There is a lot of conflicting information about nutrition out there, and it can get confusing! Butter - good or bad? Is coconut really good for me? Should I do a juice cleanse? Cauliflower- the new superfood? How do I get to my goal weight? These are questions I see and hear everywhere - in the news, in my office, in magazines, even on Facebook.
To overly simplify my answer to all of these questions (and many more), here is one of my favourite quotes:
"Eat Food. Not too much. Mostly plants."
- Michael Pollan
This more or less sums up my food philosophy. Michael Pollan is a botanist and has what I think is a brilliant take on food and the food system. His book In Defence of Food is one of the books that first inspired me to think deeply about food and nutrition and pursue my career as a dietitian. It's a quick read and worth it if you get the chance.
If we dig deeper, it gets a little more complicated.
What is food? How much is too much? And what do you mean mostly plants - I love steak!?! Besides, does nutrition REALLY matter that much?
It REALLY does!
Think of your body as a high-performance vehicle. What happens if you put cheap gas in your vehicle? It might still run, but will it run at its best? Now what would happen if instead of cheap gasoline you put unfiltered fuel, or the wrong fuel altogether (like diesel) into the car? It might last ok for a bit, and you might not even notice from the outside temporarily, but think about what's happening on the inside of the car. With bad fuel inevitably the engine will start to run into problems, quit running well, or even explode into a ball of flames! (OK, I may be exaggerating a bit, but you get the gist).
The food you eat is the fuel for your body, perhaps the most valuable vehicle you'll ever own. The difference?? You only get ONE body! If you bog it down with junky fuel you don't get to buy a new one, you'll have to live with the consequences. Think about your choices: Are you treating your body with the value it deserves by providing it with clean, wholesome food?
Is the fuel you choose everyday quality fuel?
My take on "food"?
To put it plainly real food is created by mother nature. Think plants and animals - things that were around before big food companies and supermarkets. Real food has names that we can read like apple and oats, not names that we need a chemist to interpret like Butylated Hydroxytolulene (BHT) and Sodium Nitrite. And yet, we find these chemical ingredients in so many things we consider "food" today.
I have a challenge for you - pick up a package of a common snack food and read the ingredients. Now read this ingredients list to someone who can't see the package. Can they guess what is in the package? It's surprising how challenging this can be. If you can't recognize something from it's ingredients list, how do you feel about eating it? If you took each ingredient out on it's own, would you want to be eating it? Challenge number 2? Fall in love with real food again. I mean crisp sweet bell peppers, juicy melons, tender meat... we tend to forget just how amazing fresh food can be.
We are constantly bombarded with the latest nutrition information, but how do we know what is true? What do we ignore, and who do we listen to? What is fact and what is fad (often fiction)?
No fad diets, potions or pills promising quick fixes, and no detoxes of foods that "purify" your body. I prefer to stick with whole foods and evidence-based nutrition advice.
To be blunt: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
But really - how do you know what is right? This is a complicated question, and "right" might not be "right" for everybody.
I do not believe in "one-size-fits all" nutrition - every body is unique, and so the best way to nourish every body will also be unique. Some people function best as vegetarians, others need to avoid foods like dairy or gluten. I'm not here to preach that one diet is better than another for everyone because I don't believe that is the case.
As a dietitian it is my job to consider each individual's medical background, needs, and preferences and work with them to come up with a unique plan that is best for that person. It is also my job to stay up to date with the latest nutrition studies, and interpret findings to provide you with the most relevant and accurate information. A good check when you're reading things on the internet - who is behind the story? What is their background, their education? What makes you think their advice is good?
All of this up until now has been a little bit complicated, but there are a few simple things that always hold true:
Cook more often
Make your plate [naturally] colourful
Listen to your hunger cues! (Eat when hungry, stop when you're satisfied)
Enjoy what you eat
I believe that the best nutrition for everyone begins in the kitchen, and my hope is that this blog will inspire you to cook more often and enjoy the flavours of real foods!