What’s Healthier Than “Everything in Moderation”?
It’s January and you're likely being bombarded with ads for diet programs that take advantage of the ever-popular new year’s resolutions to lose weight, get healthy or get in shape.
If you haven’t gone for one of these, don’t feel badly. Most people will abandon these diets within days or weeks anyway. And the pounds they lose will likely come back, often along with even more. (Ugh.)
Maybe you’ve decided to go another route this year?
Maybe you’ve decided to go with “everything in moderation”.
but I don’t think you should try it.
Here’s why: If this mantra were true and easy to follow, a lot more people would be healthy. But moderation is not something most people can maintain because it’s extremely hard to quantify. What is “moderation” exactly? One dessert after dinner? One mochaccino after lunch? One item from the vending machine? Moderation of several things quickly adds up to way too much of certain things and not enough of others.
This philosophy will never lead to a healthy diet.
Because the American diet will never be fixed by moderation!
Here’s what you can do to make a real improvement in your diet, health, weight and well-being instead.
1. Eat MORE of some foods.
Obviously with a site named Your Veggie Coach, I believe that people need help and support in eating MORE vegetables. It's not just an opinion though, the statistics show that most people do not eat nearly enough.
In fact, only 14% of American adults and 9.5% of adolescents eat the suggested servings of 2 fruits and 3 vegetables a day.
This recommendation, by the way, is for the MINIMUM number of servings of fruit and vegetables, which is why I always suggest you shoot for more.
Kids do better with fruit, with 40% eating enough, but even worse with vegetables, because only 7% of kids eat enough vegetables.
93 kids out of 100 aren’t eating enough vegetables. Which mean that in my girls’ school of 500 kids, chances are only 35 kids are going to eat enough fruit and vegetables today. (I hope two of them are mine!)
Kind of mind boggling, isn’t it?
By the way. we Americans are not alone, scurvy is actually making a comeback in Australia.
It’s safe to say that Americans don’t need to worry about moderating their fruit and vegetable intake. So eating a moderate amount of fruits and vegetables isn't a necessary or helpful goal.
Action Step: Fill half your plate at any given meal or snack with fruit or vegetables. Doing so will help ensure you are getting more fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that are lacking in the American diet.
2. Eat LESS of some foods, or omit altogether.
I’m not talking about cutting out one of the three macronutrients our bodies need to thrive. I don’t advocate cutting out all fat, carbohydrates or protein. (These kind of suggestions drive me crazy!) I’m talking about sugar, white flours and animal products, the primary sources of refined carbohydrates and saturated fat in our diet.
61% of the food Americans buy is highly processed. This includes white breads, grain-based desserts like muffins and cookies, sodas, juice drinks, sports drinks and energy drinks. (Way too many drinks! In fact, by some reports 37% of Americans’ calories come from drinks.)
In general, these foods lack the vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants that benefit our health. What they offer in abundance are calories, sugar and saturated fat -- which are all things we are taking in too much of already!
Speaking of saturated fat, the single biggest source of it happens to be cheese, which the average Americans now consumes over 34 pounds of each year. As for meat, the average American now eats over 270 pounds a year -- more than in nearly every other country in the world. It's easy to see most people would benefit from reducing these amounts.
Action Step: Forget about aiming for a moderate amount of highly processed foods, meat and dairy products. Make a change to eat LESS of them.
The easiest way to to do this is by incorporating some meatless meals into your weekly menu, like one of my family's favorites: Rainbow Tofu Vegetable Stir Fry.
3. Remember that not “Everything” is actually food.
Ever wonder how food is defined in the dictionary? Even young kids know what food is, so it’s unlikely most people have looked up a definition. So I’ll tell you...
Food (n.): any nutritious substance that people or animals eat or drink, or that plants absorb, in order to maintain life and growth.
Here’s the important part: any NUTRITIOUS substance.
By this definition there are hundreds of food products in a typical grocery store that are not actually food, or contain very little food. Whole aisles in some cases. Including these in our definition of “everything” just doesn’t work if you’re looking to create a healthy diet for yourself.
Eating everything in moderation doesn’t work because not everything is food. Even things we consider food. (Deep thoughts, I know.)
Action Step: Focus on eating actual food that contains more than just empty calories, even at snack time. Like these almonds.
(If you follow tips #1 and #2 above, you will be taking a gigantic step in doing this automatically!)
4. Know that you don’t have to eat “Everything”.
Hang in there, because this last point is one even health food haters will love.
Even if we decide to define “everything” to only include foods that actually provide nutrition benefitting and supporting our health and well-being, you STILL don’t have to eat any one particular food, in moderation, or at all, if you don’t like it.
Here’s an example. Someone hates kale. Every family I think is required to have at least one kale hater. They aren’t alone. I hear, there’s actually a team of scientists working to improve kale’s flavor to appeal to kale haters. Okay, I’m kidding…
What I’m saying is: no one has to eat kale to have a healthy diet.
Stop the presses!
Skip the kale and try some spinach or broccoli rabe. How about some red cabbage and bok choy?
I use greens as an example because I am such a big fan of them I created a whole online course to help people eat more of them, but choose any one particular healthy food: quinoa, artichokes, tofu, apples… and you will find there are other healthy foods you can substitute or enjoy instead, which provide similar nutritional value.
Choking back broccoli if you hate it won’t make you healthy. Because you won’t feel healthy. You’ll just feel like gagging.
It’s a misconception that healthy eating equates to deprivation. Healthy foods can be just as delicious as nutrient-free “foods”. Experiment and find out what you like. Check out my recipes page if you need an easy, healthy and family-friendly recipe to get started with.
Action Step: Buy more of the healthy foods you really enjoy and then eat them!
Everything in Moderation? No Way!
These four action steps I shared with you might sound too simple to have much effect on our health goals. It’s a common misconception that we have to make major changes to see any results. Next week I’ll share with you some very specific examples of how even small changes lead to BIG results.
In the meantime, is there a fruit or vegetable you are excited to committing to eating more of? Or one you are relieved to know you can skip?!