"What should I eat?" This is one of the most popular questions I am asked once people find out I'm a dietitian. If they don't ask this question, they usually start talking about their latest diet, how they eat organic or avoid GMOs, how a new nutrition supplement is really working for them, or something similar. What people want is a quick and easy solution to the problem of balancing nutrition.
So let me be very clear: There is no one thing that you can do that will make or break your nutrition. You cannot eat one superfood every day that will make your dietary intake balanced. You cannot avoid one additive that will make your foods all healthy. You cannot eat one fast food that will ruin your heart. Balanced nutrition is just that - a balance. It is about how what you eat consistently over time is used by your body.
The answer to the question, "What should I eat?" is "FOOD!" The best way to have balanced nutrition is to eat a variety of foods and follow the body's hunger and fullness cues.* There is a bit of education involved in knowing different types of foods. Some people do best with a structured eating plan from a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist. These eating plans should NOT be restrictive but should help teach the eater how to balance intake throughout the day and pay attention to physical cues. Basically, everyone should understand that we all need food from all of the six food groups every day. There may be some days a food group is missed, especially when there is an illness involved, but generally all food groups are needed. The body may need different amounts on different days depending on activity, growth and development, metabolism, etc.
Who knows the six food groups? Can you list them without reading what's next? Maybe, maybe not. Many of us learned the Food Guide Pyramid or the My Plate, but the newest public education modules leave much to be desired with nutrition. Here are the six food groups: Grains, Vegetables, Fruits, Protein, Dairy, & Fats. All of these types of foods are essential for human health and wellbeing. Yes, I meant to say ALL of these groups are essential. Remember this when reading about a diet, eating plan, or "lifestyle change" that might be tried. The bottom line is that when we think about trying to eat all of these kinds of foods and follow our body's cues, we tend to eat well.
So think about what you can eat to get all of the nutrition you need, and be sure to follow both hunger and fullness cues. Then eat well and prosper!
*If you are interested in learning more about research supporting this, you can go to www.ellynsatterinstitute.org or www.intuitiveeating.org. Positive Nutrition is not affiliated with these groups and is not responsible for content found at outside sites.