Food is social. Food connects us. Food builds relationships. Food is fuel. Food is energy. Food is power. Food is love. Food inspires us. Food is an experience.
Can you tell I love food? Well, not all food. Just real ingredients and delicious dishes that are made from scratch with love, elegance, and purpose. I will eat anything as long as it's homemade or I know the "source" and where the food is coming from. As a Registered Dietitian and superfood chef, I am mindful of how much and how often I indulge and understand that one must indulge from time to time for the sake the experience and bigger picture. I live in Chicago for Pete's sake. But when I do indulge, I make it count and I make it worth it. Why? Because there are some many amazing things in this world that I never want to waste it on something that is so not worth it. Food is an experience and it's meant to be enjoyed in every way. It's the story of food that is so powerful--where it comes from, what's involved in the process, and how it connects you with the people that you love.
One of the biggest reasons I became a Registered Dietitian is because I wanted to teach people how to live healthy without giving up the things that make them happy and bridge the gap between healthy and fun. I also wanted to teach people how to live and eat their way to happiness through food. However, this kind of happiness I talk about is much bigger, better, deeper than the happiness one gets from eating a piece of chocolate cake. Eating a piece of cake may bring you instant gratification but it won’t give you long-term health and happiness.
When it comes to eating healthier and living your best self, don't let obstacles or limiting beliefs stand in your way. Over the years, I have learned that you really can have it all-- you can be an awesome parent, spouse friend, family member, live a healthy life and have a successful career. And the coolest part is that you don’t have to give anything up to live a better. You absolutely can live healthy and still have a social life! The key is to make everything better and start paying attention to your life on purpose. (AKA: Mindful Living)
Mindful eating is about paying attention to your eating on purpose. It's a non-judgment practice of eating where you eat in a way that makes you feel healthy and happy and you use your intuition or common sense to make choices. You shouldn't have to rely on science, diets, trends, programs, books, etc to tell whether a food is truly healthy--you already know. So let's start with the number one rule to mindful eating...
There is so much information out there that sometimes we lose our common sense when it comes to eating. Do you really think adding butter to your coffee will really boost your metabolism? Do you think completely giving up carbs is smart and sustainable? Where will you get your energy? How long will this no-carb diet really last? Do you think energy really comes in a can? Remember that we don't eat nutrients, we eat food. What do you think is going to be more powerful? Something from a bottle or real foods? Food is the most powerful medicine on the planet.
Whatever behavior you choose, you need to be able to maintain it. Don't start juicing if you can't keep it up. Don't give up your carbs during the week only to binge out on the weekends. You have to build a lifestyle that sticks. A key factor to a long-term healthy and sustainable lifestyle is recognizing that it must be done through pleasure.
Yes, too healthy is absolutely a thing. When you live "too healthy" you take the fun out of eating, and when you live too unhealthy you take the fun out of life. Find balance--it's more fun. Don't give anything up, just make everything better.
We don't get pleasure when we overdo things. Perhaps that piece of chocolate cake will bring you instant gratification but it won't bring you long-term health and happiness. Think about it. That ice cream you love so much will be much more rewarding when you don't eat it everyday. Don't over do anything. Add variety to your life and practice moderation. Everything can fit into a healthy lifestyle.
Did you know that cravings truly only last 10 minutes? Take your mind off your craving by going for a walk, taking a stretch/breathing break, or drinking some water. Revisit you craving after 1o minutes and if it's still there think about how that particular food will make you feel after you eat it? Does it energize you or make you lethargic? Does it contribute to your long-term goal? Is it really worth it? How could you make it better?
Start to be more aware of your choices and why are you making them. Are you bored or stressed? It's okay to give into those cravings from time to time, but not all the time. Start to build that muscle to say no or not now. It doesn't mean you can never have it, just now may not be the right time.
Mindfulness is not about doing things because you have to, it's about doing things because you want to and because you like the way it makes you feel.
Determine what is more important. Look at the relationship and bigger picture. If your Mother in law makes you her famous chicken pot pie loaded with lots of butter, fat, and unhealthy ingredients, determine what is more important before saying no. One meal of splurging won’t ruin your long-term health goals. I come from a big Lebanese family where food is definitely the center of every occasion. We get pleasure by feeding people because food is love, it connects us and it’s meant to be shared. Food is social and it's our social interactions that also contribute to long-term health and happiness.
We don't remember the things we buy but we do remember the meals we eat and whom we eat them with.
The 80/20 rule below gives you room to indulge a bit for the good of the relationship.
Traveling, wine, dinner, home-cooked meals, Sunday brunch, coffee date, adventures, yoga. Traveling allows you to be present and soak in new experiences. When it comes to traveling, be strategic about your meals. You don't travel all the way to France to eat a packaged croissant on the airplane. Save this experience for a cute little cafe where you can get freshly baked croissant and a cappuccino while you people watch for the full experience. Plan ahead and take some time to scope out the best food spots that allow you to be present and take in the full experience.
I recently traveled to Europe and scoped out the best paella in Barcelona, the most delicious gnocchi and linguine with clams in the French Riviera, and the most amazing wine in the Almafi Coast. I believe there is something very healthy about wine drinking. It allows you to slow down at your meal and take time to admire, sip, savor, taste, and really enjoy your dining experience. Plus, it stimulates conversation and wine is made from grapes so technically it is a "superfood." With that being said, it is important to practice the 80/20 rule when it comes to wine drinking. Don't just mindlessly drink a glass of wine while you are watching TV, save it for the weekends when you can share it with someone important.
Be strategic, plan ahead, and make everything count. Eat with purpose (AKA: Mindful Eating) Have conversation, make time for the things and people that matter, and connect to what's truly important: Life.
There is so much more to food than eating to lose weight or be healthy--it's an experience that's meant to be enjoyed in every way. It's not about being perfect, it's about being better. A key factor to long-term sustainable weight loss is recognizing that it must be done through pleasure.
Short cuts don't work and they will never work. Build your lifestyle overtime and it will become effortless--I promise. Will power and motivation will run out, but it's our lifestyle, habits, and daily rituals that will always pick us back up when life gets hard.
Now, when it comes to food we have to change our beliefs and the way we think about food and eating in order to get new results. If you don’t change, nothing changes.
Do you really believe that calories are created equal? Of course not. 100 calories of broccoli does not do the same thing in the body as 100 calories of chocolate cake. We wish, but nope that's not how it works. We need calories, carbs, proteins, and fats but quality is key.
So, instead of focusing on counting cals, carbs, proteins, fats, we need to focus on where these things are coming from. Don't look at the nutrition facts label--that won't tell you anything about the quality of a product--instead look at the ingredient list.
Ingredients will be the number one indicator of quality. When we give our body the right ingredients it knows what to do.
Plus, 40% of the items in the grocery store aren’t real food which is why we can weed out the unhealthy foods by simply reading the ingredient list. Choosing healthy food doesn't have to be complicated. All you have to do is read the ingredient list. If it contains a million ingredients, has items that you can't pronounce, or you don't recognize certain words as real food then put it down because it's not real food. And of course foods that don't have a nutrition label or ingredient list will be the healthiest. AKA: fruits and vegetables.
Now we put all of this into action to navigate this crazy food world with confidence by understanding "The Source" concept. It’s a concept that you can trust and will never change no matter what.
Foods closer to the source will be the most nutritious, least processed, and most affordable.
These are foods in their most natural state and have been practically untouched for thousands of years. You can find these foods in the center of this Food Target below. Remember that we don't eat nutrients, we eat food. What do you think is going to be more powerful? Something from a bottle or real foods? Food is the most powerful medicine on the planet. There is no substitution to eating real food. It's not what you are eating, it's what you are missing.
These foods will also be the most flavorful and when we eat foods closer to the source we are less likely to overeat.
Here’s an example…How many times do you overeat broccoli? If you eat an apple, how many apples do you eat? One right? We don't overdo these foods because they are flavorful and keep us feeling nourished and satisfied. When we eat foods closer to "the source" the less we have to worry about overeating or counting calories. The number one step to living healthier and losing weight, is upgrading the quality of everything you eat by choosing better ingredients and eating closer to "the source."
Now we can also think about "the source" as it relates to how we treat our specific issues. What’s the real source or underlying cause of our problems?
These are all lifestyle medications above. When you make your lifestyle better, the less need you have for these items. So, ask yourself why you have some of these issues in the first place? A headache? Are you hydrated, have you gotten outside, have you moved your body, have you ate the right foods? Don’t just treat sleep symptoms with melatonin—fix your problem at the source by getting natural sunlight and consuming more calming magnesium rich foods. High blood pressure? What’s your stress like? Asthma? Why are your airways inflamed? Are you consuming to much dairy or processed foods that cause inflammation and mucus build up?
Food is the most powerful medication on the planet and provides the body with everything it needs to stay healthy energized.
Life is full of special occasions that involve food but it's important to plan ahead. If you feel like crap from eating too many sugar cookies at Christmas, how great do you think your overall experience really will be. Most likely you won't have energy to play with your little nieces or nephews or have meaningful conversations with the people who matter. You will most likely be in a food coma and will be completely worthless.
So how can you live healthy and still have a social life? I use a little secret called the 80/20 Rule. This means that 80% of the time, you make healthy lifestyle choices and 20% of the time you make room for the things that you love. Typically Monday through Friday I find ways to work in daily movement, eat healthy foods, cook more meals at home, drink half my body weight in ounces of water per day, and get 7-8 hours of sleep each night. That means that come the weekend or at that next family occassion, I can indulge a bit, have little fun, and not give up my health or feel guilty. It also allows me to make these experiences much more rewarding and meaningful. Remember that we don’t get pleasure when we over do things or over indulge.
The 80/20 rule lets you live a healthier life without giving up the things that make you happy. It also allows us to fully enjoy the experience of eating and be more mindful about our choices.
If you feel that you must eat the food at your next festivity, go with the one- bite rule. That means that you savor your very first bite. Really taste it, chew it and determine whether it is truly worth it or not. Remember that there are so many amazingly delicious things in this world that you should never waste it on something that is so not worth it. Again, plan ahead for your 20% and make it count.
Typically Monday through Friday I find ways to work in daily movement, eat healthy foods, cook more meals at home, drink half my body weight in ounces of water per day, and get 7-8 hours of sleep each night. That means that come the weekend or at that next occasion, I can indulge a bit, have little fun, and not give up my health or feel guilty. It also allows me to make these experiences much more rewarding and meaningful. Plus, we don’t get pleasure when we over do things or over indulge.
Did you know that flavor comes from nutrients? Therefore, the most flavorful dishes tend to be made with seasonal and fresh ingredients that are full of flavor and nutrition. The more we eat fresh and wholesome foods--the more we actually crave these foods. And the less cravings you will have for unhealthy foods (AKA: not-real foods like soda pop, fast food, packaged treats, or anything that comes in a box). 40% of the items in the grocery store aren't real food. Most items are just made with a handful of synthetic ingredients and artificial flavors which actually makes you overeat making you want want more and more because these so called "foods" do not provide nourishment or satisfy our hunger.
A study published this month in the journal BioEssays finds that your gut microbes may influence your cravings based on the nutrients they need to thrive. (The more you eat processed and refined foods that cause bad bacteria to thrive—the more you crave it).
The main reason for widespread over-consumption of food in the developed world is that people don’t feel satiated. Our bodies are looking for nutrients so we eat mass amounts of food, food which has little to no nutritive value, and because we’re not getting the nutrition we need our body cries out for more.
We weren't born craving junk. As babies, we were born knowing what to eat. We started on breast milk or formula, then we slowly eased into pureed baby foods and once we got this process down, we started to introduce new foods and textures from the main food groups. Of course there were probably some foods we didn't care for at first, but the more we were introduced to those foods, the more we actually learned to like them. Did you know that a child may need to try a certain food 12 times before learning to like it? It seems this may be true of adults too. Just because you tasted something once and said "yuck" doesn't mean it's the death for that food. Try new ways to prepare it and try it again and again, especially if you know how great it is for you. I would hate to have you miss out on something so "delicious."
Do you remember thinking that your first beer or glass of wine was mmmmm.....delicious? Or what about that first "cup of joe" you tasted from your parent's coffee mug. We were born craving real, wholesome foods and ingredients. We weren't born craving junk food or sugary beverages.
The good news is that our taste buds can change just as fast as our behaviors. As we start to change our eating behaviors, we may find that we are open to new and healthy tastes. And the more flavorful nutrients we consume (AKA real food) the more we will actually start to crave them.
How can you truly live healthy if you don't prepare meals in the kitchen? Living healthy starts in the kitchen. I think of cooking as my form of meditation and number one way to bring mindfulness into my life. It allows me to clear my head and focus on what's truly important--my relationship with the people I love. I don't just cook for my husband every night to spoil him--I cook for him every night because I love him and I want him to live a long, healthy, and happy life with me. We just celebrated our one year anniversary and I can't wait for 70 more! Plus, cooking gives us time to have conversation and connect. There is no better way to bring people together than through shared meals and conversation.
Did you know that the U.S. cooks less than any other nation and studies show that when rates of cooking go down, obesity goes up. The more time we spend cooking, the less time we spend eating. Our sense of smell is directly tied with feelings and emotions and the smell of cooking is satisfying. Think about how that delicious Christmas dish fills you with memories the first time you smell it during the holidays. Certain dishes you will truly remember forever—the taste, the smell, the way it melts in your mouth, the way it makes you feel when you eat it, and the way it connects you with the people you love. Homemade food is culinary masterpiece.
We are constantly eating for flavor and convenience and not prioritizing the benefits of making meals homemade and sitting with our family around the dinner table. Being a mindful eater is about making the time for what's important. You can't make up all of the family meals you missed with your spouses or children. Dinner with your 3 year old son will not be the same as dinner with your 30 year old son. Take time for these one of kind experiences that you will never get again. Cooking doesn't have to be time consuming, hard, or expensive. When you choose better ingredients and foods closest to the source--you can't mess it up! The number one way to get your family healthier is to be a role model and live by example. Make this lifestyle fun and delicious. Experiment with new foods and flavors, make mistakes, and get messy in the kitchen.
My advice is to eat whatever you want as long as it is homemade or you know the source and use your common sense to make choices. Bread has been a staple in many cultures for forever and still is. Why is bread so bad now? Well it depends on the bread since nothing in this world is created equal--especially food. Bread now a days is nonperishable and made with additives and yeast to make it rise faster. It will last on the shelf for ages and will not mold for years. Processed bread is very difficult for the body to breakdown and absorb hence why we have so many gluten intolerances. Did you know that gluten-free doesn't even exist in Europe? If you ask Europeans about gluten-free they will say that is an "American thing." Plus, many American's don't even know what gluten is (check out this skit on Jimmy Kimmel). As you eat foods closer to the source you won't have to worry about gluten. Gluten doesn't live in fruits, vegetables, lean meats, ancient grains, nuts, or seeds.
Bread is perfectly healthy when it is made homemade with quality ingredients-salt, water, and whole grains. Combine these ingredients together and let sit and the dough will go through an amazing fermentation process that contributes to the bread having a higher mineral content. This process also creates enzymes and bacteria needed to digest and absorb the bread more easily.