The idea that we can get our day off to a great start, fuel properly before a workout, or feed our kids the right snack after school sounds simple enough. It can be — unless we think too much about it.
The 2018 theme for National Nutrition Month is "Go Further with Food" to help Americans focus on healthy eating. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics wants to encourage Americans to "achieve the numerous benefits healthy eating habits offer" but also urges them to "find ways to cut back on food waste."
When it comes to preventing or treating chronic diseases, nutrition cannot be overlooked. Because what we eat has been shown to play a key role in overall health, we are constantly bombarded with messages about our diet.
One cannot browse the internet without a new study linking diet to improved health or a disease-promoting ingredient to avoid. As a result, we have become "guilty" eaters who are both fixated with and fearful of food. This obsessive mindset leads us to believe that food will either heal us or kill us. Additionally, it isn't improving our health.
In her book "Consumed: Why Americans Hate, Love and Fear Food," author Michelle Stacey stated, "We will not be healthier, both psychologically and physically about our food until we learn to love it more, not less … with a relaxed, generous, unashamed emotion. In the process, it may be that we will have to redefine fundamentally the concept of 'eating well.'"
To truly Go Further with Food, we cannot let it consume our thoughts. We must find a balance between eating to fuel our bodies and to satisfy our palate.
Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch said it best in their book "Intuitive Eating": "Remember that you don't have to eat perfectly to be healthy. You will not suddenly get a nutrient deficiency or gain weight from one snack, one meal, or one day of eating. It is what you eat consistently over time that matters — progress, not perfection is what counts."
Here are three nutrition-related habits that can improve your overall well-being without obsessing over food:
There is no reason to eat something that doesn't taste good just because it's "healthy." If you are choking down celery because you heard it is fibrous and extremely low in calories, stop. Plus, varying your vegetables will provide your diet with ample vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals.
A satisfying meal or snack tastes good and is well-balanced, meaning it combines protein, carbohydrate and fat. When you finish eating and you feel satisfied you won't continue searching for food to meet your needs. Furthermore, you will eat less in the long run.
Stop aiming to eat a certain number of calories or grams. Instead, pay attention to your hunger and fullness. When you ditch numbers and listen to your body you will find that your body truly knows how much it needs to feel its best.
As part of National Nutrition Month, eatright.org includes articles, recipes, videos and educational resources to spread the message of good nutrition and the importance of an overall healthy lifestyle for people of all ages, genders and backgrounds. Consumers can also follow National Nutrition Month on the academy's social media channels including Facebook and Twitter using #NationalNutritionMonth.
The academy is also committed to cutting food loss and waste in the United States in half by 2030. Visit furtherwithfood.org/resources/ for great tools and resources.