Eating Guidelines

The “standard American diet” (SAD) is notable for being calorie-dense and nutrient-poor: meals from fast food establishments; added sugar, including corn syrups in food and sweetened beverages; and the refined carbohydrates in the extraordinary variety of processed foods–such as white bread and pasta, breakfast cereals, coffeehouse pastries and the portable snack foods sold in supermarkets, convenience stores, vending machines and gas stations. The more we shift away from the SAD and eat more unprocessed, whole foods, the better off we will be.

These suggestions about eating may provide guideposts for reflecting on or changing what, how and how much you eat:

  • Michael Pollan: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” Pollan’s books In Defense of Food and Food Rules explore the components of this slogan in depth; it contains essential nutritional wisdom that can help people make choices in shopping, cooking and ordering in restaurants


    An alternative to the standard American diet: an eating plan that includes a rich variety of vegetables, grains, beans, nuts and fruits.

  • Aaron E. Carroll – Simple Rules for Healthy Eating (sort of a shorter version of Pollan’s rules that avoids absolutes; Dr. Carroll provides the guidelines that he follows in this New York Times article (April 15, 2015)
  • Dan Buettner – 15 Eating Habits That Make You Live Longer (some wisdom from “the Blue Zones”)
  • Geneen Roth’s seven guidelines for conscious eating
  • Joe Cross – The Benefits of Eating the Rainbow (on eating a variety of colorful vegetables and fruits)

Despite the blizzard of confusing and often contradictory news reports on eating and health, medical research can provide clarity and guidance, neutralizing popular misconceptions and suggesting healthier choices in how to eat.

  • Research conducted by Dr. Dean Ornish and the Preventive Medicine Research Institute has proven that integrative lifestyle changes can improve chronic conditions, including the reversal of heart disease
  • The three macronutrients–carbohydrates, proteins and fats–are all essential for health and vitality; rather than demonizing carbs or fats, it’s better to aim for quality and variety in all three categories and find a balance that works for you
  • Include Omega-3 fats in your diet, by eating foods such as edamame (whole soybeans), walnuts, flax seed, avocados, and oily fish (such as salmon and sardines)
  • An anti-inflammatory diet can help to reduce occurrence of cancers, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease and other chronic health conditions
  • For weight management, eat within a 12-hour period each day (not around the clock): New York Times, 1/15/15

People make food choices for a complex set of reasons, including personal taste, family background, cultural norms, cost, convenience, and the advertising that permeates popular media. Many are passionate in their ideas and beliefs about the best or healthiest diet. I’ll explore some of the benefits and costs of different ways of eating, but will not suggest that my way is the only way or the best for everyone.

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