you just don’t think it should be on my list of “top three” nutrition tips. However, the reason it is so important to me to make food more of a priority is because it leads to greater consciousness about food choice, a slower, more mindful approach to eating and yes, a greater likelihood that you will be healthier overall.
Approaching your day with food as the priority simply means making sure you have simple, wholesome snacks on hand and a plan for your meals. It means using a plate rather than eating directly out of boxes, bags or bowls. Lastly, it means sitting down at a table and taking a moment to breathe and truly be present for meals. Do these simple things and you will have made food a priority in your day… and help your body work on achieving tip #1!
#3 Check your facts and trust only experts.
There is SOO much nutrition information available through popular TV programs, magazines, the internet and most other media. In some cases, a strong argument is made for a food, product, program or other diet tool. But have you ever noticed that the study on just how good a food is for you is often sponsored by the association for the food? Naturally, this presents a potential conflict of interest. If a TV personality suggests you begin taking something, do you immediately buy it or do you ask yourself why exactly you need it and what it will do for your body?
Seeking reliable nutrition information is critical because not only can following the wrong advice be dangerous, it also distracts you from staying on track with the tips and habits that we know work. I suggest fact checking information on websites that are developed by well respected institutions such as the Harvard School of Public Health, the National Institutes of Health or the Mayo Clinic among others. Or in some cases, check the FDA or USDA website. Academic websites, from colleges and universities or university medical systems are also generally good resources.