Where to start in getting good nutrition?
Where to start is a great question! Nutrition is one of those tricky things. On the one hand, we all eat. And that is what nutrition is all about – what, (and how much, and when, and why) we eat. Yet it can seem very complicated.
Humans have been writing about what to eat for good health since about 2500 BC. Most cultures and religions have dietary rules and traditions. But the actual science of nutrition is still fairly new. And that is why figuring out where to start can be tough.
Michael Pollen’s often quoted “Eat food. Mostly plants. Not too much.” Is actually a really great place to start, but let’s look at why.
Why do we eat?
Yes, food tastes good. And yes, our stomachs get rumbly. But when you get down to basics, we eat because we need energy. Our bodies use energy to breathe, to pump our hearts and itch our elbows. The first law of thermodynamics says that energy can neither be created or destroyed, it can only be transferred or changed from one form to another.
Where does the energy come from? The sun. The sun shines down on plants. Plants convert energy into nutrients. We either eat those nutrients directly or they get eaten by something else that we eat. (Sometimes this takes a few steps, but I am sure you can see where I am going.) So, when you are thinking about where to start, start with the sun.
So, when you are thinking about where to start, start with the sun. How many plants are in your meals? And how many of them are still recognizable as plants. In other words, my beloved Ice Breakers Lemon Ice gum is not a plant, though it has the word “lemon” in there. It’s also not a food, for that matter.
Defining a Food
How do you know if something is food? Well, let’s start with whether it has a list of ingredients on it. Yes? Do you recognize all of them? Could you buy them in the store? Is this something you could make in your own kitchen? If not, it may not really be food. It may be a food product. Do you know how some “cheese” is labeled “cheese food” or “cheese product”? That’s because it isn’t real food. The closer you can get to the sun, with the fewest ingredients you didn’t add (I’m excluding recipes here,) the more likely it is food.
The easiest way to get started is to look the meal you have the most control over. Let’s say it is breakfast. Maybe you don’t eat breakfast every morning, and when you do, you just quickly run through a drive-through for an egg sandwich and fancy coffee.
Get started and look at that meal. Is there any way you can add some plants? Could you grab some fruit to eat with it on your way out the door? Maybe an apple? Start there, start easy. Have a fruit bowl by on the counter and every time you go to grab breakfast, grab a piece of fruit to eat with it.
Want to take it up a notch? Okay, let’s say you are ready to try to make something at home instead. What about buying a package of whole wheat English muffins and keeping them in the freezer. You can buy breakfast sausage… or, you can buy the Breakfast Sausage spice mix from Penzy’s and pre-make and cook your own patties out of ground pork, beef, chicken or turkey. Use hardboiled eggs on the sandwich or take a moment to scramble one while your English muffin is toasting. In a couple of minutes you could have a breakfast sandwich made of mostly whole foods. (Plus it will save you tons of money!)
If this is a new thing for you, my advice would be to start small. Find simple ways to get more plants in your life. Or, find a way to make more of your own food from whole ingredients. But you don’t have to go the whole hog at once. In fact, studies show it makes sense to build habits slowly and gradually over time. Just make one small step and keep at it for a while. Once you have that locked in, go on to the next one. You got this.