I love author Michael Pollan’s advice for eating healthy: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” Simple and straight to the point. I think many of us feel that we need a specialized meal plan or specific guidelines to follow in order to follow a healthy diet. It doesn’t have to be complicated. This is a practical guide as to how we should approach food.
» Eat food. This means to eat real food, not food-like substances. In other words, eliminate or reduce foods that your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food. Packaged foods that have a long list of ingredients, and with ingredients you cannot pronounce such as maltodextrin or sodium tripolyphosphate, should be avoided. Populations that eat a typical American diet that is in excess of highly processed foods, refined grains, and refined sugars, suffer from higher rates of obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer. Our bodies are not designed to handle and break down foods that contain artificial ingredients, trans fat, and loads of sugar. Foods in their most natural state contain the enzymes and nutrients our bodies our designed to process and use for energy.
» Not too much. Food portions served today are much larger than in the past. Larger portions have contributed to America’s obesity epidemic. America’s larger servings have led to increased calorie intake. According to the National Heart, Lunch and Blood Institute, a burger today has 590 calories compared to a burger 20 years ago which had 333 calories. Pizzas in the 1950s were around 200 grams, today they are 250-400 grams. Muffins were 85 grams compared to 130 grams today. Items available at fast food restaurants are estimated to be 2 to 5 times larger than 2 decades ago according to the Journal of Nutrition. Why do we consume so much more? Because it’s easy and it’s cheap. Many of us consume what is put in front of us and feel we have to clean our plate. The Japanese have a good rule of thumb, “Hara hachi bun me,” which means, eating until your 80 percent full. Another good practice is to eat when you are hungry, not when you are bored.
» Eat mostly plants. It’s so simple yet it says a lot. A diet rich plants (vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts and seeds), is proven to reduce the risk of disease and help you live longer. Just making a shift to a more plant-based diet can offer significant health benefits. Plant foods are the most plentiful sources of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, healthy fats and fiber. They contain disease-fighting properties that cannot be replicated.
Michael Pollan is author of several books that provide advice about eating healthy. His books, "In Defense of Food, Food Rule"s and "The Omnivore’s Dilemma" are great reads if you are unsure where to start with consuming a healthy diet.
Mandy Nix is a registered dietitian in Morganton who writes a weekly nutrition column for The News Herald. For questions, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.