Ultimately, my goal for my clients is to transition onto a diet of unprocessed and unrefined whole foods. For some people, that’s a big change and may be too much to “bite off” at once. Many of my clients initially fear that what tastes good and what is healthy can’t possibly be the same. For some, a “whole foods” diet elicits thoughts of deprivation and less satisfaction.
What is good for you and what tastes good do not have to be different. Our tastes change based on what we are eating. Food scientists take advantage of this, and over time have created sweeter and saltier processed foods designed to make us crave more of them.
A whole foods diet allows us to clear our distorted taste buds and enjoy the taste of unprocessed, real food. Summer strawberries are a surprisingly sweet treat when taste buds aren’t accustomed to processed sugars and corn syrup. I have seen this with myself and with my clients.
Personally, my childhood favorites included chocolate covered donuts and mint chip ice cream. As an adult, I avoided these foods in an effort to “eat clean”, and replaced them with higher quality alternatives, like good dark chocolate and fresh mint tea. Many years later, on a trip back to New York, I decided to try these old favorites again. Much to my surprise, I found that I didn’t enjoy them— despite the fond memories I had. The ice cream tasted artificial once I knew what real mint tasted like, and the donuts tasted like sugar, not chocolate. It was a freeing experience to realize that I was not avoiding these foods just to be “good”, but because they no longer tasted good to me! I often refer to healthy eating as a one-way street: once you realize what high quality food tastes like, it’s hard to go back. Most people also find that higher quality foods not only taste better, they make you feel better, too.
If this feels daunting to you, where do you start?
I help my clients down this path by suggesting that each person start exactly where they currently are. My best recommendation is this: chose the highest quality versions of whatever it is that you are currently eating. You don’t need to change everything at once; work toward an optimal diet by simply elevating the quality of whatever it is you are eating right now!
Seeking out quality is a simple act of self-love and nurturing. Quality is a reflection of the nutrient-density of a food, and of the love and care that a food was grown and handled with. The higher the quality the ingredients, the more nutrient rich the food is. Usually this means less is needed to feel satisfied.
How can you take steps to elevate your food quality?
If you eat out at restaurants frequently, chose the highest quality restaurants where you can afford to dine. You may need to eat out less frequently to be able to enjoy a higher quality experience. When you do dine out, choose restaurants that make conscious choices about the ingredients they use—the quality of the meats and oils, the way foods are cooked, and the portions they serve. Use terms like “farm to table” or “organic” to find new restaurants.
If you buy mostly canned or frozen vegetables and fruits, incorporate more fresh foods. You will get the vibrant life energy of a newly developed plant, which I have seen give my clients more energy. Shop at your local farmers market. Think about potentially growing your own food. A small kitchen herb garden is a great place to start.
Look at the quality of the meats you buy. The ultimate goal is to chose animals that are treated more humanely and not routinely given antibiotics and hormones. Start by focusing on foods such as deli meat or bacon. Look for less nitrates and chemical ingredients, and only buy versions with ingredients you can pronounce.
Are you a carb lover? Ultimately, the goal is more unrefined whole foods and vegetable starches. Start by buying bread, potato chips, or pizza crust with the best ingredients you can come by. For example, choose the potato chips with three ingredients (potatoes, salt, and oil) over those with a long list of chemical components.
If you enjoy indulging in sweets like ice cream and chocolate, look at the ingredients before buying. A high quality ice cream might include cream, milk, sugar, egg yolks, and vanilla extract— not artificial flavors and hydrogenated oils. Buy a bar of high quality chocolate. It will cost more than the chocolate bar from the drug store, but you will likely need to eat less to feel satisfied. Especially if you really taste it!
Beverages are a sneaky source of low quality ingredients. Look for fruit juice that’s just fruit, soda made with real cane sugar and not corn syrup, and good quality organic coffee.
I’d love to hear where you plan to start. May I suggest a bar of my favorite chocolate?!