How to Design Your Ideal Nutrition Plan
Choosing a diet framework for yourself can be very overwhelming. There are hundreds of different dietary theories out there today, and it can be hard to choose which one is the ideal diet for us and our families.
Over the course of my health journey, my food philosophy has evolved. In the beginning I was focused on resolving digestive issues and losing weight, but when I figured out my body was in a constant state of inflammation because of sensitivities to foods I loved the most - Gluten & Dairy - I knew I needed to continue making changes. Ugh!
There is so much conflicting information out there touted as "science" and when you spend a great deal of time listening to experts and reading research like I do, it's even more difficult to sift through. Obviously if you have genetic history that dictates certain dietary restrictions, that trumps anything, but I'm a huge fan of really tuning in to your body and figuring what works and what doesn't.
With all of the dietary theories to choose from, don’t feel compelled to select one and proclaim to the world how you eat. That’s your business and no one else’s. You can decide if you feel good eating meat or fish or if a vegetarian diet is right for you. Or, perhaps you want to mix it up, like I do, and eat vegetarian one day and fish the next – I call that the "qualitarian diet" - as long as I keep the quality to the best I can, I don't have to label it or put myself in a box.
So, how do you put this into practice? Here are a few things to consider when you begin to design your ideal nutrition plan:
1. Develop your own Food Philosophy
This essential first step guides your decision making when it comes to food. Here’s mine:
My Personal Food Philosophy: Ethical / Sustainable / Organic / Pastured
My motto for the last seven years has been to choose foods that are sourced ethically and sustainably. I try to choose local whenever I can and support my farmer friends in our community. I choose Organic as much as possible to avoid the “processed” stuff and when we eat meat or eggs source pasture raised.
In addition to what I’ve discussed above, you may want to consider these things in your philosophy:
- What you like to eat
- Where your food comes from
- What you’d want someone to cook you for dinner
- How you make food decisions at the grocery store or market
- What’s your dream meal?
2. Consider what is locally available
We all love avocados and bananas, but for many of us around the world these foods aren’t local. I’m not saying you should never eat them – however, it’s important to also consider what foods are abundant in your area, and also what’s in season. Local foods contain more nutrients than those that were picked weeks ago and shipped across the country.
In an perfrect world, your ideal diet would focus on what you have access to. This allows us to support local businesses and farms, reduce our environmental impact and eat food that is freshest – which is going to be great for our health! **food sensitivites are reduced when we rotate the foods we eat....
3. Think about Activity - how can you move each day?
Consider how active you are. If you’re training every day, your nutrient requirements are going to be higher than someone who has a desk job and isn’t working out several times a week. On days when you’re more active, you may need more protein to fuel your muscles and on days when you’re working at a desk you may need to eat a simpler meal like a salad with a healthy fat to keep your brain functioning optimally. You may need more protein, water and electrolytes if you’re working out consistently.
4. Consider your health situation?
If you’re suffering from an autoimmune disease, an inflammatory condition or battling an illness, your diet will need to reflect these concerns. Those with autoimmune disease need to avoid inflammatory foods, like gluten, dairy, sugar and possibly nightshades - this is an ideal time to work with your health coach.
Conversely, if you have a family history of illness and want to prevent disease, you need a diet high in superfoods, antioxidants, fermented foods and plant-rich meals.
5. Your Lifestyle
One of the biggest factors is how your ideal plan will fit in with your lifestyle. If you’re balancing a full-time career, family life, religious or school functions and hobbies that keep you busy night and day, then you need to determine how to carry over your food philosophy into your lifestyle.
If you don’t enjoy cooking or don’t have much time to spend in the kitchen, you may need to research easy dinner hacks, start a cooking cooperative or find food delivery companies that align with your food preferences to help you meet your goals. You may have to shift your priorities to align with your new lifestyle. For example, if I know I have a busy week ahead, I meal plan, shop and batch prep a few meals on the weekend when I have more time.
You’ll also want to consider your allergies, sensitivities and general foods that you dislike. Some people do well on carbohydrates and others do not. Jot down how you feel and start to make the connection between food, your mood and energy levels after you eat - an easy journal is a great way to record this and gives you history to review after a few weeks or months to see trends.
7. The Research
Nutrition research is one of those areas that will never, ever be settled. We’re learning more and more about nutrition science every day. You have to be careful where that science is coming from and who is paying for the studies. Many doctors use “bias” to make their points – meaning they will cherry-pick statistical data to prove their point. You’ll find hundreds of studies saying that veganism is best or Paleo is the way to go, or everyone should be eating a raw food diet. Research your diet thoroughly from numerous sources to get a well-rounded point of view. I don't believe there is one cookie-cutter approach that works for everyone.
8. Trial and Error
Don’t be afraid to make mistakes along the way. I once tried to eat raw foods for a week and after I few days the digestive issues were so bad I threw in the towel - clearly not good for my body, I was miserable. Be open to trying new foods and diets, but remember to be in tune with your body and how you feel.
Choosing an ideal nutrition plan is an evolving process, but it can be fun too. Remember, if your ideal plan isn’t sustainable – meaning something you can do for the rest of your life – then it won’t work for you. Try to create a plan or way of eating that works for your body and your lifestyle.
If you are now feeling completely overwhelmed, please reach out. We can do a 15 min free consult where I can break it down even further for you based on your lifestyle and help you jump start your ideal nutrition plan!
Here's to creating your own "rules"!