Good Nutrition—–More Than Just “Nutrients”                  by Laura Hornell Yudys
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These days nutrition information is everywhere.  Often we see and hear about a specific food or nutrient and how it will cause, cure, or prevent _______ (fill in the blank with any disease or ailment you can think of).  While some of these stories can provide valuable information,  they often lead to more confusion about how to improve nutrition and health.

In a recent article, Dr. David Katz, MD, MPH, the Director of Yale University’s Prevention Research Center, says something I believe very strongly: “No one thing is THE thing wrong with our diets, and no one food, nutrient, or ingredient will be our salvation either.” Rather than focusing on the abundance of good, wholesome, healthful foods that are available to us, we’ve started viewing foods only as sources of the “good” or “bad” ingredients they contain.

While it’s easy to get caught up in the ever-changing lists of what to eat and what not to eat, I firmly believe that all foods can fit within a healthful diet and lifestyle.  The overall quality of your diet is much more important than any individual component, but it’s important to practice balance, variety, and moderation. Below are my top four nutrition tips to improve overall health and wellness—tips I give my patients and strive to live by myself.

The 90/10 Rule.  90% of the time, try to eat healthfully. Focus on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins in minimally-processed forms. The other 10% of the time, allow yourself to enjoy foods that might not be nutritional goldmines but give you something special.  Whether that’s an ice cream cone on a warm summer night or a perfectly cooked steak at your favorite restaurant, enjoy it in moderation and without guilt and you’ll be less likely to overindulge.

Focus on Flavor. There are many wonderful, natural flavors in the foods we eat, but so often these are masked by added fats, sugars, or salts.  As a result, we  “crave” those tastes instead of the flavors of the foods themselves. When eating, try to identify and enjoy the many natural flavors of the foods you are eating.  Also, look towards healthful flavor enhancers such as herbs, spices, citrus juices, and vinegars in place of excess fat, sugar, and salt.

Eat the Rainbow.  Fruits and vegetables have many important nutrients necessary for our bodies to function. In addition to these essential nutrients, there are thousands of “phytonutrients” found in plant foods that help to improve overall health and prevent against disease. These phytonutrients contribute to the colors of fruit and vegetables we eat, so choose a variety of colors in your fruit and vegetable consumption every day.

Practice Mindful Eating.  There’s a difference between needing to eat due to hunger and wanting to eat for some other reason.  When you feel like eating, stop and ask yourself if you are truly hungry or if something else is going on.  If you want to eat for any reason but true hunger (comfort, stress, boredom, habit), try to identify what is causing you to turn to food.  If you can, try to work through that issue or find another activity–go for a walk, read a book, do a crossword puzzle, organize something around the house–anything that can keep you from mindless munching.

A final note:  the word healthful appears several times in this blog for a very good reason. Healthy implies that foods are good or bad, whereas healthful suggests looking at food for all of the goodness it provides.

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2 Comments

  1. This article was so “healthful!” I will be sure to share with my growing children at home. Loved the tips!

  2. Well beside the fact that I couldn’t be prouder of you as a daughter-in-law my amazement of all your knowledge on nutrition is something I marvel at also. You make it all sound so sensible and reasonable to be conscious of what we eat and should eat to keep us healthy !!!! Very very proud, lucky and blessed to have such a knowledgeable, dedicated dietitian in our family with such wise,useful,healthful tips to stay healthy !!! Great Article Laura

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