Ashleigh Kidd, RD, LDN | August 2022
Raise your hand if you’ve ever been told to eliminate foods (or even entire food groups!) to improve your health or reach your nutrition goals. If you’re reading this, I bet your hand is up. With the exception of food allergies and certain medical diagnoses, you can enjoy ALL foods while also improving your nutrition and relationship with food.
Keto, Paleo, Whole 30, and “point system” based diets are some of the most popular diets, and you may even have first hand experience with them. They all have one thing in common: you are instructed or at the very least encouraged to eliminate certain foods and/or entire food groups from your diet for a certain amount of time. If these diets truly worked, we wouldn’t be trying them over and over again, right? Overly restrictive diets are not a sustainable answer for your health or nutrition goals. In fact, they can lead to obsessive thoughts about food, food guilt, disordered eating, overeating, binging, low energy levels, and a poor relationship with food overall.
The cycle typically goes like this:
→Restricting, but feeling determined
→Cravings and obsessive food thoughts begin
→Giving in and feeling guilty
→Starting it all over again on Monday
It’s time to break the cycle!
Breaking free from diets, especially if you’ve been dieting for some time, is a journey and can take time, so show yourself some patience and let’s start with one step: looking at what you can ADD to your meals and snacks to bring more nutrition, balance, and satisfaction, rather than what you should take away. Here’s the framework:
- Ask yourself what’s already on your plate
- What is your plate missing?
- Add what’s missing
Let’s put this to action:
Imagine you have a plate of pasta noodles & sauce (yummy, but room to add nutrition). Now let’s go through the framework:
- What’s on my plate?
- Pasta & sauce (carbohydrates ✓)
- What am I missing?
- Protein, fat, & veggies/color
- What can I add?
- Ground turkey/beef (protein ✓)
- Parm or mozzarella cheese (fat ✓)
- Spinach (veggies and color ✓)
Now you’ve gone from a meal that probably won’t keep you satisfied for long to having a nutrient dense, balanced meal. Pro tip: don’t forget to include foods you actually enjoy!
It’s important to remember that nutrition and energy needs are so individualized, and it’s always recommended to consult with your Medical Doctor or Registered Dietitian when making nutrition and/or lifestyle changes.