Well meaning people with a genuine desire to improve the health of the population are constantly coming up with new and improved ways to deliver their message and help us make better choices. We’ve had healthy eating pyramids, triangles, squares, circles and plates. Foods get labelled with stars and ticks, they get colour coded and they find their way to the ‘health food’ aisle. We’ve included nutrition panels and serving size suggestions. We’ve been advised to eat a ‘balanced diet’ and ‘eat the rainbow’ and make sure we get our 5 and 2 a day – that’s 5 veggies and 2 fruits if you didn’t know.
The problem is that all of these ideas and efforts haven’t worked! Most of the advice we get is solid – eg. eat more fruits and veggies, more fibre, less processed food – and some of it isn’t, but that’s not the point. As flawed as these guidelines are, if the population actually followed them then we’d collectively be in far better health as a whole than we currently are.
The end goal of all the guidelines, motivational tools and advice we are given by various health authorities, is to help us get all the nutrition we need and less of the stuff we don’t. If you are getting everything you need by eating only a few (or even one 😜) simple foods then there’s no need to stress about making sure you include more food groups or more colours in your diet.
If you’re getting enough protein from potatoes, do you really need to make sure you include some food from the ‘protein’ food group? If beans are helping boost your calcium intake, do you really need to include dairy products? If you meet your caloric needs, a simple day of eating sweet potato and broccoli will give you all the protein, calcium, fibre and everything else you need. Brown rice, beans and spinach will do the same.
Perhaps a part of the reason we are so unhealthy as a collective is because we are all too confused and overwhelmed by all the effort required to make sure we’re following the guidelines properly. If you’re missing some colours and a food group or two but still getting a good balance of all the nutrients you need then you can relax, the guidelines aren’t aimed at you.
Eat simply, live fully.
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