One of my resolutions this month is to eat healthy. I left this vague on purpose because, to be honest, my idea of "eating healthy" gets redefined almost constantly. This year I've been suddenly super-motivated to study nutrition more, and so I've been thinking about it a lot and reading a few books on the subject. I've also been to see doctors more this year than I had probably been in the ten years before that. Each book and person and expert has a slightly different approach to nutrition.
Here's the deal: I now know the consequences of eating Western. I know that the diet I ate for years, which I thought was relatively healthy, really wasn't very healthy at all. And now that I'm an adult, I'm realizing that not too many years from now, I'm going to be facing the consequences of whatever goes into my body right now. I don't want to end up regretting eating too much candy, ice cream, or even too much white bread or red meat.
But I'm also unwilling to completely change my diet. It's unrealistic to think that I could spend the rest of my life eating meals of quinoa, Greek yogurt, and cauliflower. I like healthy food, but I don't like the idea of entirely giving up the things I love, which have become ingrained into my life, culture, and even myself. I don't like the idea of eating a diet so strict that I can't enjoy a hamburger with family members or friends.
I want to eat "healthy," but I also want to eat "normal." I want a balance. So for the past month, I've been trying to do that, and I'm hoping to keep up my efforts after July is over.
So I've been sort of cherry-picking the advice I want to take from the books I've been reading. Opt for a hunter-gatherer-style diet? No, thanks. Eat more fruits and vegetables? That, I can do. Eat fish twice a week? I really don't like most fish. Avoid processed and fast foods? I'm on board.
I've been sort of inching my way into a healthier diet. At first, I could hardly even think of not eating meat every day. Now, meat appeals to me so much less than a perfectly-seasoned, crisp-tender zucchini.
Here have been the basic guidelines I've been doing my best to follow since day one: Eat five servings of fruits and vegetables a day. Eat when I'm hungry, and stop when I'm full (or almost full). Eat breakfast. Avoid sweets.
Of course, I haven't done as well even on these as I would hope, but I've been getting steadily better, to my surprise and gratitude. Usually, I'm really gung-ho about a certain diet (note: not a weight-loss diet, just a particular way of eating that I feel is healthier) at first, and then I eventually taper off and get steadily worse until I just abandon it altogether. I'm really happy that I'm finally actually improving with time when it comes to how I'm eating, even though I've only been doing this for about a month (but really, I've been trying to eat healthier for a few months now).
This past Monday, the 22nd, I decided to abstain from sweets for the rest of the month. I know it's not a lot of time, but I have a serious sweet tooth and I have a hard time going even a week without a cookie. So far, it's been going great.
Next week, I'm planning all vegetarian meals. That's right. No meat. But I have to say this: It's not because I'm against meat. Far from it! I doubt I will ever be a vegetarian, because it can be hard to keep up with important nutrients without eating meat. However, from the reading I've done, I've also learned that while meat can be important to keeping up good health, I really don't need a lot of it. I certainly don't need to eat it every day. It would probably be best if I ate it once or twice a week (which I learned from one of the books I read is called a "flexitarian"--it's something I'm considering trying). I've also discovered that I enjoy vegetarian meals just as much as meals with meat in them (which definitely wasn't true two years ago). I'm not speaking for everyone, but I don't believe that my body needs much meat.
I promise I'm almost done with this rant--but one more thing: I'm still really unsure of how I feel when it comes to supplements. Obviously, they can be good, but I also know that they can sometimes give too much of a nutrient, that nutrients are not as easily absorbed from supplements as they can be from food, and that sometimes people taking supplements begin to think that they don't need to eat food with those nutrients. But then again, it does seem like supplements can be a good thing. There's only one supplement that I'm seriously considering taking at this time in my life (which I want to research a little more first), and that's fish oil. Like I mentioned earlier, I'm really not into eating fish. I eat it every once in a while, but I certainly couldn't eat it once a week. But fish are a really important source of omega-3s. I'm also probably going to start eating a lot of walnuts. Anyone with strong opinions on supplements out there? What do you think?