Stop Over-Thinking Your Diet!


Photo credit: Lablascovgmenu via Flickr

“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”  –Michael Pollan

I love this Michael Pollan quote, from his book In Defense of Food, because it is so simplistic. You will notice that he does not go into diet specifics – there is no mention of how much Omega-3’s, iron, or calcium we should be getting daily, or what foods to avoid or stick to for different health issues – instead, Michael Pollan sticks to three amazingly simple healthy eating guidelines:

1) eat real food,

2) do not overeat more than your body can handle, and

3) eat a large portion of plants.

As healthy living nerds, it is easy to become consumed by specifics and over-thinking. I do this all the time, in fact.

Am I getting enough healthy fats this week?

Did I eat too much kale so that my body is not observing calcium?

Should I have skipped that treat provided at work?

Is my skin going to react to X food?

Blah. Stop stop stop.

Is it possible to simplify our diets, stop over-thinking, and stick to three guidelines? Most definitely.

Eat real food

Eating real food should be so simple shouldn’t it? Unfortunately it’s often not, with the hundreds of grocery isles to choose from in conventional grocery stores, which are often laden with chemicals, 10+ ingredients per product, high sugar, and unhealthy fats and oils.

It can be quite a challenge to sort out the “real” food from the “unreal” food.

Some guidelines:

Find whole foods 

I once heard the advice: “stick to the perimeter of the grocery store!” This is spot on advice, since it is usually down the middle isles that the most processed foods can be found. Stick to the produce section, and the beans, legumes, grains, and the fish/meat sections (if you eat meat).

For example:

  • Leafy greens like kale, spinach, or romaine
  • Purple cabbage!
  • Cruciferous veggies
  • Beans and rice/quinoa
  • Oats or other grains
  • Sweet potatoes!
  • Salmon
  • Healthy fats and oils, such as avocado, nuts, olive oil and coconut oil
  • Spices or herbs

Read the ingredients!!!

Can you understand the ingredients? Do you know all of them? Does the product contain excess sugar or unhealthy oils? Less than 5 ingredients at a maximum?

Sift through the information. If you don’t understand it, don’t buy it.

Avoid binge eating

It’s easy to succumb to unhealthy temptations after a long, tiring day. Overeating at dinnertime seems to be an especially difficult challenge for many people.

However, over-eating reeks havoc on your digestive system, especially if you have been eating light meals and snacks all day. It is a drastic change that is difficult for your body to handle.

How to avoid overeating?

  • Focus on chewing mindfully, and chewing more than you are accustomed – this is easier to digest!
  • Start with the light portion of your meal
  • Eat slowly!

Eat mostly plants

Oh plants…how I love thee.

Research shows that cultures higher in plant-based foods have lower rates of a wide range of diseases, including cancer, heart-disease, and diabetes.

Try to aim for a variety of plants in your diet, everything from leafy greens, to starchy vegetables, to beans, legumes, and grains.


Now tell me: what do you do to simplify  your diet?



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