December 5, 2013

Moving Past Labeling Food (Part One)

Moving Past Labeling Food

Over the years I’ve had a lot of clients ask me how many carbs or grams of protein they should have in a meal. It’s a popular way of thinking, to label food as a “carb,” “fat,” “protein,” or the dreaded “fattening” (super popular in my household growing up, more about it in Part II). We’ve been conditioned to think this is how we should be thinking about our food.

How would you feel if you didn’t have to label your food? If you didn’t have to look down at your plate and say, “I have a protein, carb, and fat on my plate, so it must be a balanced meal”?

Mentally it’s a much healthier approach to look at food for what it really does for your body, which goes beyond “carb,” “fats,” and “protein.” It’s more about source, quality, and nutrient density.

What do I mean exactly?

Food choices should be rooted in real, whole foods.

Incorporate as many foods in their original form as you can – think grain quinoa over a bread made with quinoa flour. And yes, this does mean staying to the outer aisles of a typical grocery store on your shopping trips. If you are looking at your plate and you have a piece of fried chicken, some chips, and a piece of of cheesecake, you have a protein, a fat, and a carb, but does that sound like a well balanced meal? Obviously not! That meal would have you feeling pretty sluggish and bloated afterwards. Your body knows what to do with real food, it doesn’t understand processed food. (Tweet that!)

Start to shift your thoughts about what’s on your plate.

Instead of labeling your food, think about where the items on your plate came from? How was it made? What was it cooked with? Did your food come from the earth, or did it come in a package? Was it cooked in a ton of poor quality oil or shortening (yes this still exists in many, many restaurants), or was it steamed, roasted or cooking in grass fed butter? (Yes! I said butter!) These are the important points to think about when you make the commitment to eat wholly healthy.

Concentrate on the benefits of what you’re eating.

Are you eating a wide variety of colors? In addition to your tried and true staples are you adding in some new produce you’ve never had before? Our bodies are designed to eat a variety of foods gathering all the vitamins and minerals it needs from a variety of sources. Had kale and spinach last week? Try bok choy, swiss chard and/or collard greens this week instead. Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables ensures we don’t get bored, and we are maximizing nutrient absorption.

I’ve recently put myself on a few to no processed foods “diet” and personally, it’s the easiest way of eating I’ve ever followed. Instead of a bar, I reach for whole carrots, or Persian cucumbers. Instead of delivery, I defrost one of my homemade soups from my freezer, add a few handfuls of kale and a poached egg on top. All of these options take the same amount of time. It’s just about how you choose to think about your food. Without the “carbs” and “fat” labels it makes it much easier to make small changes that pack a powerful positive result.

Now I want to hear from you. How do you typically think about your food? Is shifting your focus to nutrient density and quality an easy or challenging change for you? Let me know in the comments below! And don’t forget to check out Part II.

[Editor’s Note 08/2015: This post appeared as part of a Summer Series. Get the full recap.]

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