Nutrition Is More Than Calories
Food is more than calories! Food is culture. I know this because when I go home for the Jewish Holidays, the most important part of our family gathering is the food. I can’t tell you what I talked to cousin Mosha about, but I for sure know that everyone talked about how light and delicious the matzah balls were. If I followed a meal plan that didn’t include matzah balls during the Jewish Holidays and I had to say no thanks when my mom asked me if I wanted one or two, I wouldn’t feel like part of the family.
I get requests all the time for meal plans. People get pretty frustrated when it comes to losing weight and think that if I tell them exactly what to eat and when it will solve their problems. In reality, a meal plan is one of the worst ways to approach weight loss. Food is more than just calories and measurements. Food is also a rich part of our own personal culture. As we look at nutrition and lifestyle, we have to take this into consideration. There is a way to still enjoy a 4th of July cookout (or a couple matzah balls) without having to count calories. You shouldn’t have to eat before you go to a party, lest you break your meal plan. There is a way to live that doesn’t involve a meal plan. As a matter of fact, I’ll go as far as to say following a meal plan might cause more stress than it does good for many of us. A meal plan that calls for 2 hard boiled eggs, ½ cup of carrots, ¼ cup of blueberries, and 5 almonds every day for lunch for the rest of your life is not sustainable and it doesn’t take into consideration that food is culture, lifestyle, and way for people to connect.
Now, there may be a time and a place for a temporary meal plan. If you haven’t spent time in the kitchen or are learning how to prep and cook meals that are vastly different than what you are used to, it might be a good starting place to have a meal plan for a few weeks that helps you understand the basics. However, in general, we learn more and see better results when we can live the way we want to live and make our nutrition work around our lifestyle. We will be more likely to create a sustainable practice that works for us individually.
Here are a few simple ways to make changes in your diet that should work for you and fit into your lifestyle in place of a meal plan:
Eat minimally-processed whole foods most of the time.
Make sure your veggies and fruits as varied and colorful as possible. This will help by adding a variety of nutrients to your diet.
Try to eat until you are satisfied, not full. This is typically about 80% full.
Limit sugar intake and try to avoid beverages that have added sweeteners.
At each meal include 1-2 palms of protein, 1-2 fists full of veggies, 1-2 open cupped hands of dense carbs from whole foods, 1-2 thumbs of healthy fats.
These simple rules should replace meal plans. Everyone has different needs when it comes to how much to eat, what kind of foods to eat, what to avoid. The guidelines above are a good starting point for all of us. They give you ownership of what you eat and the flexibility to find what works for you. Now, I am not telling you to just wing it before every meal. That can lead to a hangry disaster! You should be involved in your own meal planning and meal prep. These guidelines will help you explore what fits in your lifestyle and figure out what you like to eat and what you don’t like to eat. Remember, food is more than calories. It’s connecting. It’s culture. And it should be satisfying and delicious.