As far as food guidance goes, you can’t beat Michael Pollan’s advice from In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto: “Eat Food. Not Too Much. Mostly Plants.” I adore this book and it’s one of a handful that have really made me think differently about the world.
He argues, as Americans, we simply don’t have a healthy food culture. Advertising, choices in stores, and what we were raised on make bad habits hard to change. I agree and constantly feel confused by the leading advice, which contradicts itself all the time: drink milk (milk industry), get rid of carbs, eat eggs for breakfast, don’t eat eggs (largely debunked), sugar is probably causing you cancer, so is meat and dairy and burnt toast.
What to Eat
As I did research for my various food posts, I learned a lot about the latest thinking around food. I thought the jury was still out on eggs (it’s not, eat ‘em!) and that most of the research on milk proved it is good for you (far more articles say limit your intake). However, everyone seems to be agreeing on at least four things:
Eat fruits and vegetables.
Eat whole grains.
Limit meat and dairy.
Limit sugar and other refined carbs.
No controversy, no polarization: everyone agrees on these four things.
Dieting for Minimalists
We all know dieting is not the best way to become healthy since it isn’t going to work in the long run unless you’re committed to eating a specific diet the rest of your life. That being said, there is some diet advice that seems sane and logical.
Eat Food. Not Too Much. Mostly Plants.
If you’re looking for a simple mantra to live by, Michael Pollan’s “Eat Food. Not Too Much. Mostly Plants.” will steer you in the right general direction. He has an entire book called Food Rules where he lays out specific, actionable advice like “Don’t eat foods with more than five ingredients on the package” or “Don’t eat foods your great grandma wouldn’t recognize as food.” His top seven pieces of advice can be found here.
One of my friends was just diagnosed with gestational diabetes. After seeing a nutritionist and trying the diet for a week she told me she feels great and that, “This is the diet that most people should probably be on anyway.” She loves it so much that she’s started blogging and sharing recipes at mydiabetesblessing.wordpress.com. Check it out! She lays out how much of each food category to eat at each meal and what counts for each category. Then she shares key tips and recipes like this one on how to make brown rice taste great and I am dying to try this chicken sandwich.
Years ago I invented a “diet” that worked really well for me. I had realized that the part of Michael Pollan’s advice that was hardest for me was the “Not Too Much” part.
I don’t really have a name for my diet, so let’s just call it the Minimalist Diet. It is simple: I wondered what would happen if I actually paid attention to the portion sizes on the nutritional panel for foods and only ate one portion at a time? That’s the diet. Here are the two rules that make it work.
- Eat whatever you want, but only eat the portion size listed on the package or, if it’s fresh food, look-up the portion size on a site like this.
- When you’ve finished a meal, wait 20 minutes before getting seconds. If you’re still hungry after 20 minutes, have another portion.
I’ve never had to go back for more food. No matter how tiny I thought a plate of food was, it always filled me up if I gave my body a chance to realize I was full. I also noticed that other good things naturally started happening like:
- I made better choices when I realized that the portion size of, say, fried fish sticks (one!) is just too small to sustain me.
- I realized just how much excess food I was eating before.
- Groceries cost less because you’re eating less.
- I didn’t miss certain foods because I can still eat them – in moderation.
Eventually, once you get used to the smaller portion sizes, you can start to replace unhealthy items with healthier options. If you do this one by one over time, you’ll have a better chance of sticking with your healthy habits.