If you’re into health and wellbeing you probably aspire to be healthy, age well, and avoid chronic disease. It’s obvious that the way we achieve this is partly to do with eating a healthy diet. The problem some people run into though is getting swept up in an ultra clean eating frenzy. We can thank (usually unqualified) health gurus on social media for creating the unrealistic and unhealthy narrative about eating “right” or “clean”.
While it’s important to eat healthily, there is the potential for becoming too caught up and even obsessed with “clean” eating. Some people find that going overboard with clean eating is both stressful and anxiety-producing. The term for this is called ‘Orthorexia’ and it’s a condition in which a person has an unhealthy preoccupation with eating healthy food that is excessively restrictive.
What we want to aim for is producing something that our mouths enjoy and nourish. One of our nutritionists at Radius recently had one of our lovely ten-year-old clients in the clinic and she recounted that when speaking to her mum about what Chloe’s daily diet looked like, she described the kids’ daily afternoon tea ritual, which she performed for all five of her children.
She baked homemade afternoon tea for the kids to enjoy after school every day. She continued by saying that it was a family habit and that when she picked up her children from school, they would be extremely eager to find out what evening tea it would be. When she described the wonderful thing she had prepared, their eyes lit up.
Now, our practitioner was not here to judge our clients for eating sugar and white flour for afternoon tea. Instead what our nutritionist noticed was the happiness it brought to her lovely little children, which got us talking as a team about what ‘healthy’ really looks like.
No question, too much sugar and white flour are certainly not good for us. We agreed that as practitioners we want our clients to limit their sweet or processed meal intake to no more than three each week in order to prevent cognitive and physical health issues. Chloe’s well-intentioned mother was advised about scaling back the sweets and to provide healthier after-school choices like hummus and vegetable sticks or homemade guacamole and organic corn chips a few afternoons a week.
Eating for Connection
So, a treat every day is not our goal. Having something special and yummy in our weekly routine that involves sharing food and experiences with less than ideal nutritional choices is ok. In fact, it’s good for us. When we break bread together, we enjoy the connection that comes with it. Sharon Natoli, dietitian, speaker and author, recently stated that eating together has social, mental, and physical health benefits.
Ditch the Food Rules?
Rather than relying on rules about food, why not embrace rituals around food? This can lead to being unwell if you get caught up in regulations regarding nutrition rather than the rituals surrounding it. Setting ourselves inflexible rules, such as being sugar-free, dairy-free, gluten-free, alcohol-free, can be inhibiting, isolating, difficult to accomplish, and leave us feeling deprived. If you don’t have a medical need to eat in this manner, it might be helpful to loosen up a little when it comes to the ‘rules.’
If you are in fact a rule follower, perhaps the 80/20 rule is for you. When it comes to eating, an 80/20 rule is a fantastic method to ensure you’re still getting plenty of whole food meals. It indicates that 80% of the time, you’re consuming adequate vegetables, fruits, protein, legumes, nuts, seeds and oils to provide your body with the building blocks and co-factors it needs to carry out healthy bodily processes. During the other 20%, you may go about your daily life without feeling obligated to avoid unhealthy food.
You may also forget about regulations entirely. Instead, you create healthy routines that help you tick off the week’s healthful eating requirements and then eat what you like on the weekends. You may be out for dinner with a group of friends and ordering panko crumbed barramundi as part of a communal meal, and yes, it’s deep fried and high in fat but it’s delectable, crispy, shared with friends, and you had a vegetable omelette for breakfast and a salad for lunch so this indulgence is ok. At the end of the day, we want to strive for a mostly whole food diet and moderation.
If you are wanting expert guidance about your daily diet and some recipe inspiration book an initial nutrition appointment with one of the Radius Health nutritionists.