What if there was a secret to a healthy diet that works for most people and is totally free? Here goes: There is no secret.
In the words of Michael Pollan, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”
That’s it. There are no powders, elimination diets, liquid potions, pills or new pseudo science books involved. Eat healthy food and less of it, and most people settle in at the healthy weight that is right for their body type and genes.
Here’s a bit of context. Part of my reality as a food blogger is that everyone around me confesses their health successes or failures. When a friend or acquaintance discovers a new diet or book on food or exercise, you can bet I’m one of the first to know. But here’s what I’ve found: our generation of adults are very confused about what’s healthy, and our kids are worse off because of it.
We have good reason for being confused. Marketing labels and Influencer personalities have a lot more to say about what’s good when there’s money to be made. And some fast diets do work for some people, especially when it means eating less.
But the truth is that we’re better off when we eat healthy, whole foods and only as much as our bodies actually need. And what a better example for our children than raising them to think that once they are adults, they have to eat (or not eat) in all sorts of wacky ways?
In practice, what does this look like? Following are 4 tips to a healthy diet:
- Eat 3 healthy, filling meals: Take the time to prepare and eat three healthy meals, and eat one full serving only. Skipping meals, or eating a really light one just makes us more likely to overeat later. Following is an example what this looks like, although there are loads of variations on this blog:
- Breakfast: 1/4 cup raw steel cut oats prepared with nut butter, half a banana, cinnamon and a tablespoon of raisins.
- Lunch: A protein (like a can of salmon, chicken or turkey breast or hard boiled eggs) served over a salad with lemon and olive oil. Add a few pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds on top for extra flavor. Enjoy a fruit or even 2 medjool dates with nut butter in the middle.
- Dinner: Brown rice or quinoa stir fry with loads of veggies and roasted tofu, fish or meat. A fruit for dessert.
- Stop snacking: That’s right, no snacks. No fruit, no plain popcorn, no nuts, no cut up veggies in between meals. If you’re used to snacking, this sounds extreme. If you’re a fan of the popular keto diet, this just sounds wrong. That’s because snacking is totally American (there’s a reason our cars are full of cup holders and consoles). But, we didn’t always obsessively snack, and many people around the world don’t snack. Try giving up snacks for two weeks, and you’re likely to no longer crave them. You’re more inclined to eat full meals if you know you won’t be snacking all day. *
- Stop eating after dinner: You don’t need more food after dinner if you eat a full meal. It’s habit that makes us crave late night eats. And, it’s okay to get a little hungry late at night. That’s because you’re supposed to be sleeping. If you eat three healthy, filling meals during the day, you’re fine waiting until morning.
- Stop telling our kids about our diets: Our kids absorb our words and actions in every way, especially our attitudes about food. When we obsess over weight and diets, we raise our children to do the same. Do them a favor and teach them by example about what foods help our bodies grow healthy and strong and then leave it at that.
*Post Script I’m adding a caveat to the no snacking rule. Although this is something that works for me and is my personal opinion, obviously I’m not a dietitian or MD. Everyone’s caloric needs are different and ignoring hunger cues can lead to moodiness (hangry, anyone?) and overeating later. Also, this list is meant for adults. Kids’ needs for fuel vary depending on age, growth spurts and activity level.