by Heather Nicholds
My thoughts on healthy eating are pretty straight-forward. I look at it in terms of 4 basic ideas:
When you eat, your body is looking for nutrients – vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, protein, fat, etc. Whole foods provide a unique balance of each of these nutrients, and every food has a different balance.
Examples of whole foods are brown rice, whole grain flour, sunflower seeds, or an apple. Examples of foods that are not whole are white rice, white flour, refined sunflower oil, or apple juice.
If you eat foods that are not whole – that have had some part of them like vitamins or fiber removed – your body will be missing the nutrients from that part of the food and will try to tell you to go get it.
If you eat whole foods, you’ll be fully nourished and your body will get the balance of nutrients it needs.
A good balance is to eat more vegetables than any other food group. An imbalanced diet would be one that includes more pasta than vegetables. Balance is a major concern when people consider a plant-based diet plan, because we have been taught that animal products are an important food group. But if you look at that food group as protein rather than meat, there are lots of excellent vegetarian and vegan foods that can balance your diet.
Balance is about making sure you get lots of fresh produce and whole foods, and also about your own personal balance.
Some people do better with a lot of raw foods, while others do better with more cooked foods. Even if you learn about something that is nutritionally good in theory, it may not be right for you. Be careful of diet plans that stick rigidly to an idea of what perfect nutrition should be (more of my thoughts on perfection here).
An important aspect of a balanced diet is eating a variety of foods. Since each food has a different balance of nutrients, you want to get as many different kinds as you can. For example, you can use all kinds of different grains: brown rice, quinoa, millet, amaranth, barley, whole wheat, rye, kamut, spelt, etc. And you can use all kinds of different greens: lettuce, kale, bok choy, chard, mizuna, spinach, mustard, alfalfa sprouts, and so on.
Variety doesn’t have to happen all in the same meal or day. Try to grab different fruits and vegetables as they come in season, and vary your grocery list each week.
Plants should make up the vast majority of your diet. You don’t need to cut animal foods out of your diet entirely, but keeping them to a minimal portion is best. Eating only plant foods one day a week has a positive effect, so think what effect 5 days of vegetarianism a week can have.
Most of the healthiest cultures around the world eat mostly plants. Some of them are vegetarians, and many of them occasionally eat meat. Some of them don’t eat meat like we think of meat, but they may eat a small amount of insects (don’t worry, I won’t make you do that). But the focus is on plants, mostly fresh and in season.
You can get all of your nutrition from plants, plus a few key supplements.