Food as Medicine:

Ditch the Diet and Focus on Intuitive Eating

March has come into full swing with National Nutrition Month! When we hear or talk about nutrition, we can usually understand the central premise of the idea: Eating healthy − using food options that will promote a well-balanced lifestyle and prevent the likes of obesity, high cholesterol, and other preventable health issues.

Good nutrition is not about cutting calories or losing weight; it’s about giving your body the nutrients it needs when it needs them.

Our society has strayed away from eating intuitively.

We live in a fast-paced environment that demands long hours and values efficiency over health and wellbeing. We glorify ‘hustle’, workaholics, and long hours of overtime. This can lead to dependence on fast food and ignoring hunger signals. The stress of this environment leads to eating for emotions rather than hunger.

What is intuitive eating?

Intuitive eating focuses on listening to our body’s natural signals. We have built-in hunger and fullness cues that many learn to ignore. Focusing on hunger and fullness cues can help you lose weight or maintain a healthy weight. Intuitive eating is about valuing meal time, enjoying each bite, and eating slower.

How do I start eating intuitively?

Start by listening to your body. It takes 20 minutes for our stomachs to communicate that we are full to our brains.

Eating slowly and listening for a feeling of satisfaction can help with portion control, as can keeping a food diary with what you eat, portions, any emotions you are feeling, your level of hunger, and your level of fullness after the meal. This can help you be mindful of what hunger and fullness feel like. Planning meals ahead of time is another excellent way to avoid extreme hunger and falling back on fast food or takeout.

Most importantly, it would help if you value mealtime and the eating experience. You are nourishing and caring for your body. Take time to appreciate the tastes and textures of your favorite foods. This will lead to more satisfaction and make it easier to control your portions.

Practice mindful eating

Mindfulness refers to paying attention to purpose, non-judgmentally. Think of food as a source of nutrition and energy to fuel your body! Pay close attention to your physical hunger and fullness cues.

Questions to think about:

  • Am I sitting? Eating slowly?
  • Am I eating because I am hungry?
  • How hungry am I on a scale of 0-10?

Planning and prepping:

  • Planning and prepping is genuinely essential, whether your goal is to eat healthier or lose weight.
  • Use a grocery list to shop for healthful foods before going to the store.
  • Know the menu before you go out to eat to make better choices.
  • Plan healthful snacks/eating while working, on the go, and traveling.
  • Remember that eating every 3-4 hours is key to keeping you energized and preventing overeating at meal times!

Eat a variety of foods:

Include healthful foods from all food groups, and keep in mind portion sizes:

Starches: One half to 1 cup cooked.

Fruits: Two to three servings daily.

Non-starchy vegetables: At least 1 cup at lunch and dinner or two meals throughout the day.

Protein: 4 oz. Minimum. Include at all meals and snacks.

Healthy fats: Include these items as part of a healthy diet for heart health (avocado, nuts, seeds, olive oil). Be mindful of portions, as these are calorie-dense items and add up calories and fat.

Bottom line: Nothing is more important than your family’s health. Take the steps needed to remove the less-healthy treats from your home and supplement them with delicious ones that promote a healthier lifestyle.