Quiet the noise
We get flooded every day with ads and information on the media, whether in magazines, on TV or on the internet, telling us about the latest diet fad, the superfood we should definitely eat, or the way we’ve been preparing breakfast wrong all this time. It can be information overload that leaves us feeling inadequate and overwhelmed – not a healthy way to start thinking about food.
We suggest: Pick a publication or two you love reading, forget about the rest. That way you can stay up to date, but with more focus and ease.
You do you
It’s also important to take new research studies with a pinch of salt. This is not to say they are necessarily wrong or exaggerated. But it is true that many nutritional studies, by their very nature, are taken out of the complex context that our body is. We cannot study food and diet in the same way we study drugs, because foods interact with each other and it can take decades to see the impact of changed dietary habits.
The fact that we haven’t yet figured it all out shouldn’t put us into a state of panic, because it’s best to look inward anyway. We are unique not only by way of our personalities and experiences, but we also have unique bodies with gut bacteria and papillae (taste buds) that can never be the same as anyone else’s on this planet. Tuning into our own bodies and what we crave, what we don’t like the smell of, and what we know will give us a boost (from trial and error) is the most sure-fire way to ensure we’re giving ourselves the diet we need.
We suggest: Mindfulness. Tune into your body to figure out what you might be craving. Keep a log not of what you should eat but of what you ate and how it made you feel. It will help you to make adjustments and find a diet that works for you.
When we become obsessed with something, it’s only a matter of time until we suffer from distress and burnout. Although we may feel the need to count every single calorie to regain or maintain control of our body and health, such rigidity and desire for perfection are bound to backfire. As soon as we fail to reach the desired goal, we are overcome with a wave of guilt. Instead of adhering to rules and restrictions, we’d do better to remain flexible.
We don’t need to have ultra-healthy meals 100% of the time. We may indulge on some days, eat ultra-healthy on others, and have healthy-ish foods most of the rest of the time. Balance is key and so is fluidity. Don’t be harsh on yourself, some days will make up for others.
We suggest: Consult your instinct, not your calculator. If we leave the calorie-counting behind and eat mindfully, we’ll know when it’s time to have a meal that includes more veggies or when we’re ok to have that melt-in-your-mouth chocolate cake.
With many research studies and articles focusing on one ingredient only, we often get told to eat less eggs, eat more eggs, eat less meat, cut the carbs, and the list goes on. Generally, it’s not very helpful to think about foods in isolation. Some foods enable activation of components in other foods or cancel them out. If we have this knowledge at our fingertips, we are empowered to make better decisions for our meals.
Turmeric has an active component called curcumin that is the main contributor to the spice’s anti-inflammatory properties. But because it isn’t naturally well-absorbed by the body, black pepper is added to increase the bioavailability by as much as 2,000%.
Vegetables such as squash, kale, carrots, broccoli, and spinach contain fat-soluble vitamins A,D,E or K that are best absorbed by the body when fat-containing foods are also present. That’s why it makes a lot of sense to roast these vegetables in olive oil, dip them in hummus, or serve them in a salad with avocado dressing. Salads with dressings are not just a coincidence – our ancestors were onto something.
We suggest: Do some digging to find other beneficial food combinations, and start applying them in your everyday cooking.
Forming habits, or changing them, takes time. But it can be endlessly rewarding. The process too, is exciting – if we allow ourselves to look at it in that way. Too often we are too focused on the goal and forget the journey. It’s not just ok but advisable to take one step at a time. We will rarely go from being put off by broccoli to loving it from one tasting to the next. But it doesn’t mean it can’t be done.
We suggest: Try healthy food you’d like to eat more of but don’t enjoy, cooked in different ways, with different food combinations. Use different seasonings, sauces, dressings. And make sure the ingredient itself is of good quality. Experiencing a food in new ways can open up a whole new world where you learn to appreciate its unique characteristics – flavour, texture, smell.
Try something new
Habits are priceless, but sometimes it helps to spice things up as well. Don’t be afraid to try new foods and fall in love with them. And just like with changing habits, don’t give up if you don’t enjoy it on your first try. Staying excited about food means we’ll see it not as something to dread, but as something to look forward to.
We suggest: Whenever you grow tired of the same old, read up on a new ingredient, seasoning or spice and integrate it into one of your meals. Or go all out and try a novel dish from a cuisine you’re curious about.
There can be much anxiety surrounding our dietary habits and the foods we consume. With some adjustments such as being more mindful and combining foods in ways that bring out the best of them, we can start changing how we look at food and see it as something to be curious and excited about.