I’ve experimented with a lot of different diets over the years. I was a vegetarian for 10 years starting at age 11, mostly because some friends and I thought it would be cool. I tried to do the Atkins diet while being a vegetarian (tricky) because I thought I would lose weight. Wanting to understand more about how food affected my body, I read about the South Beach Diet. Since Jennifer Aniston was, at the time, recommending The Zone Diet, I tried that, too.
Initially I would get so excited to start a new diet. The promise of weight-loss, increased energy, clearer skin, better digestion, better immunity, and enhanced mood prompted me to head to the store to buy the various foods, frozen meals, and/or supplement bars that the particular diet prescribed. But it was only a matter of time before I would get bored, start having cravings, or get introduced to a new diet that sounded better than the one I was on.
When my mom was diagnosed with cancer over 10 years ago, a very deep voice rose up that said, “from now on you will only eat whole foods.” I didn’t know exactly what this meant, but true story, I went to the store and stocked up on fruits, veggies, and brown rice. This very simple diet proved to be unsustainable for me, but was the starting point of my journey into the world of whole foods.
The truth is, there is no diet that is right for everyone. We are all very, very unique. Nature and nurture create very different creatures, even if you grow up in the same household, let alone live on different sides of the planet.
I would also like to mention that nutrition is a huge market, much of which is unregulated. If you watch TV, use the Internet, or go the grocery store, you are constantly being shown different messages of what to eat. It can be confusing and overwhelming to say the least.
Having said all that, my favorite diet of all time is a diet comprised mostly of whole foods. Wikipedia defines whole foods as, “foods that are unprocessed and unrefined, or processed and refined as little as possible, before being consumed.”
This means I focus on eating vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, beans, and seeds. I personally include high quality meat and dairy in my diet. Some people have allergies or sensitivities to specific foods or food groups, so they need to avoid those foods. I eat whole foods in a variety of ways and combinations, including cooked and raw. I try to buy as much fresh food as I can, but sometimes I use frozen or canned whole foods.
While whole foods are the foundation of my diet, I do allow myself to indulge in processed foods. Wikipedia defines food processing as, “the transformation of raw ingredients, by physical or chemical means into food, or of food into other forms. Food processing combines raw food ingredients to produce marketable food products that can be easily prepared and served by the consumer.” I focus primarily on whole foods because, in many cases, it’s difficult to know what is going into your food if it’s being processed. Lots of processed foods contain added sugars, preservatives, and additives that have been linked to health problems.
When I do indulge in processed foods, for example pizza (yum!), my goal is to have pizza with the highest quality ingredients available. Sometimes that means making my own pizza, sometimes that means getting one delivered while I sit on the couch and binge watch my favorite TV show (currently Broad City). Increasingly restaurants and food companies are paying attention to the publics desire for healthy food and it’s easier than ever to get convenience and nutrition in the same place.
My favorite diet of all time is actually not all that complicated. It involves focusing more on whole foods than processed foods, which often includes more food shopping and cooking. Both are skills that can be learned and simplified. And as I mentioned, there are companies that are creating meals and meal delivery systems that aren’t only convenient, but nutritious, too. When eating processed foods, do a little research to find out where to get the highest quality processed food.
As always, it’s a balancing act. With whole foods as the foundation of your diet, you can feel free to be flexible with your food choices. Doesn’t that feel good?!?