Eating right can be a struggle. Sure, it takes discipline, but mostly it’s just confusing and overwhelming. I think that’s because our health knowledge tends to be delivered word of mouth. And as we all know, word of mouth is a notoriously faulty method of communication invented by dumb cavemen. Carrier pigeons do a better job, for gosh sakes. I’ve never seen a carrier pigeon try to sell someone on a “baby food diet”, as much as I’d absolutely love to see that.
But what can we do? If you are in your late 20s, odds are the only formal education you’ve ever had concerning your diet came from a food pyramid that looked to be about 25% Wonder Bread. It’s since been updated.
Not to mention, we had the misfortune of being raised in the glory days of processed food. When we were growing up, the science of building the most addictive snack was growing exponentially while the average individual’s personal knowledge about health remained stagnant. There was a New York Times article on this topic a few weeks ago that I found highly disturbing. We trusted marketing professionals and Don Draper to be our nutrition educators and they did us dirty. If you think for one second we weren’t brought up in a time of especially neglected nutrition, consider the fact that we are the first generation with a shorter life expectancy than our parents. As fun as it was to save the horseshoe marshmallows for last, our daily dose of Lucky Charms did us no favors.
Politicians, like the Mayor of New York City, are now duking it out to regulate sugar and improve health for future generations. But what about us? The forgotten, Cah-ookie Crisp Generation? The product of sugar-filled ketchup? How can we undo a quarter century of unhealthy habits? You’re in luck. I’ve set my allegiance to cookies aside and put together some thought-starters.
First of all, we need to stop avoiding articles about nutrition just because they are a total buzzkill. I know. I, too, feel personally offended when I read an article about how unhealthy Oreos are. But we have to let go of our past and educate ourselves! If blueberries just got ousted by strawberries as the new super-fruit, we, as humans who eat, should know about it. Game time, berries! Personally, I’m rooting for raspberries to make a comeback this year.
Pack lunch. It’ll save money and give you control over your meal; unlike the grill chef who always gives you extra French fries because he has a crush on you. Extra French fries are the last thing I need, Grill Chef! What are you doing to me? Also, I love you so much!
By and large, any liquid besides water should get the side eye. Sorry, “Vitamin” Water. I’m onto you.
Assign your favorite treats a special occasion. A lot of people try to keep their diet to 10% or 15% treats but I think that involves too much math. I think it’s easier to just use treats to TREAT yourself. You’ll look forward to them twice as much. Maybe save fast food for road trips and soda for Saturday afternoon matinees. Eat hotdogs at baseballs games and drink margaritas with girlfriends. Then eat chocolate when you really, really want chocolate and it’s all you can think about.
Eat salads until you love salads. Everyone initially hates salads, guys. “What am I, a rabbit?” is quickly becoming the most overworked lunchtime joke in everyone’s office. But, for real, you have to eat your vegetables! The trick is to see if you can learn to love them, Stockholm style. Just kidding! Think of salads more like that unassuming kid in your high school who ended up being really interesting once you got to know her and added shaved Parmesan and lemon vinaigrette.
If you eat enough vegetables, you’ll be gloriously regular. Enough. Said.
You may find certain health issues clear themselves up if you eat healthy, natural foods. Many health issues are related to diet. Personal anecdote alert! I used to get migraines all of the time. Terrible migraines. So bad I would often throw up. I saw doctors and they unhelpfully chalked it up to stress, predicting a lot of pain meds in my future. Then I cut out fake sugar – namely, a chemical known as aspartame, which is commonly found in diet drinks. The migraines stopped altogether. I’ve been migraine-free now for years. I did some research and it turns out aspartame causes migraines for some people. Our bodies just aren’t made to break down certain engineered chemicals. You got me, aspartame, you rascal! You’re hilarious.
Mulder and Scully learned the hard way: trust no one. Question what you’ve heard. I just found out that choosing a non-fat dressing on salad can actually impede the body’s ability to fully benefit from the salad’s nutrients. Sometimes fat is a good thing.
Becoming a healthy eater won’t happen overnight. It’s a journey and one day, if you stick with it, you’ll find yourself finally curious enough to look up what the heck “kale” is. Spoiler alert: it’s not a fish (I really thought it’d be a fish).