Here are my 10 tips for picking healthy foods to eat. I am inspired by Michael Pollan’s new book “Food Rules” which covers all of these and more in his words. Below are my rules, in my words
- Fresh is always best.
Dried fruits and nuts are fantastic snacks, but if you can eat fresh fruit or even fresh veggies, opt for those. If you eat dried fruits, go for the ones without added preservatives (I find them in a refrigerated case at Rainbow Grocery– they’re cold because they’d spoil otherwise!)
- If it has too many ingredients you can’t pronounce, leave it.
Typically, ingredients that have long, chemical-sounding names are additives or preservatives that you really don’t need or want to be eating.
- Stick to packaged foods that you could make if you wanted to/had the time!
If you could make this item in your kitchen, but just don’t for lack of time, energy or motivation, then it’s probably okay to buy in a package. One of my favorite packaged foods is a gluten-free cracker, made by Mary’s Gone Crackers, that is made from lots of seeds. I find them to be tasty and crunchy, and a great way to get in some essential fatty acids.
- Eat colorful foods.
Foods from nature have lots of color! If you eat certain colors for breakfast or lunch, try to eat different colors for dinner. Take it a step further by varying the kind of veggies you eat at each meal- if you eat a salad for lunch that has lots of leafy greens, try eating more crunchy greens (broccoli, green beans, zucchini) for dinner.
- Plan ahead!
You KNOW you’re going to need to eat all day long, so there’s no excuse for not having a healthy snack on-hand at all times. Sure, we get stuck in traffic, or get caught in meetings that run long sometimes, but that’s no excuse. You can always keep something like a Larabar in your bag or purse to nibble on for a healthy, real-food snack.
- Keep small amounts of leftover meals as snacks.
I don’t know about you, but when I cook dinner, I almost always have something left over. Sometimes it’s not enough for a whole separate meal, but that’s perfect for a snack! Pack it up in a portable container and take it with you. If you need to, get a small cooler bag and ice pack to keep it cold, it’s pretty easy to always have a healthy snack on-hand if you take leftovers to munch.
- Defy conventional notions of “snack” or “breakfast” foods.
This is a follow-on from the previous tip, but it’s more about the mental shift than taking physical action. Get your mind out of the snack-food or even the breakfast-food rut! Your body is just like any other animal’s body. What other animals besides humans eat something different before noon than it eats any other time of the day?! Seriously people. This whole BREAKFAST FOOD or SNACK FOOD concept is a product of marketing! Try to ween yourself off of sugary (and high-carb, low protein/low fat) breakfast foods and snacks. See how you feel when you start your day with a real-food meal!
- Balance your meals/snacks with Protein/Carbs/Fat.
When you sit down to eat, look at your plate. Every food item can only be one of or a combination of three types of macronutrients. It’s either a protein, a carbohydrate or a fat- or a combination of one or all of them. Try to keep a balance on your plate. If you’re eating a piece of fruit, try to add nuts or some whole (read full-fat) organic or raw dairy. If you’re eating a nice organic, grass-fed steak, add some leafy greens for a nutrient-packed pile of carbs. Yes! Green vegetables ARE CARBS!
- Eat whole foods.
This may sound redundant from some of my above rules, but it’s not. This rule is about not eating foods that have been broken down from their original form. The notion I want to tackle with this rule is the low-fat, fat-free foods craze. If a food is low in fat, or has no fat, then it’s going to be high in something else. In most cases, low or no-fat foods are high in sugar/added sweeteners or artificial sweeteners. Nature knows what’s up. When you find foods in nature with protein in them like eggs, meat, nuts and dairy, what typically comes with the protein? Fat! Yes, fat! The fats that NATURALLY occur with the protein are important to eat for proper protein assimilation. Go ahead, eat the WHOLE EGG. Don’t waste the yolk or the skin from your organic eggs or chicken! Buy regular organic yogurt or cottage cheese (sometimes labeled 4%). You can sit down with a small portion of it and feel satisfied when you’re done. And that’s a good thing.
- If it can never spoil, don’t eat it.
The only whole food product I’ve ever known that doesn’t spoil is honey. Outside of honey, if you can keep it in your cabinet forever, it’s probably not healthy. I don’t mean to say that whole grains that have a long shelf-life are bad for you, but eventually, those will go off. They last a while in your pantry because the water has been removed, okay that’s fair. But I’m talking about the boxed and packaged foods that will last indefinitely if you don’t open them.
Do you have “Food Rules” of your own? Share them with me! I’d love to hear some of them- maybe your #1 rule or your top 5?