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Why Healthy Eating Means More Than The Food on Your Plate

There is no shortage of health information available on the internet, in the media, and of course - from well-meaning family and friends, too. That said; I’m also keenly aware of my own contribution to this ever-expanding mass of information overload. But damn – nutrition and diet info is everywhere!

Now, despite all the information that is out there, and the abundance of ‘experts’ directing your focus toward monitoring how much you eat, I want you to realize that while calorie count does affect your weight and energy level, don’t mistake it as the “holy grail” of health.

There is an often overlooked (and proven) balance of fueling your body that includes what you eat and drink as well as how you eat and drink it.

What you eat and drink

The “calories in, calories out” philosophy (i.e. how much you eat) is being challenged by recent research that indicate other factors may be just as nutritionally important. True, limiting calories, carbs or fats can help you lose weight but it’s not the sole factor for maintaining long-term weight loss and maximum energy.

But that’s no surprise, right? I mean… maybe you’ve even experienced this yourself? Regaining weight after intensely focusing on ‘how much’ you ate?

Well, while there are still benefits to counting calories, carbs, and fats, you must also consider ‘what’ you eat, too.

So, even though you’ve no doubt been inundated with this information, I’m going to repeat it, anyway: you need to eat a varied diet full of whole foods and minimally-processed foods (i.e. fewer “packaged” “ready-to-eat” foods), if you want to maintain your weight, energy, and overall health and wellness.

Every day this is what you should aim for:

  • A colorful variety of fruits and veggies at almost every meal and snack. You need the fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.

  • Enough protein. Make sure you get all of those essential amino acids for maintaining muscles and strength (bonus: eating protein can increase your metabolism).

  • Healthy fats and oils (never “hydrogenated” ones). They are called “essential” fats because you need them for proper brain and hormonal functioning in addition to aiding in the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins. Extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, organic egg yolks, and get grass-fed meats are samples of healthy fats.

How you eat and drink

Here’s an interesting correlation; studies have indicated that the circumstances that encompass ‘how’ we consume our foods has more of an impact than previously thought.

Are you rushed? Stressed? Not properly chewing your food? Do you ‘inhale’ your meals - or do you practice “mindful eating”?

Mindful eating involves taking smaller bites, eating slowly, chewing thoroughly, and savoring every mouthful. It gives your digestive system the time to prepare for digestion, to secrete necessary enzymes, and enough time for your brain to recognize when your stomach is full.

This can often result in eating less overall.

Plus, thoroughly chewed food is easier to digest thereby making all the essential nutrients we’ve just consumed, readily available for absorption.

What about drinking your food?

If thoroughly chewed food is good, surely pureed is better! Well, yes and no.

If you’re a fan of smoothies and protein shakes, then you know they can be a healthy and convenient way to get in some fruits, veggies, and leafy greens but over-imbibing on this supplemental way of eating can contribute to a weight problem and feelings of sluggishness, too.

It’s true: a green smoothie can make an amazingly nutrient-dense meal that’s way better than stopping for convenient junk food – just remember that serving size matters. Consider a large smoothie to be a full meal (not a snack) and sip slowly. Mindful eating applies to liquid meals, too.

[bonus] - If your smoothies don't fill you up like a full meal does try adding in a spoonful of fiber like ground flax or chia seeds.

So, there you have it. Healthy eating involves way more than just healthy food selections. It means eating mindfully, eating at a moderate pace, balancing your ratios of protein, plants and healthy fats, and always focus on nourishing your body.

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