Being vegan, gluten free 99% of time and focusing on whole, real foods, I still make the odd nutritional compromise here and there for food pleasures sake.
I remember when indulging in food for indulgence sake just wasn’t an option for me. It would lead to an out of control binge and purging cycle. For quite some time I strictly limited my diet, consuming pretty bland, plain and simple foods for fear that I might enjoy it a little too much. Empty calories were avoided at all costs which meant no oil, no sugar, with an even more stringent limit on my fat intake.
Kath posted a brilliant post on her nutritional compromises earlier in the week which 100% inspired me to write this post; I realised that I’ve come to a place where I can make them in balance, I no longer follow a rigid all or nothing, idealistic and perfectionist driven diet. I eat super duper healthy let’s say 85% of the time and then there are foods and ingredients I use and indulge in purely for pleasure.
(Recipe to come for this one this coming week!)
In the past eating something deliciously indulgent felt like I was breaking the rules, spoiling my efforts to be the healthiest I could be. What I’ve learned is that enjoying foods that might not be nutritionally optimum occasionally is good for me. I’m human, I want to enjoy life and a big part of that for me as a self confessed foodie is being able to embrace every aspect of it…in balance.
I posted before about the Food Rules I used to follow that I’ve managed to let go of. Although not nearly as rigid or strict I do have some Nutritional Guidelines I like to follow. Let’s start with the ones I opt out of!
Nutritional Tips I like to Ignore
“Eating low fat or fat free alternatives will help you loose and maintain a healthy weight.”
I used to live off of diet or 0% fat yoghurts, milk, low fat cheese, “diet” jam…if it had the word diet, low fat or fat free on the label it got my approval. What I learned was that taking out the fat might mean fewer calories, but it also more often than not means an abundance of unwanted, nasty, sometimes harmful chemicals.
Devoid of nutrients, the diet alternatives are likely to leave you craving more. Highly processed and far from what nature intended, the whole food, full fat option is now my ideal…pass me the nut butter and ripe smooth and creamy avocado!
“Avoid eating at night/close to bedtime.”
I like having a night time snack and usually eat an hour or so before bed time. Ok so it might not be ideal for my digestive system but it certainly hasn’t led to me gaining any substantial amount of weight. If you choose a healthy option I personally don’t think there’s any harm in eating at night time.
It helps me sleep sounder and as I tend to go to the gym very early in the morning only eating something very light I feel like my night time snack helps to fuel me through my workouts…it might not be so but it works for me!
“Eat at least three portions of dairy to ensure you have an adequate calcium intake.”
The vast majority of people have more than adequate calcium intake…the push on dairy comes quite obviously from the dairy industry. Milk, the calcium must have, is devoid of the synergistic vitamins and minerals we need to absorb calcium unlike plant foods. For instance sesame seeds/tahini contain a healthier balance resulting in the nutrients being more readily absorbed and utilised by our bodies.
“Eat smaller meals throughout the day…”
Eating every 2-3 hours is seemingly a good way to control your appetite. I ate this way for years and then once I stopped I realised how much it didn’t suit me. Eating 3-4 larger meals, usually without any snacking, leaves me feeling full, satisfied as well as giving my digestive system a break. I enjoy my meals much more when I don’t snack; it’s not that I avoid it, I just don’t feel the need to when I eat a truly satisfying meal.
Each to their own on this one!
“Pass on the pie/pizza crust.”
It’s my favourite part! A pie crust for me is usually made from whole some nutritious ingredients so why on earth would I leave it? The same goes for pizza bases…leaving them on the plate would be a crying shame!
“A calorie is a calorie.”
Not all calories are created equal. I used to count calories religiously during my eating disorder days. One of the most important lessons I’ve learned is that our body processes calories differently and the type of food we eat is so much more important than sticking to a specific calorie intake.
Different foods have varying effects on health, hunger and hormones! The most important thing to remember…a calorie is a measurement of energy and not of how your body will use it!
Nutritional Tips I try to Embrace
“Eat whole foods mainly plants.”
I avoid processed foods at all costs. About 80% of my weekly grocery shopping is fresh produce and then I stock up on store cupboard staples like grains, nuts, seeds and what not a little less often (though I do go through a surprising amount!) …
From bread, to sauces, sweet treats, snacks, veggie burgers and even my own chicken-less nuggets…if I can make it myself I’ll give it a go and forgo the gluten/wheat, chemicals, toxins and unnecessary additives. If I’m going to indulge in empty calories I’d rather it was something truly indulgent and satisfying rather than something that tastes sub par.
“Take your time; chew your food properly.”
I make a conscious effort to sit down, relax and enjoy my food. Not for the “diet and weight loss” reason of endeavouring to eat less but simply because it’s much better for my digestive system. Eating in a hurry leaves me feeling bloated and sluggish as well as meaning I miss out on enjoying the wonderful true nourishing and beautiful flavours that food has to offer!
“Eat your fruit rather than drinking it.”
I’m not a big juice fan, I never have been. I do partake in smoothies but juices unless fresh and containing a mix of fruit and veggies do nothing for me. They don’t satisfy my hunger, nor my thirst. I could down a class of fresh orange juice in 10 seconds flat and go back for another. A large juicy fresh orange, fibre intact, on the other hand satisfies me on all counts.
“Always eat breakfast.”
I used to skip breakfast…now it’s my favourite meal of the day. Calories were “saved up” on a rolling basis when my eating disorders ruled the roost. Those saved up calories more often than not never actually got eaten, but not eating breakfast was like the perfect start to the day. An eating disorder victory right from the outset.
I LOVE breakfast…pancakes, oats, instant bakes…always with nut butter. It’s probably my biggest, most filling, satisfying and altogether delicious meal of the day. It’s sets me up for the day ahead, fuels me through my morning workload and is prime opportunity for me to offer the nutritional goodness my muscles scream for post workout!
“Eat a rainbow everyday.”
It’s not something I have to make a conscious effort to achieve. I love fruits and veggies, almost all varieties (fennel is one of the few exceptions!) , I don’t try, but truly like to eat a variety of each every day. Some days more green, others more red, always plenty of orange! Eating a variety of colours of fruits and veggies ensures you get a greater variety of nutrients in your diet as well as helping you to make a conscious effort to include produce across the vast majority of your meals and snacks.
“Save time, money and your health by cooking your own rather than opting for take-out.”
I NEVER order a take away. There’s no exception; living in a different country where there are truly healthy take out options might change my perspective but in Ireland…be it Chinese, Indian, Fish & Chips or Pizza…they all fall in to the same category…poor quality, mostly junk food, not particularly satisfying and likely to leave me with a whole lot of digestive discomfort.
I can whip up something a hell of a lot tastier at home that is truly satisfying, nourishing and if I fancy it a whole lot more indulgent without the aftermath of digestive turmoil.
“Focus on nutrient balance rather than calorie counting.”
The upshot of believing “a calorie is not a calorie” is focusing on nutrient balance. If I have a carb. heavy breakfast I’ll eat more protein at lunch. No veggies at lunch, I’ll make sure to load up at dinner. A ginormous (hella delicious) slice of tart for dessert in the evening, I’ll start the next day with something truly nourishing and low in sugar to balance it out.
I don’t believe in “everything in moderation” but I do believe in balance. There are some foods that just don’t have a place in my diet like sodas, dairy, refined grains…I don’t enjoy them and my body doesn’t thank me for having eaten them.
Eating foods that agree with me, nourish my body and that I truly enjoy and can indulge in, all in balance, some more moderately than others is where it’s at and being able to do so without feeling like I’m out of control or that I’m breaking my perfection streak is truly enlightening.