By Ellie Kempton of Simply Nourished
It’s no secret that the Holiday Season is a time of abundance- especially when it comes to the plate. But it's so easy to begin normalizing more food consumption... but not just any food. Typically, Holiday Foods are what we, in the dietetic circles call, "nutrient void" meaning when consumed they energize ephemerally but leave your body starved for vitamins, minerals and sustained energy.
With the New Year coming and the new habits that generally come with it, it’s wise to emotionally recalibrate how much food is actually enough. However, if we were to focus on merely on decreasing caloric intake using mostly nutrient void foods we would experience daily deprivation. 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 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 on the top third can, in and of itself, transform your approach to your New Year 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.
It’s tempting to try to drastically change the amount of food you consume but this year your strategy can be different. Mindfully consuming nutrient dense foods might just be something you’ll still be practicing this time next year. I’m confident it will serve you in a number of ways but if it merely allows you to put on your “un-dieting” blinders, this in and of itself is a form of [emotional] nourishment.
Cheers to the start of 2020 - a year of vibrant wellness,