Is it best to eat perfectly 80% of the time and splurge 20%? Should there be “cheat days” built into my regimen? Is intermittent fasting better than small meals throughout the day? Must I eat breakfast? Is it OK to eat after 7pm?
How you eat is not really the issue. Unfortunately, we get sidetracked by trendy techniques on how to lose weight and get healthy, and we forget the basic truth: the most vital component to your health and weight is what you eat. And here my recommendation is simple: Eat whole foods – beans, fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains. In their whole, simple states.
90% of Americans eat fewer than the US government recommended 5 servings of fruit and vegetables each day. If we all focused on getting those in (and more – 9 servings/ day is even better and will crowd out less healthy choices), we wouldn’t need to wonder about whether the latest eating fad will work for us.
If you eat only whole, unprocessed food, your weight will go down and your energy will go up.After that, it is up to you to figure what eating style works best for your lifestyle, your energy level, your blood test results and your enjoyment. If you are an all-or-nothing person, cheat days might work for you better than trying to be consistently moderate; if you struggle with high blood sugar, intermittent fasting could help you lower it. If you find having breakfast helps you eat better throughout the day, by all means eat breakfast!
Take the time to experiment and don’t be shy about honouring the routine at which you feel best. I am very clear with my friends that I hate going out to lunch – it makes me tired and I don’t like to eat and sit in the middle of the day.
Lest you think I eat only fresh foods and never crave anything from a package, let me clear that up: I currently have a penchant for vegan cheddar puffs, which is basically as fake and nutritionally empty as anything out there! I allow myself to eat them, but pretty much everything else I eat are unprocessed fruits, nuts, beans and vegetables. We are not looking for Sainthood here, folks, so if a treat works best for you amid a very health diet then go for it! On the other hand, I love sugar but I stay away from it, as I find it easier to go completely without sweets than to be moderate with them.
With experimentation, you will figure out how best to eat. But first, get all the fresh, whole foods you can into your diet and eliminate food and drinks that are processed, packaged and sweetened. It’s not easy, but the rewards are great.