"Let food be your medicine and the kitchen your first pharmacy." -Unknown
Healthy eating is not dieting, not restrictive over long periods of time, it doesn't include cheat days, and it doesn't follow a daily or weekly meal plan. It is a balance. It is knowing what your body is going through at the present moment, knowing what season it is, knowing what the weather is like outside, knowing if your day is fast and busy or measured and slow. It is about knowing the decisions you made with food yesterday, knowing future engagements you may have (like a wedding) where you will want to indulge. Healthy eating is knowing all of this and having an intuitive yet rational understanding of what foods -- their qualities (rough, dry, cold, spicy, sweet, oily, e.t.c.) and their nutrients -- best serve your needs.
Real Life Scenario: So, one morning you wake up super hungry and a little agitated or ungrounded because of a hectic day ahead. A veggie scramble with fresh herbs or warm porridge like oatmeal with raisins, cinnamon, coconut milk, and honey will give you the calm that you need to start the day. A granola bar as you are driving to work late or a freezing cold smoothie will only create a more frantic mind.
Let us say that same day you skip lunch to get some extra work in so for dinner you got home late and you ended up eating a huge meal because you were starving! After eating that heavy meal you were too tired to do much of anything but go to bed. The next morning you are not very hungry because your body is still digesting that dinner. Instead of forcing yourself to eat causing you to feel more heavy and brain-fogged, this is an opportunity to skip breakfast and opt for a digestive tea (cumin, coriander, fennel or lime juice with honey or fresh ginger). You are now giving your digestive system the rest and regulation it needs so you can be truly hungry for lunch.
Lunch is here and you are ready to grind! Don't opt for a salad -- it is not enough food and you will be hungry again in less than two hours. Eat a meal. Your heavy late dinner caused some toxin buildup but didn't kill your whole day. Eat some cooked vegetables with rice and protein; think Mexican food, Thai food, Vietnamese food, Indian food, which are all easy to find or pre-prepare your own creation. Eat until you are satisfied, expect to be full for more than two hours. Enjoy not thinking about food for a while since you had such a good filling lunch. Dinner will be lighter, a soup perhaps or a carb-free stirfry. The brilliance about rice-based meals is that you can control how many vegetables you eat versus how much rice you eat, whereas plates of pasta or sandwiches the main part of the meal is usually the grains.
Let's say it is 107 degrees outside -- not the time to eat your favorite spicy salsa. Unless you need your blood pressure and adrenaline to rise because road rage is a favorite hobby of yours.
Let's say it is 27 degrees outside -- don't. eat. salad. please. Unless of course, you love being cold or maybe you are just curious about chronic constipation.
Every day, every meal is different but requires the same loving attention. Yes one day you'll be so busy that anything you can scrounge together will do and one day you will have all the time in the world to prepare that gourmet recipe you love. When you are feeling sad because you started your moon cycle or your partner is gone for the weekend then yes that chocolate is ok. But if your coping mechanism for a rough patch in life is ice cream and fried chicken then no, that is not ok.
If you pump iron all week then have a full cheat day, what is the point? What is your body learning? It doesn't matter if you choose sweet potato chips instead of regular-- if you are eating them at midnight you are still eating when your body shouldn't be digesting food. If you are trying to lose weight then yes, for a month you will need a light diet with a detox. However, after a certain amount of time you back off and start balancing the diet to make it sustainable. If you are starving all the time then you need to eat heavier, more substantial foods for a while then add more lightness until you find that sweet spot where hanger doesn't ruin your life.
Healthy eating is an understanding of habits and a balanced routine (not regimented). An understanding of how foods affect you emotionally and physically. It does not take a masters degree, it does not take $$$, it takes patience with yourself, quiet observance, and the forgiveness to move on to the next meal with a little more clarity.
Ayurveda has a structure that you can use advantageously when you are lost. My ayurvedic food guidance is based on the following simple structure:
- Eat only when you are TRULY hungry. The actual feeling of hunger is an emptiness below the navel and a pleasant anticipation of your meal.
- Lunch should be the largest or heaviest meal of the day. When the sun is at it's highest point in the sky, your digestion is also the strongest.
- 99.9% of the time eat cooked, warm, seasoned/spiced, and gently oiled foods.
- Allow three to four hours between meals for digestion to be complete.
- Drink no more than ½ cup of water with meals.
- NEVER drink ice-cold drinks. This stops your digestion and forces your body to work very hard to break down your meal. Sip warm/room temperature water instead.
- Sit down, relax, and have love and gratitude for your meal. Avoid distractions like t.v. or your phone. Never eat when angry, sad, or emotionally disturbed.
- Avoid eating food you don’t like as they won’t satisfy the mind and soul.
- Wait two hours after eating before sleeping or exercising.
- Avoid incompatible food combinations as follows:
- Fruits with any other food→ Leave 30 minutes in between.
- Do not cook or heat honey ex. microwave, baking, e.t.c. (ok in tea or water)
- Consume one protein at a time ex. Choose either chicken or cheese, not both.
- Milk should mostly be eaten separately from other foods and always heated and spiced.
- Smoothies should either be all vegetables or all fruits with no ice and no dairy. Both have specific benefits when the foods are separate; when they are mixed it is a cup of toxins.