One of the greatest benefits and most difficult challenges is the fact that we have so many choices. Every day, you make dozens of choices – some small, like to wear a sweat or not, and some monumental, like whether he’s THE one. Buy this house or that one. Take that job or wait for another. Public school or private. The dark jeans or the cute skirt. Meet friends for cocktails or hit the gym. Eat dessert or skip it today.
So many choices means that we can eat all of the variety we need to meet our nutritional needs. We have access to fresh, frozen, canned, and dried fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, and grains in so many different varieties it’s hard to even list them all. Grass-fed, organic, and conventional raised meats, eggs, and dairy. Raw ingredients, pre-chopped, and ready-to-eat prepared foods. We can cook, go out, or have food delivered in various states of prepared/ready stages. It’s a great time to be a foodie!
Yet, all of these choices also come with some challenges. How do we know what choices to make? How do we know which of these foods is the best choice? Or the best choice for me right now? Muddling through the nutrition research can be challenging – even for a professional. Reading on-line blogs and articles can be nearly as confusing because we have to try to discern science-based information from advertising content (which isn’t always inaccurate, but can be biased). Not only this, but all of these choices can lead to incredible temptation, over-consumption, and can create a generally unhealthy food environment.
What’s a person concerned with eating well to do? Here are some suggestions (in easy alliteration to make it even easier to remember) to help you choose well in a cluttered food environment. The four S’s:
- Shift your focus – Rather than a focus on a specific area of life, such as weight loss, eliminating gluten (unless medically necessary), cutting out a food group, etc. – consider embracing a view of food as a vehicle to a healthier life. The research tells us that the greatest power of nutrition is in a pattern of eating that includes a primarily plant-based diet, moderate alcohol consumption can be healthy, choosing plant-based proteins and seafood more often is supportive, fermented and probiotic rich foods are healthful…and physical activity is essential. It’s not about one food or nutrient, but the synergy of these foods that counts most. Focus first on a healthy pattern, later on the specific foods you should choose.
- Support your shifted focus – To support this focus, you may need to clean up some things. Remove some temptation and replace with some healthier options. I keep a bowl of fruit on the counter, easily accessible when I need a snack. I subscribe to magazines, newsletters, and social media feeds that support my healthy appetite – I also don’t subscribe to those that sabotage my efforts. Consider joining a CSA or fruit/vegetable delivery to help you eat more produce, or a meal/menu planning service, or taking a cooking class if you need those skills.
- Seek out support from a pro – A registered dietitian nutritionist can provide the kind of ongoing support you need to stay in the “healthy lane” and help you move toward your goals. Research has shown those who are most successful at behavior change have the most support. Start with the basics I’ve mentioned about eating patterns, then work with a professional to help you sort through the noise and decide what choices you should make among all of the others I mentioned above.
- Stay connected – In addition to the suggestions above, staying connected to a supportive group of friends is essential. You will have good days and days that aren’t as good. Connecting with others who contribute to your joy is a great way to remain healthier in the long run. Studies have clearly shown that the healthiest, longest-lived people in the world have strong social connections.
Making choices can be easy and it can be hard. I hope the suggestions above help you make better choices today! xo