Make Common Sense Part of Nutrition Planning

Yes, it's National Nutrition Month, so be prepared to be presented with a smorgasbord of nutritional tips and resources throughout the month. As with almost any health-related topic, we find ourselves bombarded with "expert" and frequently conflicting advice from all quarters -- nutrition is no exception.  How many meals a day are the best?  How many servings of vegetables?  Of grains and cereals?  Is white sugar ever okay?  Is high fructose corn syrup the cause of all mankind's ills?  Does deciding what fats are GOOD or BAD make feel like you're spinning a dietary roulette wheel?  When it comes to good nutrition choices, what's a well-meaning, intelligent person to do?

Of course we're never going to get the so-called experts to agree.  Trends in nutrition can be like trends in clothing, what's in and out can change from year to year or decade to decade (remember the food pyramid we boomers grew up with?).  And let's not delve into the dark underbelly of food industry lobbying, that calls for a blog all its own.

Thank goodness for Common Sense.  Here are some fundamental questions to ask yourself when you decide what, when and how much to eat: 

How hungry are you, really?  The American Dietetic Association tells us that skipping meals can have adverse effects.  It suggests that eating meals at regular intervals helps avoid trigger the "store calories" response in our bodies.  On the other hand, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition maintains that three meals or six meals a day is not the question, that the deciding factor in unwanted weight gain is the total number of calories consumed.

Here's a sensible suggestion.  Is a three-meal a day schedule working for you, or do you find yourself needing to refuel more frequently?  Listen to your body, and take the time identify your own metabolic rhythm; we each have different physiologies and levels of activity. What works for your best friend may be far off the mark for you.

What to choose, what to choose?  I bet that most of us -- confronted with momentous decisions such as what to eat for lunch -- could readily identify the healthier options.  Let's face it:  Our nation's obesity problem is not a result of making the wrong choice between the tuna on whole wheat and the Caesar salad -- it's choosing the high-fat, high-sodium, high-carbohydrate over-processed drive-thru fast food value meal over almost anything else.  It's reaching for just about any beverage except good, old-fashioned water when we have a thirst.  It's eating foods from the color palette of brown-browner-brownest.  It's forgetting that what we put into us is going to have to come out in some way, shape or form (ideally, as expended energy), or we're going to end up carrying it around with us on a daily basis.

Perhaps the most fundamental aspect of the nutrition issue is this:  Our daily food choices are actually critical decisions about how we fuel our bodies to generate the energy we need to live the best lives we can in the time that we have here.

This National Nutrition Month I'm going to begin taking my own advice and ask myself this question before every meal:  Is what I am about to consume going to serve me in pursuing my goals and passions?  Will eating this meal help me to achieve my dreams?

Article by Kim Washetas, contributing writer and enthusiastic whole health advocate.