While it’s so tempting to design a set of rules for your life in January that is going to redefine how you live, it’s all too easy to fall prey to deprivation // withdrawal [and ultimately defeat]. It’s especially easy to make rules when it comes to the plate am I right? It feels safe to categorize foods as good or bad and then limit certain foods or avoid them all together [sometimes not even knowing why they’ve been tagged as “bad” via the newest fad].
But what if I were to be a complete “rebel dietitian” and say rules don’t work. Especially the ones you can’t even remember. More often than not too many rules lead to deprivation [both emotionally and physically]. This is no way to live; nor is it sustainable long-term [hence the reason most diets fail]. But, there is an antidote to this traditional dieting phenomena: consider switching your nutrition focal point to nutrient density.
Nutrient density is a reference for a diet focused on the amount of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients packed into specific foods. There is even an index for it called the ANDI index [created by Dr. Fuhrman]. ANDI stands for aggregate nutrient density index. Familiarizing yourself with this list and pursuing the foods in the top third can, in and of itself, will transform your approach to your nutrition strategy.
What you will find are foods to include like cruciferous vegetables, low sugar fruits and of course your darker leafy greens. All “diets” on earth agree that these foods are among the most medicinal. When you make these the focus of your “diet” you’ll never have to focus on an external caloric metric. Instead you quite simply fill up on the invaluable information these foods give the body relatively quickly. In other words, it’s nearly impossible to “over indulge” on a high scoring ANDI food like broccoli.
Prioritizing consumption of high scoring ANDI foods ensures you are getting adequate consumption of micronutrients without overeating [which is nearly impossible]. We’ll call it the un-dieted approach to a diet shall we? Micronutrients unlock proper functioning of the immune system, enable detoxification and cellular repair mechanisms that ultimately protect us from chronic disease. So this un-dieted way of decreasing caloric intake turns out to be the most medicinal [and functional] thing you can do.
While this idea of prioritizing nutrient density may seem too simple compared to most of the diets being advertised right now, simplicity spurs adherence. So my challenge to you is this: let half of your foods come from nutrient dense foods [referencing ANDI scores as you plan your meals]. Eat these nutrient-dense foods first since the micronutrient repletion in and of itself satiates. I know you like to go the extra mile though, so here’s the next step to take: slow down and mindfully consume these nutrient-dense foods. Try to tune into the texture and flavor of these medicinal foods noticing aspects of them you may not have ever noticed. Practicing mindfulness spurs more pleasure, fewer distractions and a heightened awareness around hunger and satiety cues.
While it’s tempting to try to drastically change the amount of food you consume or the types of foods you consume as you dance into this new year, maybe [just maybe] consider pivoting to a simpler strategy. I’m confident the mindful consumption of nutrient dense foods might just be something you’ll still be practicing this time next year [and beyond!] While this way of eating will unlock your truest potential physically in a number of ways, this “un-dieted diet” will also serve you in and of itself is a form of [emotional] nourishment.
Cheers to a fresh February [and the commitment to each and every day being an opportunity for a fresh start].