Finding Peace in the War on Food

Waving the White Flag

J-206When did food become the enemy? First, it was fat, then calories, then carbs. Now, it’s gluten, sugar, and sugar substitutes, among others. Next year it will be something else. We’ll continue pointing fingers until we’re happy with a solution. But if  you know anything about nutrition (and research in general), our solution today could be our problem tomorrow, and vice versa. There are so many diets and information out there on food and nutrition. How do you know what or who to believe? Let’s first start with the word “diet”.

Did you know the word “diet” originally referred to the types of foods that one consumes each day?

It still technically has this definition too, but somewhere along the way it lost its original meaning and gained a few others. Now the word diet has become synonymous with weight loss, food restriction, deprivation, extreme nutrition and lifestyle changes, and so on…

Enough already.

Instead of looking for the next trend or blaming one particular nutrient or ingredient, realize that everyone’s body is different. One way of eating is not suited for all (unlike the multitude of diet plans will lead you to believe). And I’m sure you’ve heard it before – “Diets don’t work. Lifestyle changes do.” Because it isn’t typically about one ingredient or food group. It’s about the bigger picture, including all of the foods you eat (and don’t eat). It’s the dietary patterns that matter. When it comes to food and nutrition: patience pays.

In nutrition, one size does not fit all. “One Size Fits One.”

In this case, quality isn’t better than quantity. Both are equally important when it comes to the food we eat.

That said, if you do suspect a certain ingredient or food is preventing you from reaching a certain goal (weight loss, increased lean muscle, etc.) or causing undesirable outcomes (bloating, weight gain, nausea, headaches…) than there are a few things you should ask yourself before making any drastic dietary changes.

  • How much do I eat “x”?

It may simply boil down to the quantity being consumed. A couple of small cookies likely won’t cause any issue. Eating more than the recommended serving or missing out on other nutritious foods may result in nausea and feeling tired.

  • How do I feel right after consuming “x”?

It may not be the specific food or ingredient but instead, the combination of things you had that day or at that meal. It could also be your stress level at that moment. But, if you don’t feel well after consuming that food(s) every time you eat it, there may be an issue.

  • How is “x” typically prepared?

Sometimes it isn’t the food itself but instead, the way it is prepared. For instance, foods that are juiced, raw, or cooked (in various ways) can be digested differently. This is because the chemistry of the food changes with different preparation methods. For instance, your digestive system may not tolerate the same food fried versus when it is baked. Raw celery may be too fibrous and difficult to digest but if sauteed in a cooked dish or juiced in a green smoothie, it may be much easier on your digestion. These are all things that are highly individualized and that you have to realize for yourself.

  • What types of food do I eat that contain “x”?

This is especially true when you are considering a specific ingredient or food group. It could be the types of food and not the ingredient itself. For instance, consuming gluten containing products such as white bread, pastries, and other refined products may have you feeling less satiated and tired than their whole-grain-fiber-and-nutrient-dense counterparts. This is true with lactose as well. Some people are mildly intolerant while others are severely intolerant. If only mildly intolerant, you may be okay with low lactose dairy like hard cheeses and only have problems with higher lactose foods like milk and ice cream.

To really be sure that a certain food is causing a problem, look to the help of a local Registered Dietitian to pinpoint that food(s) or to confirm if something else is going on.  One of the biggest challenges in eliminating a food/ingredient or food group is the potential to miss out on key nutrients. A dietitian can help you find a suitable substitute (if necessary) to ensure your diet is well balanced. 

For most people, diet “issues” are not the result of one ingredient, food, or food group. It is the quality and quantity of all of the foods one is consuming. Stick to whole foods most of the time, being sure to choose a variety and sticking to recommended serving sizes. And at the end of the day, remember that for most individuals, the key to a healthy diet is balance and moderation.

Stop making food the problem. Make it the solution! 

Image courtesy of Rising Lotus Photography

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