What to Eat: A Case for Moderation

imagesToday’s Blog is not fact- it’s 100% opinion. I felt inclined to write this because I write so much about nutrition and food and healthy choices for you and your family.  I’m reading a book titled “What to Eat,” by Marion Nestle, and I have come to appreciate that making the “right” choices can be a daunting task. As much as I love the book, it should be titled “You’re Out of Luck Because There’s Nothing to Eat that’s Completely Safe for You.” Unless you are living in a farm and raising your own cattle and chickens, and growing your own fruits and vegetables, there really isn’t much that’s completely safe out there.

I get asked all the time…where do I start? How do I change my family’s eating habits? What’s the most important thing to change? And these are my answers:

  • Don’t be so hard on yourself!- give yourself credit for the things you do to improve your family’s life…whether it’s cooking more, buying more fruits and vegetables or reducing the junk food in the house, acknowledge yourself for your effort to date.
  • Start with YOUR family’s biggest offender- is it sugary cereals? Soda? Eating out all the time? It only matters what’s important to you and your family. We started many years ago with sugary cereals. I started buying better cereals and I let my kids “sprinkle” some of the sugary stuff until they didn’t “need” it anymore!
  • Small changes DO make a difference- your family doesn’t need to turn into 100% organic, vegan, gluten-free in a week to improve your health! Small changes, like getting rid of all soda in the house and drinking more water can have a huge impact in your family’s long-term health.
  • Sometimes being “healthier” has more to do with eliminating the bad- families stress over this “healthy food makeover,” and feel like they have to start eating farro and quinoa in order to make a difference (by the way, neither one of my kids will touch it even though I eat them regularly). Going through your pantry and reducing the amount of processed foods (the worst offenders in my mind) will be a HUGE step towards health.
  • Try to cook more- I know this one is tough…I love to cook so for me it’s not a challenge, but reducing the number of times your family eats out will make a huge impact on your health because you are eating real foods, made by you, with the purpose of nourishing your family. A fast food or sit down restaurant’s purpose is NOT to feed you healthy food, it is to SELL you food and therefore they make food you will want to eat (regardless of its health benefits).

The point is that “What to Eat” is NOT a simple question, and there is no simple answer. What’s the healthiest diet? There’s gluten-free, dairy-free, paleo, vegetarian, vegan, Atkins, Zone, Omni and a hundred more. You can literally drive yourself CRAZY worrying about what’s in your food, and that’s not good for your health! We worry about our kids, work, finances, relationships, family…who has time to worry SO MUCH about food!

This is why I decided, for me and my family, a “moderate approach” is the way to go. It is a very individual decision, and one that you must be comfortable with. To me, moderation means 80:20; most of the time we eat healthy foods and make good choices, but there are special occasions when special foods are not only necessary but welcomed. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not a huge fan of depriving yourself (or your children) in times of celebration. I love food, cooking and entertaining, and growing up in Puerto Rico I learned that food is much more than fuel for your body; it is fuel for your soul. So when I sit around the table with good friends and family, I do not feel guilty or worry about eating my mom’s “arroz con pollo” (rice with chicken) because the chicken might not be organic or the rice is not brown.

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3 Responses to “What to Eat: A Case for Moderation”

  1. jodi

    Love this blog, and I especially like the 80/20 rule. I can do that. If only the exercise rule was 20/80.

  2. Marcia Folli

    This is so simple and practical. The 80/20 rule makes it feel attainable. Thanks Doctor Jacq.

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