Diet, the noun

Diet needn't be a dirty word. It is not only a way to lose weight, it is a way of eating. Diet the noun is concerned with the of food and drink a person, animal or community habitually ingest, with the notable characteristics of quality, composition, and effects on health. So, what are you eating? and more importantly, what should you eat? 

Of course we all say food, and I never once questioned that every edible morsel I put in my body was in fact food. That is, until I read The Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food. Michael Pollan's books showed me what I thought of as food, was actually a relatively new addition to the cupboard. His philosophy of "don't eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn't recognize as food" just made sense and deeply struck me. I always loved food, the flavours, aroma and textures, but did I even know anything about it? I had no idea how or where to start, so I began by capturing what I put into my body. Trying various sites, I settled with My Fitness Pal because of its price (free), diverse database, and computer/iPhone interface. A trend emerged. I ate well over 2,000 calories a day. Water, fruits and vegetables rarely featured, while Starbucks, sugary treats, red meat, dairy, and refined grains often did.

Knowing my position, motivated me to improve my food intake and ultimately my health. I researched websites, documentaries, and books. People can rarely change overnight or all at once, so I began slowly implementing the information into daily life. Water seemed the most persistent problem, as it makes up the majority of your body and thus is in constant need of replenishment, so I chose to conquer water first. Water was hard for me, it was bland, and boring. I squeezed citrus into it, I brewed tea (cheating, I know!), I tried it hot, I tried it cold, and eventually I became accustomed to it, and even liked simply drinking water. Wow, that was relatively easy, taking only four weeks to solidify the habit, and the benefits were more energy and less headaches.

Fruits, vegetables, healthy fats/oils and whole grains should comprise most of your daily intake, followed closely by healthy proteins and dairy, with only a dash of sweets, fats, alcohol, red meat, and refined grains. Sounds so simple, yet my food pyramid precariously teeters on its apex, and the inversion is a tedious, ongoing process. Even with the destination in sight, the metamorphosis is daunting.

The Healthy Eating Pyramid

The Healthy Eating Pyramid

The best strategy involves easy exchanges. On the next trip to the grocery store, grab plant-based oils, like peanut, sunflower, olive, or coconut. In the dairy aisle, skip the cheese. Then replace breads, rice, and pasta with their whole grain versions. Finally, opt for fish, poultry, or tofu instead of red meat, bacon, or processed meats. These changes can easily be incorporated when eating out as well. Carefully select nut-butters with all natural ingredients; preferably non-hydrogenated. There are some easy changes to improve the quality of fruits and vegetables you eat, by using fresh, frozen, dried, or those canned in natural juice and water with no added salt or sugar. However, the next part of the strategy proves harder overall, as you need to increase fruits, vegetables, and healthy proteins like nuts, and pulses.

Proximity and access are the two best methods to increase fruit, vegetable, and nut intake. Immediately wash your produce and create finger-foods for all possible, use see-through dishes, and place them in easily accessible spots in the refrigerator. Nuts can be handled in a similar fashion, with clear dishes and purposeful locations. Spread real fruit jams and nut-butters on whole grain breads, for a healthy snack or breakfast. Additionally, vegetables, nuts, or pulses can be included in soups, stews, and pastas. While fruits and nuts can augment yogurt and salads. Finally, you can use leafy greens, vegetables and fruits to create tasty juices and smoothies.

Diet is a dirty word, but it doesn't have to be. The whole world seems rapt by appearance with daily lamentations of weight and health problems heard from friends, family, and strangers. While everyone has this desire to improve their weight and health, nobody seems to know how to change. I am no different. I see my own shortcomings and desire to learn more; hopefully improving myself and helping others along the way.