Simple Food Rules: Strategy Statements for Healthy Eating

Simple Food Rules: Strategy Statements for Healthy Eating


(This is reposted from September, 2017 with good wishes for healthy eating during the holidays.) A well-known business guru and friend once defined the process of “strategy” as going from the complex to the simple in expensive and time-consuming steps. But the result, especially if captured in a clear mission or strategy statement, can be enlightening and powerful, guiding the complexities of implementation in all circumstances. 

The world of nutrition and how each person implements the imperative to “eat well” can be overwhelmingly complex. Fat is bad. Wait, fat is good. You just need the discipline to burn more calories than you eat. Wait, discipline is impossible and doesn’t actually work – our obesity epidemic proves that. Can I circumvent the expensive and time-consuming steps of sorting through the confusion and find some simple rules that work for me? 

Since we are all different, we’ll each have to do some work to follow a new strategy. But here are some simple rules that have worked for others. The devil is in the detail, of course. A high-level strategy statement can seem pretty vague when confronted with a pizza-only business lunch, but it can still guide you.

I get asked frequently for a summary of how to eat. Because other nutrition experts have been thinking about this far longer than I, here are three of the best.

Michael Pollan: eat real food, not too much, mostly plants. Michael Pollan is a journalist, professor, and healthy living advocate. His web site offers a wealth of information.

Mark Bittman, former New York Times food columnist:

  1. Stop eating junk and hyper processed food. This eliminates probably 80 percent of the stuff that is being sold as “food.”
  2. Eat more plants than you did yesterday, or last year.

Mark Hyman, MD, an American physician, author, and director of the Cleveland Clinic’s Institute for Functional Medicine. This list is more detailed, but worth the space.

1. Eat a colorful, plant-based diet.  Increase your intake of healthy, whole foods rich in nutrients and phytonutrients (plant molecules). That means you should aim for at least eight to ten servings of colorful fruits and vegetables a day loaded with disease-fighting vitamins, minerals, fiber, phytonutrients, antioxidants, and anti-inflammatory molecules.

2. Steady your blood sugar. Studies show blood sugar imbalances can contribute to heart disease. Stabilize your blood sugar with protein, healthy fat, and healthy carbohydrates at every meal. Never eat carbohydrates alone, and avoid processed sugars and carbohydrates.

3. Increase your fiber. I recommend working your way up to 50 grams of fiber per day. High-fiber foods include beans, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and lower-sugar fruits like berries. If that becomes a challenge, you can consider adding in a fiber supplement.

4. Avoid processed, junk foods. That includes sodas, juices, and diet drinks, which adversely affect sugar and lipid metabolism. Research shows liquid-sugar calories are among the biggest contributors to obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. And don’t be fooled into thinking that 100 percent fruit juice is healthy—juices are essentially pure, liquid sugar because processing strips away the fruit’s fiber.

5. Increase omega-3 fatty acids. Eat anti-inflammatory foods like cold-water fish including salmon, sardines, and herring, as well as flaxseeds and even seaweed. Healthy fat actually benefits your heart by improving your overall cholesterol profile. I discuss more about how healthy fat can help you achieve and maintain good health in my new book, Eat Fat, Get Thin.

6. Eliminate all hydrogenated fat. Hydrogenated fat lurks in margarine, shortening, processed oils, and many baked goods and processed foods like cookies and crackers. Use healthy oils instead like coconut oil (rich in medium-chain triglycerides or MCTs); extra-virgin, organic, cold-pressed olive oil; organic sesame oil; and other nut oils.

7. Avoid or reduce alcohol intake. Alcohol can raise triglycerides, contribute to fatty liver, and create sugar imbalances. Too much alcohol also seems to raise inflammation, which is associated with heart disease and many other chronic diseases. 

As published here:

To go a little deeper, let's take Michael Pollan's statement "Eat real food." How do we implement that? Tactics include: avoid processed foods, including industrial seed oils like corn and canola; learn to read food labels - especially to identify sugar - or better yet, try to eat food without labels; buy organic and pastured/grass-fed; and shop the periphery of the store, not the aisles.


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