Here are 11 Nutrition tips for those who want to eat better, but avoid restrictive diets, and work towards an improved relationship with food.
There tends to be 2 camps – the strongly anti diet, zero nutritional goals allowed OR restrictive eating.
I think you can fall somewhere in a balanced middle. I think there’s a spectrum, and it’s very individual. It seems most people want to find peace with food and their body while having some kind of rough nutritional & physique parameters in which they would like to fall. When deciding on what you want for yourself, rigidity, sustainability and long term consequences should be strongly considered.
When compiling these I could have gone either way:
1) “Just eat what feels good and don’t think about a thing”
2) “Here’s how you track calories and set up solid macros for yourself. Follow 100% and you will achieve your dream physique.”
But neither sit right with me because they don’t take a full picture into account. WHY do people struggle to stick to plans that would theoretically work? ADHERENCE matters. Your mental health also matters. But physical health does too. What about body autonomy? So both extremes have potential to be unsatisfactory and even harmful.
This is not extreme. It’s achievable, it’s scalable and it’s for those who want to make informed nutritional choices but in an intuitive, flexible way.
1. Mental health first!
Start journaling, meditating and/or book a few therapy sessions. You might be thinking this has absolutely nothing to do with nutrition, however it does. Your mind determines the actions you do or don’t take. Put it first!
2. Stop the fads
Ditch the fat loss supplements and 10 day weight loss drinks. You want to play the long game i.e. eating healthily.
3. Stay hydrated
Start your day with a big glass of water. Carry a water bottle around with you to ensure youre drinking throughout the day. Keeping regularly hydrated is over looked by many of us on a daily basis. Water is so important and is needed for reasons such as lubricating the joints, delivering oxygen throughout the body, helps maintains blood pressure, to name a few.
4. Eat enough fruits & vegetables
Eat more than you think you need. Try include fruits and/or vegetables with every meal. Aim for various colours, each day. Don’t stress about how you cook them, or if they come from a tin etc. First and foremost, eat more of them.
5. Eat enough protein
Protein is the most satiating macronutrient. Its aids body composition and it has the highest thermogenic effect. Aim for 56g/day for men; 45g/day for women. Read more about Protein here.
6. Regular eating
There is no “right” amount of meals to eat in a day, however many people do benefit forma regular eating schedule as it helps prevent over-restriction and overeating.
7. Meal timing
Eating every 3-4 waking hours is probably best. This will keep you energised, your blood sugar levels stable, and will allow for you to make better food choices.
8. Embrace imperfection
Do you a perfect relationship with anyone in your life? No. Does that mean you give up or sabotage it? Hopefully not! So, why you put that pressure to be perfect on your relationship with yourself, food, and your body? Accept that it can be imperfect and improving simultaneously. It is a journey!
You can be loving and graceful towards yourself in every season despite messaging that might tell you otherwise.
9. No “good” or “bad” foods
Do not cut out foods if you have no health reason to do so. Restriction can lead to disordered eating habits, overconsumption and food preoccupation.
These uses of terms aren’t just incorrect, they’re harmful. Foods should not be thought of as good or bad. Every food, no matter its categorisation, provides nutrition and sustenance to the body. Therefore, there are no “bad” foods. My beliefs are that food can be classified as more nutritious than others.
All foods should be eaten in moderation. All food is fuel is for our bodies. There are is no good food or bad food distinction.
10. Question & break down unhelpful food beliefs
Write down the weird ideas you picked up along the way about what’s good or bad. Notice restrictive thoughts around perfectly normal foods like carbs (for example). Think scientifically. Is there a real reason to avoid this food? Is your own subjectivity and belief clouding the truth?
Write them down, explore their origin, question, dig and then let them go. And, actively include those things in your diet to neutralise them in your mind.
11. Practice mindful eating
This means sitting down, phone away, chewing food etc. Use the time to reconnect to your body, breathe, and ultimately improve your relationship with both food and your body. Read more about mindful eating here.
Nail these basic tips before you go deeper, so your foundation is solid. For example, no point stressing about supplements if you don’t even eat balanced meals. There’s no rush to becoming the happiest, healthiest you!
Side note: If you are recovering from disordered eating habits then you would probably benefit from thinking about all this less, getting help for that, focusing on eating enough and removing body focus first and foremost.