What Can I Eat?

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It sounds like such a silly question, but I can tell you that in today’s culture of food industry false marketing and so many “experts” telling you “eat this, not this,” this question is the most common that I am asked.  

Still not convinced?  You think “who could not know what to eat.”  Ok. Here is just a quick conversation run-through…bet something in this resonates:

I don’t eat bananas. They are too high in sugar, but this peanut butter banana protein bar is a great, and it has less than 4 grams of sugar!   What?  I heard that bar is loaded with additives and has sucralose.  Sucralose, you mean Splenda?  I have that in my coffee. I also buy zero sugar yogurt with triple protein and it has sucralose in it.  I thought that was a good choice for weight loss because sugar makes you fat, right?   Oh, I do like that triple zero GREEK yogurt.  It tastes great and has zero fat…that’s what you need to watch. Fat makes you fat.  What?  I thought fat helped you burn fat…isn’t that what French women eat?  Yeah, I heard that too.  I do know If you want to get lean you need to increase your protein. No. No. No! I saw this documentary on Netflix, What the Health…they interviewed all these doctors and they all agree:  meat causes cancer and diabetes. I am now vegan because it’s the healthiest way to eat.  Are you crazy?  If you want to be healthy and lean you need to eat Keto or Paleo.  Lots of protein. Lots of fat. Its carbs that make you fat. You can’t eat fruit and grains because carbs are really bad!  We are supposed to be in ketosis, not vegans. Get those ketone pills, too.  Yeah, I’ve read that and seen a bunch of stuff on Keto…AND I just saw Kelly Clarkson.  She lost all that weight because she gave up lots of fruit and veggies because of these lectin things.  She read this book, it was written by a doctor, and stuff with seeds like tomatoes, cucumbers and, oh yeah, legumes…they are the reason we have all this inflammation and disease. They keep you from losing weight too…so I just gave up all that stuff or cook it in my Instapot.  Oh, and buy this thing called lectin shield to protect you. That is ridiculous! I haven’t eaten anything with a face in over a year. I get all my protein from soy, legumes and grains.  I eat nothing but veggies and fruit and I’ve never felt better.  Soy!?!? Are you insane?  Soy is an estrogen complex…and super processed.  Don’t eat soy!  Is it soy that is bad for you?  I thought dairy milk was the problem.  Isn’t that why everyone started drinking soy milk?  Exactly.  Dairy is horrid for you and doesn’t improve your bone density.  I just gave up dairy. I only drink almond milk and eat nut cheeses.  What about the Greek Yogurt???? Isn’t that dairy???  Oh no! I didn’t think about that, but isn’t it different because it has probiotics.  Ugh. At least we can both agree on one thing: NO BREAD!    Really?  Even if you eat gluten-free bread.  Gluten-free is really healthy, right?  

Sound familiar?  If we table the question: “what can I eat”, just for a moment, then the obvious question is “Why are we so confused?”

I believe the food industry and the diet culture have created confusion to make more money.  Their strategy is simple: demonize real food so we trust what they are selling. In my lifetime, many real foods have been demonized and labeled as the cause of our health and weight crisis:  eggs, butter, milk, naturally occurring fats and sugar, beef, pork, chicken, legumes, tomatoes, grains...even tap water. The food industry creates fear and we run…well, we run straight to one of their products:  egg replacements, margarine, soy milk, zero fat yogurts, zero sugar juices, tofu and meat alternatives, low-carb, gluten-free and bottled water. The diet culture fueled our fears by labeling many real foods as the culprit in our ever-growing weight crisis.  They told us to eliminate, or limit, real foods and replace them with “healthy” shakes, bars, and pills. Of course, the diet culture also encourages us to purchase more boxed, highly processed “health” food products because all the “bad” stuff (whatever is currently “bad”) like fat and sugar have been removed or reduced.  Finally, the diet culture created systems to measure quantity. Their systems created food hierarchies. So, a banana is more points than a zero sugar, fat-free banana pudding yogurt cup. Banana bad. Manufactured banana pudding yogurt good. Their systems do not consider nutrient density, how we metabolize food or how food impacts our hormones (signaling satiety or hunger). No. The hierarchy just demonizes the banana and elevates the sugar-free food product.  

Of course, in time, we discover that the demonized real food wasn’t the cause of our disease or weight gain.  We discover that the engineered and manufactured substitutes are worse. That the latest food hierarchy isn’t keeping the weight off.  New research vindicates the real food. For example, let’s take the maligned egg. Eggs are death! Stop eating eggs!! The fear that eggs cause heart attacks is settled.  They don’t. Though they are high in cholesterol, they are low in saturated fat. Turns out they are an excellent source of protein and have a unique nutrient profile that improves health.  START EATING EGGS!!!!

We see this pattern over, and over, again:  Demonized/vindicated/replaced. Butter bad. Trans fat good.  Butter good. Trans-fat bad. Gluten is just beginning to be vindicated.  Fructan and lectins are the latest culprits.

You want to know when I KNOW a food product trend is in its final days of glory?  And, its demonized real food counterpart is about to be vindicated? When the latest food product trend physically manifests in the grocery store.  Here is the demonized/vindicated/replaced continuum as I see it (I’ll use gluten as my example to keep from using vague pronouns! And its trendy!):

1. You hear rumblings that someone stopped eating gluten and felt better, lost weight. You don’t know what gluten is, but now you know the word.    

2. You read an article, saw a post or watched a segment on a talk show that confirms: gluten is the source of your health and weight problems.  Now you know what gluten is, and better, what foods you need to stop eating!

3. You realize NOT eating gluten is hard!  The food industry has the answer. They manufacture gluten-free food products and start labeling their other products: gluten-free!!!!  Oh, thank goodness. Now it is easy to be gluten-free. You can have cookies, pancakes, cereal, pie crusts, cake and even bread!

4. It is official...if you want to be healthy and thin; give up gluten. It seems everyone is gluten sensitive. The trend is at its peak. Grocery stores create a “gluten-free” aisle.  (The fat-free aisle is dismantled. The fat-free products are mixed back in with all the other foods. No longer trendy, they are visibly labeled “Fat Free” for the diehards and trend clingers.  Out with the old in with the new!).

5. You hear rumblings about the seeds in vegetables…lectins? Oh, and there is new research:  not eating gluten might CAUSE health issues (unless you are medically diagnosed with Celiac).  It turns out that whole grains reduce the risk of coronary heart disease and cancer. Also, you read a new article:  it was never gluten that caused all that bloat and digestive discomfort. Nope. It was fructan. Now you just need to learn what NOT to eat.  What has lectins and fructan?

because now you know the words.  And on it goes….

No wonder we are confused.

Back to our original question:  What Can I Eat? Well, if you don’t have any medical restrictions, anything in moderation.  Yep, you heard right. Anything. (EXCEPT fake sugar. There is always an exception, dang it. But I promise fake sugar is the only never.  Please. Please. Don’t eat fake sugar or consume products that contain it).

If you want to feel your best, have a body that is well-nourished, and optimize your health and metabolism then choose to eat most of your food from fuel (80-90%).

Fuel is real food.  

Food that grows, was perfectly designed to nourish your body, is an ingredient (and doesn’t have ingredients), isn’t packaged or is minimally packaged (think wrapped meats, English cucumber, fruit in a clamshell, etc.), is nutrient dense, is not shelf-stable, and requires preparation or cooking.  

Once you re-connect with fuel and have established the habits of shopping for it with ease, prepping and preparing it; then you can focus on finding the BALANCE that best suits your lifestyle, optimizes your health and helps you reach your body composition goals.  

Eat mostly fuel.  Eat some foods and food products.  Discover what balance works best for you.  A balance that you can sustain for life.

Bet you thought the answer to “What Can I Eat?” was going to be complicated.  Nope. Pretty simple.