As a Registered Dietitian, I am constantly observing and analyzing what people eat and very often what people decide not to eat. The plethora of food choices available to consumers creates a paradox of choice. With over 320,000 food and beverage products available people do not know what to eat. The confusion became very clear when a well-respected author in the field of nutrition and food science, Marion Nestle wrote a book called “What to Eat.” Imagine, a whole book dedicated to what to eat.
Today there are too many food choices, diets, and too many conflicting research studies. People are confused, frustrated and overwhelmed with all the choices. As a result, they seem to be focusing on what not to eat instead of what to eat. The list of foods given a bad name is endless: eggs, potatoes, pasta, wheat products, meats, dairy, bananas, carrots, peas, etc. All of this confusion often takes away from the simple pleasure of eating and results in fear, guilt, a negative relationship with food and a very limited number of “acceptable” choices. Part of my job is to enable people to make the right choices and to gain back the simple pleasure of eating.
I’m often asked for my opinion on different foods and diets. People also often ask, “What do you eat.” What I eat is sensible, simple and sustainable for a lifetime and I deprive myself of nothing. I remind people that there is no single miracle food or diet. Healthy eating is about moderation, variety and balance. Instead of cutting out certain foods, I cut down on portion sizes. I try to purchase local food, I eat a variety of choices from the different food groups (whole grains, fruits, vegetables, low fat dairy, lean protein and healthy fats) and I balance my calories with adequate carbohydrate, protein and fat sources to support my lifestyle. I exercise regularly, eat a snack or a meal when I’m hungry and enjoy a glass of wine, beer, a cocktail or dessert when the spirit moves me.
I encourage people to embrace the plethora of food choices with a sense of gratitude not confusion. Restricting food choices for anything other than medically diagnosed conditions causes negative emotions and takes away from the pleasure of eating. Moderation, variety, balance and exercise can return the pleasure and can make anyone’s diet simple, sensible and sustainable.