June 2020 Q&A: INTO-Itive Eating
Posted May 27, 2020
For the past few months, we have been trying to #stayhomenotroam and now that the sun is shining and the temperature is rising, we want to get outside to refresh, restore, and renew. Many of us look at spring and summer as a time to get into shape, through minimizing eating to maximize results. The problem with this is that we have been stressed, upset, and scared and we need to find comfort in our food choices and eating habits. So, before you delete, I want you to think a little about what you choose to eat.
We all know that there are many different reasons we choose the foods we do. Familiarity, comfort, affordability, preference, and ease all top the list of foods we gravitate towards. So, when we try to overlay a list of “rules” to get on a better eating path, our underlying habits and food selections may be an obstacle.
So where does that leave us? Should we not try to make different food choices, change portions, and eat more mindfully? That is fine, but why do we feel we have to choose one over the other. Can you have your cake and eat it too? Must cauliflower always be the substitute for rice or potatoes? Is sugar a bust and keto a must?
You may have heard the term intuitive eating which is a non-diet approach where you learn to pay attention to what you want, what you need, what you are hungry for, how much you need to eat, how you feel when you eat, gauging hunger and fullness without the need to count calories, fat, carbohydrate, or protein. If is a great approach if it works for you but some people need a road map or plan to follow until they learn how to listen to their body. I would call this into-itive eating. We all need to find our buy in to be able to try out a plan.
So let me propose a different way to approach eating: What could into-itive eating look like?
We are all creatures of habit when it comes to food choices. Yet we also hear about recommendations for variety as part of a healthy diet. Whether your circle of food revolves around 10 or 100 choices so a plate evaluation:
Is there some type of protein on the plate? Chicken, eggs, beef, pork, fish, shellfish, tofu, veggie burger, or beans? Is there some type of “carb on the plate?- bread, rice, potato, pasta, corn, tortilla, quinoa, cereal? Is there some produce on the plate? Fruit, salad, raw vegetables, cooked vegetables, vegetable soup? Now that the weather is warmer, produce is in abundance and can be used in different ways such as slushies, smoothies, and even cropsicles (do it your self-popsicles!) Is there some fat on the plate? Nuts, nut butter, avocado, oil. Salad dressing. Your breakfast could be Vanilla Greek yogurt with a sliced peach, some raspberries, whole-grain cereal, and slivered almonds. Lunch could be a turkey, avocado wrap with marinated tomatoes and cucumber salad, Dinner could be a piece of grilled cod and veggie kebabs with pasta salad. 10 items not too fancy, checks all the boxes!
Work, relationships, exercise can sometimes be uncomfortable. Food is supposed to provide not only sustenance and substance but also enjoyment. A plain piece of boiled chicken with a few steamed green beans does not look or feel comfortable. A low-carb meal before exercise may leave you too fatigued to get the most out of your workout. When we are feeling down, a bowl of soup feels a lot better than a bowl of kale. Comfort food does not have to sabotage healthy eating. Sit down, de-stress, relax, take your time to nourish with foods that look, smell, and taste appealing to you.
An eating plan that is financially unattainable is not sustainable. Making an investment in your health means you also have to eat within your salary cap. As you consider your food choices, think about food cost, and how those foods fit into your budget. If you buy a lot of food and end up throwing it away, that is money down the drain. Certain grocery store items and specialty items are pricier than others. The goal is not to be plate poor. Draft a food budget to determine how much you are willing to spend on what you eat.
As you think about your food choices, consider the texture, temperature, and flavor profile. Some of you may be into spicy, crunchy, savory foods while others prefer less seasoned items. It is not right or wrong, but if your meal choices or the “diet” recommendations are primarily composed of foods you don’t like, you will not be likely to follow the plan long term. Your taste buds need to be part of the selection process. Think about foods you normally gravitate towards to help you identify your preferences.
Even though eating is something we have to do, many of us don’t want to worry about the shopping, preparation and clean up. Your into-itive eating plan may be convenient, grab and go, frozen meals, or smoothies. Can you still nourish your body well even if you don’t like to cook? Grocery stores sell prepared foods, many restaurants offer the ability to customize offerings and portions. Strategize, individualize and personalize your eating to get into-it to be more likely to do it and when it comes to surviving and thriving during this pandemic, being able to control what we can with a healthy and positive eating plan will help us to get through it.
Leslie Bonci, MPH, RDN, CSSD, LDN
Owner Active Eating Advice by Leslie Bonci