Oftentimes, nutritionists talk only about what you should eat, reducing the act of eating to mechanical consumption of nutrients.
However, this is just a starting point. There are other questions we could ask, and choices we need to make, and each one of them can affect not just your health and quality of your nutrition, but also your general satisfaction with life. These questions are:
1. What to eat?
2. Where to eat?
3. When to eat?
4. How to prepare it?
5. With whom to eat?
6. How to combine different foods?
7. How to eat?
8. How much to eat?
I can’t give you definite answers, because you decide for yourself what choices you’ll make, but I can give you suggestions and advice.
What to eat? – You can eat pretty much anything, at least sometimes, but you should be aware that some foods are best to be avoided because they don’t provide you with important nutrients, and at the same time they contain way too much calories, salt, sugar, additives or preservatives.
We could classify all foods according to traffic lights. Red light – best to avoid completely, eat just in very special occasions. Yellow light – you can eat it, but pay attention not to overindulge, do the research for yourself, be careful, take some things into consideration when eating it. Green light – eat freely without much stress or thinking.
This is just one way of classifying foods, just a very rough guideline.
Before we start: don’t take this list too literally. I eat all the foods, even those that are “red light”. It’s just a guideline to show you which foods are less risky, and which should be consumed in a more controlled manner.
Where to eat?
You can make healthy choices both in a restaurant, and also if you prepare food for yourself. Try to avoid bad restaurants, fast food restaurants, etc. Since good restaurants are generally expensive, usually it’s wiser to eat at home. When you eat at home, try to eat only in dining room, sitting at the table, and not in your living room, bedroom or work-room. Avoid distractions like TV, phone, newspapers or computer while eating. (I know, I know, easier said than done, but really you’ll learn to appreciate food more if you focus just on eating instead of eating while mindlessly surfing the Internet)
When to eat?
Healthy eating approach can give you two answers to this question, both are correct:
A) Eat always at the same time, so that you get into a routine, you have a regular schedule
B) Eat only when you’re hungry
Don’t eat when you are not hungry, or outside of time intended for eating.
How to prepare the food?
Don’t spend too much time on preparing the food. You have your life to live and do other things as well. Also, too long preparation, especially boiling, can destroy some nutrients.
Avoid frying in deep fat.
When frying, use oils with high heat resistance.
Some foods, however, need to be cooked well, such as some whole grains and legumes (rice, oats, beans, etc)
Don’t use extremely high temperatures, but you can still use high temperatures for baking or frying if needed, just not too high. Avoid using maximum temperature on your stove.
With whom to eat?
It’s always better to eat with someone than alone.
It’s even better if you share the same food with someone.
Sometimes, a less healthy choice can have better effect on you if it’s eaten in good company and if it’s shared with someone, rather than something perfectly healthy, eaten alone and in isolation.
Eating in company is a bonding experience which produces good emotions.
When whole family eats together the same stuff, it is very good for family relationships and cohesion of family. (OK perhaps I got a little too idealistic here, but you get the point, if your circumstances allow for it, it is indeed better to eat in company)
How to combine different foods?
Best diet is a varied diet which combines a lot of different foods, from various food groups.
In meals, you can generally combine meat and fish with vegetables, with potatoes and with legumes (beans, peas, etc)
You can eat a small or moderate quantity of whole grain bread with almost any meal. (except snacks)
You can combine grains and legumes, which provides a lot of protein and complex carbohydrates. (for example peas with rice)
Fruit should generally be eaten alone, on its own. It’s a perfect snack, you can eat it between meals.
Vegetables can also be eaten on their own, but you can combine them with meat or fish as well.
Milk and dairy products can be consumed in relatively small amounts, and they can be added to some dishes for better taste sometimes.
How to eat?
It’s best to eat slowly and not in a rush. Better sitting than standing or walking.
If you eat alone, don’t watch TV, computer, newspapers, etc, while eating. Focus just on eating and enjoy each bite. Feel the taste and aroma of food. Chew thoroughly.
If you eat in company, you don’t have to stay completely silent. You can enjoy some light conversation, but be careful not to overeat. If you prefer you can be silent as well. As said before, eating together is a great bonding ritual, especially if you all eat the same food.
How much to eat?
Ideally, you should stop eating as soon as you feel full and satiated. Eating past that point is overeating and causes obesity.
However, people generally don’t want to throw away foods and don’t feel good about it, for ethical reasons. For that reason, you can also eat until you eat your whole meal. That way you avoid the stress of estimating each time whether you’re full or not. Just eat the whole meal, but, pay attention, if you feel too full after it, next time, make a smaller meal, until you eventually find an optimum quantity for yourself.
If you want to lose weight, you can stop eating before feeling completely full.