By Liz Abel, LDN, CNS, MS, MA
For most of our life, we’ve been bombarded by our parents, the media and food manufacturers about what to eat, how to eat and when to eat. Let’s expose some of the ‘food rules’ that we’ve formed (consciously or unconsciously) and actively decide which ones are worth breaking.
1. Breakfast. Many of you might gawk at me in a lecture when I suggest you try eating veggies for breakfast. I, myself, this morning had spinach and chickpeas over brown rice and a kara-kara orange. We have been trained (it’s nicer than saying manipulated) that breakfast should be cereal and milk, bacon and eggs, oatmeal and a grapefruit, tea with toast and butter or peanut butter, or coffee and a pastry.
Thank goodness for powerhouse smoothies, unsweetened granola, and alternative milks to shake up the breakfast landscape. But it still doesn’t go far enough. Eat a supercharged salad for breakfast or leftovers from dinner with an extra side of veggies. And see what happens. Observe how you feel. Notice what changes you experience in your day.
2. Snack (less) often. We believe 5 or 6 small meals throughout the day are good. Mainly because eating frequently “keeps our blood sugar balanced,” according to “the experts.” The average human body is designed to go 5 or 6 hours without needing food, as this is the length of time required to digest a full and proper meal.
When we get hangry – the space between feeling hungry and getting really irritable until food makes us sane again – it speaks to the physiological effect of our blood sugar dropping. In our country, we have a major problem with, what I call in nutritionist speak, blood sugar dysregulation, which is often a precursor to pre-diabetes and diabetes. I recommend eating three satisfying, nutritionally dense meals a day.
Significantly reducing sugar within these meals (and eliminating sugar between meals) will ultimately help to balance your blood sugar. Most label the pure white stuff as evil. We all already know this is a toxic compound. It makes our brain happy and most of us don’t shun it in our birthday cake. I love having a cookie or piece of cake to celebrate with friends. However, here’s what you may not know: It’s not only the white stuff that is contributing to blood sugar regulation. Our body treats processed carbohydrates in a similar fashion to that of sugar. This means any food made from a puffed grain or a flour-based grain product is going to break down in our body like sugar.
Let me be specific. This includes rice cakes, popcorn, breads, crackers, pastas, cookies, etc. Yet, calorie counting (35 calorie puffed rice cakes and 100 calorie packages of crackers) has won over the big picture here which is that these foods are actually being converted to sugar in the body. Which leads me to the next point…
3. Fruit sugar. Many times clients have said to me, “I can’t eat that. It has too much sugar in it.” They may be referring to an orange, banana or pineapple. But yet they opt for the “lower calorie” or “lower sugar” option like a rice cake or two. Here’s what fruit contains (that rice cakes and cracker packs do not): minerals and vitamins. In a world where we need minerals and vitamins for our body to function, our bodies are starved of them. Eating nutritionally-dense food (food found in their whole, unadulterated state) is more important than counting fruit sugars. (As with everything, there are exceptions.
There are a few conditions that require limited fruits, but even then, it’s not what you think. Using food and chemical sensitivity testing, I can rule out which fruits you should be minimizing. As an example, I have a diabetic client who enjoys pineapple—which would be a strong “NO” according to the GI (glycemic index) but she also has a Hemoglobin A1C level of 6.1, which is an incredible improvement from prior levels of 12.6 when she ate zero fruit.)
4. Calorie counting or carb counting or fat counting or…. Recent research suggests that behavior, such as tracking your food intake daily, can lead to more disordered eating patterns among half of the population studied. As fad diets come and go, we have learned to count calories or macronutrient percentages. We are living in a world of making tradeoffs, living in denial and deprivation, and becoming obsessed with everything we eat (or choose not to eat).
If you focused all of your attention on two numbers every day, you will yield greater health benefits than any other program available to you.
Number 1: Count your water intake. You know the general advice, which is to divide your body weight (in pounds) in half. This is the number of ounces of water to consume daily.
Number 2: Eat 8-10 servings of veggies a day. (Fruit is counted separately at 2-3 servings a day). What’s a serving of vegetable? 1 cup raw or 1/2 cup cooked. If you can increase your water sufficiently and consume 8-10 servings of veggies a day (with a wide variety each week), this will yield one of the greatest benefits to your health. And this brings us full circle to recommendation 1. What’s for breakfast? Chances are that to achieve your veggie intake, you need to find a way to include some on your breakfast plate.
Congratulations on opening your mind and exploring some new ideas. See how your body feels. We’d love to hear from you!
Liz Abel, LDN, CNS, MS, MA, is a Licensed Integrative Nutritionist at the First State Health & Wellness Integrative Health Center. She leads a dynamic, team-based Functional Nutrition program that encompasses food, lifestyle, advanced lab testing, natural supplementation, mindfulness and movement to support your health and well-being. Integrated with First State’s 6 chiropractic offices, the program offers access to Delaware’s premiere experts in holistic health. Are you ready to create your custom plan and harness sustainable results? Call 302.384.7104, e-mail Wellness@FirstStateHealth.com or visit FirstStateHealth.com/Nutrition to schedule your comprehensive Functional Nutrition consultation today.
Be sure to mention Thriving Gluten Free when scheduling your virtual or in person consultation.