Labels are in right now when it comes to eating: keto, paleo, vegan, clean. Trouble is, so many of those labels bring with them a rigid set of rules and off-limits foods that can take the joy out of eating.
So in her new book Good Food, Bad Diet, dietitian Abby Langer shared her own label to describe a nourishing, satisfying way to eat that doesn’t come with strict rules: “high-value” eating. She says it’s doable and customizable, and adds to your life instead of taking away from it.
Here are a few of her 10 tenets of high-value eating:
Be a Pencil, Not an Eraser
Have you taken foods out of your diet over the years, including foods you used to enjoy? Nixing something because of an allergy or intolerance is one thing, but cutting it out because a fad diet tells you to is another. “A lot of what people take out of their diets are foods that are very physically nourishing like beans and lentils, dairy products, and whole grains,” Langer says. (Read Should You Try a Lectin-Free Diet?)
Even foods that aren’t as physically nourishing, like sweets, shouldn’t be off-limits. Langer says when you allow for all foods in your life, you can start to fix your relationship with food, your body, and your eating.
And if, at first, you eat more of those once-forbidden foods? Things will fall into place, Langer says. Think about how you crave lighter meals after heavy fare at the holidays, or how certain foods lose their luster after you have them repeatedly. “It's about finding that balance of nourishing yourself physically as well as emotionally,” she says. “99.9% of people are not going to eat cake all day long just because they can.”
Be Intentional and Quiet That “Diet Voice”
No more “good foods” and “bad foods.” No more guilt when you eat pasta or feeling deprived but superior when you order a salad instead of the sandwich you really wanted. Eating should be a peaceful experience, Langer says.
If you end up occasionally overeating and feeling overfull, don’t judge yourself. Instead, acknowledge that you’re a normal eater. Normal eating is about eating when you’re hungry, stopping when you’re full, and choosing mostly foods that support health -- but also understanding that sometimes we overeat (or choose foods simply because it tastes good), and it isn’t a reason for shame.
An unexpected dinner out or spontaneous plate of cookies from a neighbor shouldn’t stress you out or derail your day. If you’re on a diet plan that forces you to have specific foods at specific times of day, it’s not going to work in the real world and is probably making you constantly anxious and on guard, Langer says. Trust yourself to go with the flow when you need to, knowing you can always balance it out.
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