3 Guidelines for Healthy Eating
It is hard enough today to take the time to make a suitable grocery list let alone get to the grocery store, but with nutrition advice changing daily with a new fad diet emerging around every corner, how are you to plan healthy meals for yourself or family without losing your mind? First, I want to say that I don’t believe there to be ONE diet that everyone should follow to the letter (Mediterranean, Paleo, Atkins, you name it). Some foods just resonate better with others and at certain quantities. For me—I know that I function at my best when I eat protein at every meal. Do I completely shun carbohydrates- no, I don’t, but carb loading during a meal leaves me more lethargic so I stick with what works for me.
Instead of looking at my diet in two camps – “what I should eat” and “what I shouldn’t eat,” I instead use the following framework to help me plan our family's meals. Using this framework leaves me open to a lot of healthy options versus a limited view of foods which then makes meals a drudge to make and a bore to eat.
1. Eat Real Food
Without a doubt, it is most important to me to eat and feed my family food that is “clean” or “real food” as the buzz words go these days. Clean and real food to me means food that is grown without herbicides, pesticides, hormones or antibiotics. It is food that is minimally processed and free of fillers, chemicals, rancid oils, fake sugars and additives. This means that we are eating home cooked meals with quality ingredients instead of reheating or mixing items from a box.
Pasture raised, organic meat is best as is wild caught seafood and organic fruits and vegetables. It’s becoming increasingly easier and more affordable to purchase quality, pasture raised meat from local farmer's markets or mail services such as Butcher Box. Even if you can’t find all fruits and vegetables in the organic aisle, stick with buying organic when it comes to the Dirty Dozen.
Weston A. Price Foundation Dietary Guidelines
In addition to eating real food, overall, I try to follow the dietary guidelines set forth by the Weston A Price Foundation. This nonprofit works to disseminate the research of Dr. Weston Price, “whose studies of isolated nonindustrialized peoples established the parameters of human health and determined the optimum characteristics of human diets.”
I know what you’re thinking- Leslie, you said you weren’t bog down by limiting lists or diets, but don’t worry. The Weston A. Price Foundation Dietary Guidelines aren’t those. They just offer, in some cases, common sense advice when it comes to selecting food that will nourish the body and how to best prepare it. The guidelines include the following:
Eat whole, unprocessed foods.
Eat beef, lamb, game, organ meats, poultry and eggs from pasture-fed animals.
Eat wild fish (not farm-raised), fish eggs and shellfish from unpolluted waters.
Eat full-fat milk products from pasture-fed cows, preferably raw and/or fermented, such as raw milk, whole yogurt, kefir, cultured butter, full-fat raw cheeses and fresh and sour cream.
Use animal fats, such as lard, tallow, egg yolks, cream and butter liberally.
Use only traditional vegetable oils—extra virgin olive oil, expeller-expressed sesame oil, small amounts of expeller-expressed flax oil, and the tropical oils—coconut oil, palm oil and palm kernel oil.
Take cod liver oil regularly to provide at least 10,000 IU vitamin A and 1,000 IU vitamin D per day.
Eat fresh fruits and vegetables, preferably organic. Use vegetables in salads and soups, or lightly steamed with butter.
Use whole grains, legumes and nuts that have been prepared by soaking, sprouting or sour leavening to neutralize phytic acid, enzyme inhibitors and other anti-nutrients.
Include enzyme-rich lacto-fermented vegetables, fruits, beverages and condiments in your diet on a regular basis.
Prepare homemade stocks from the bones of chicken, beef, lamb and fish and use liberally in soups, stews, gravies and sauces.
Use filtered water for cooking and drinking.
Use unrefined salt and a variety of herbs and spices for food interest and appetite stimulation.
Make your own salad dressing using raw vinegar, extra virgin olive oil and a small amount of expeller-expressed flax oil.
Use traditional sweeteners in moderation, such as raw honey, maple syrup, maple sugar, date sugar, dehydrated cane sugar juice (sold as Rapadura) and stevia powder.
Use only unpasteurized wine or beer in strict moderation with meals.
Cook only in stainless steel, cast iron, glass or good quality enamel.
Use only natural, food-based supplements.
Get plenty of sleep, exercise and natural light.
Think positive thoughts and practice forgiveness.
Again, these are healthy guidelines to help do just that—guide your food choices. I understand the health benefits behind these suggestions and try my best to follow them as best I can.
2. According to the Season
I also consider the season when making meal choices. Not only does this mean eating food when it is available and most fresh by season at farmers' markets and grocery stores, but eating by the season also pertains to how food should be prepared.
For example, in Traditional Chinese medicine, the best and most appropriate time to eat raw foods such as a simple salad is in the summer time. Not only are greens and other vegetables available fresh from the garden, but inherently, these foods are energetically cool. Our digestive systems can better process these cooler, raw foods when it is hot outside in the summer time.
Alternatively, during winter, it is best to eat foods that have been cooked and which are warming to the body. It is quite rare for me to eat a salad during the cold months of the year. Instead, I will eat root vegetables roasted in the oven or vegetables simmered with meat in a soup or stew. Foods that are cooked will be easier for your digestive system to process and will give your body adequate fuel for the winter time.
Below is a quick guide on what to eat and how to best prepare foods by season.
Steam, blanch, quick fry, grill, sauté
Eat more cleansing, light foods, no heavy or rich foods; increase vegetable portions
Eat steamed vegetables, light soups, fish, rice dishes, fruits
Replenish vitamins, minerals and fluids
Can increase raw fruits and vegetables
Continue with lighter meals
Bake, slow cook, roast
Increase meat and overall amount of food
Eat more warming, nourishing foods that have been cooked longer
Eat soups, stews, roasted root vegetables, meat and fish
Continue to eat larger meals of warm, nourishing foods; add warming teas
Eliminate eating cold foods
(One Trip Around the Sun is a great book to explore further how to change your diet and exercise by season. Helping Ourselves: A Guide to Traditional Chinese Food Energetics, is a great resource for digging deeper into the energetic properties of food, as foods are classified as hot, warm, cool, cold, sour or bitter and influence the body in different ways as such.)
3. Eat What Tastes Good
Lastly, taste should directly impact your meal and food choices. Who wants to eat something day in and day out that doesn’t taste good just because it’s been deemed healthy? Not me. Food is delicious. Healthy AND delicious can go hand in hand and should. If we only eat specific foods because we believe that we should, but they are things we do not like or don’t taste good to our taste buds, then we will just end up grabbing for those not so healthy foods later.
If you don’t like fish, don’t eat it just because it’s a good source of protein and omega fats. Find a different way to meet those nutritional needs or find a new way to prepare it instead.
Taste should absolutely factor into what you decide to prepare for each meal. Spices and healthy fats and oils (such as grassfed butter, ghee, coconut oil, olive oil) can really pack on the flavor for the simplest of dishes. Ultimately, go with the healthiest choices that you love and which taste the best. Happy (and healthy) eating!