Most diets are based on the idea of, “Don’t.” Don’t eat carbs, don’t eat fat, don’t eat too much, don’t eat too little, don’t drink sodas, don’t eat sugar, etc. But what if there is a better way to think about food. Can we replace “don’t” with “yes, please?”
One nutrition strategy is to say, “Yes, please” to as many whole food choices as possible. Whole foods make your body feel better. Often, joint pain especially early in the morning, can be prevented by eating a more well-balanced diet of while foods. Whole foods give you more energy. The chemicals and compounds found in unprocessed foods are designed specially to give us the nutrients we need. And whole foods make us feel fuller for longer. This is unlike processed foods, which are actually designed to make you want more as soon as possible. Almost no one has mindlessly eaten a bowl of fruit salad until everything was gone, but have you ever eaten an entire bag of potato chips without realizing it? (Frito-Lay has perfected the science behind convincing your body to want more.)
When you build your daily meals around whole foods, you will naturally not want as much processed foods. Start your day with a healthy breakfast. Black coffee, black tea and green tea are excellent (and natural) options for caffeine. Steel-cut oatmeal with fresh berries is a delicious option for slow-digesting carbs, which is also full of vitamins and minerals. A teaspoon of honey can be added to a cup of plain Greek yogurt to start your day with muscle-building protein.
Another reason to say, “Yes, please” to whole foods is that you burn more calories eating them. Remember that processed foods are designed specifically to make you want more. A recent study compared people’s metabolic rates and the energy expenditure after their meals. The researchers found that eaters spent 50 % more energy digesting whole foods. Both meals were cheese sandwiches. The whole food sandwich was made with a multi-grain bread and fresh Swiss cheese. The processed food sandwich was made of white bread and processed cheese. Both sandwiches were the same number of calories with the same amounts of protein, carbohydrates, and fat.
More calories spent on digestion mean less calories are stored as fat. Make food earn its keep; eating real food most of the time will make you feel better, give you more energy, and provide the nutrients your body needs to thrive.
This month, say “Yes, please” to as many whole foods as possible, instead of telling yourself, “don’t.” Say “yes, please” to meat (steak, chicken, fish, pork), vegetables (lettuce, bell peppers, cucumbers, squash), fruit (berries, apples, cantaloupe), dips (guacamole, hummus), and whole grain breads or oatmeal.
For an experiment, try a taste test. Compare fresh strawberries to a ‘strawberry milkshake’ from a restaurant. Compare plain Greek yogurt with fresh honey to a flavored yogurt from the grocery store. And compare diced sweet potatoes baked in the oven at 420 °F for 20 minutes with olive oil and oregano to French fries from a fast food joint.