This is a question that I get often from clients, friends, and family. And while it may make my life a bit easier to give a cookie-cutter answer on what someone should eat, it really isn't that simple and, quite frankly, would be irresponsible of me to do so. As I mentioned in this post last week, eating a mostly whole foods diet will more than likely reward you with the health benefits I outlined, but there is definitely more to it than just that eating a balance of protein, healthy fats, and carbohydrates.
A term that I learned while studying nutrition is bio-individuality, coined by Joshua Rosenthal of the Institute of Integrative Nutrition. If you haven't heard of bio-individuality, it can be easily described as: each person has their own unique and highly individualized nutrition requirements. These requirements take into consideration any internal or external factors that have an impact on what our body need. These factors include the type of foods we are eating, our lifestyle behaviors, our ancestry/genetics, the environment that we live in, and how we handle different thoughts and emotions. More simply put, what my body needs to thrive may be quite different than what your body needs to thrive.
So you may be wondering, how do I figure out what my body needs? Great question! The first step that I would recommend is to meet with a knowledgeable nutrition consultant (if possible) to do some assessing around what your body needs to feel at its best. It is my job here at Optimizing Your Well-Being to take a look at possible nutrient depletions, any blood sugar imbalances, digestion issues, exposures to toxins, stress levels, sleep, and lifestyle factors that can be impacting your overall well-being. This is done through conversation, questionnaires, and usually a short-term food diary. Blood work may be needed to help paint a clearer picture in what may be going on as well.
From there, armed with the information needed to make informed decisions, we can then start piecing together what types of foods to focus on more often and possibly which foods to limit or omit from the diet. What I find more often than not is most of my clients have not been eating enough nutrient-dense foods, which is leaving them feeling depleted. Some areas I have my clients consider when making food choices are:
What is the best source of protein I can add to my meal?
Can I incorporate unrefined fats such as extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil, coconut oil, avocados instead of opting for vegetable oils or highly-processed fats?
Are there ways to add in more produce to my diet?
Am I drinking enough water?
Some may find it be overwhelming to begin eating this way right off the bat for three meals a day, or, maybe your budget doesn't currently allow for this type of lifestyle. That's okay! I would encourage you to start with just one meal a day focusing on making some nutrient-dense swaps for that one meal. Then, over time, you may be able to gradually adjust more meals and/or snacks as well. Ultimately, I think it is extremely important to include foods that give you a boost of nutrition while also incorporating the foods that bring your great joy. My approach is not all or nothing! It is all about finding what works best for you.
Below are some of my favorite food bloggers that focus on eating nourishing, nutrient-dense foods. I would love to hear what your favorite resources are as well!