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It's Not Just What You Eat, But Why and How

Most diets and nutrition regimes primarily focus on WHAT you should eat and/or HOW much you should eat. Foods gets categorized as "good" and "bad," which often fosters a negative relationship with food, and can lead people to use the rules of the system to justify less than optimal nutritional choices.

I was at a wedding recently and the person sitting beside me was eating a very large piece of cake while simultaneously telling me about her great new gluten-free diet. She had fallen into a common dieting trap: using the rules of her nutrition regime to justify less than optimal nutritional choices. As in, she could skip the vegetables and eat all the cake she wanted because the cake fell within the parameters of her diet.

I am not criticizing that she was eating cake. I also ate cake. Enjoying everything in moderation is an important part of sustaining a healthy lifestyle. I am also not arguing that nutrition programs don't have their benefits. Adopting a healthier lifestyle can be frustrating and confusing, having a program to guide you can be helpful.

What I am trying to highlight is how most diets and nutrition regimes primarily focus on WHAT you should eat and/or HOW much you should eat. Foods gets categorized as "good" and "bad," which often fosters a negative relationship with food, and can lead people to use the rules of the system to justify less than optimal nutritional choices.

Go ahead, follow a set program, but ALSO become mindful of not just WHAT and HOW much you eat, but more importantly WHY you eat.

I call this the "WWH rule" of adopting a healthier lifestyle.

Let's use Weight Watchers as an example. Even though I like the program because it emphasizes fruits and vegetables, portion control and awareness, people often try to (sometimes unconsciously) scam it. Weight Watchers tells you to eat a certain number of points daily. Every food has an equivalent point value. Most fruits and vegetables are considered zero points to encourage users to choose fruits and vegetables over food like french fries. I think this is great, but the problem is WHAT you eat is only one piece of the health puzzle. You also have to address WHY you eat and HOW much you eat.

If you have eaten all of your points and you are full, listen to your body and stop eating. Don't eat seven mangos just because they are "free."

No matter what you are eating, it is crucial to learn to stopping eating when you are full.

Just because you are "gluten-free" doesn't mean you should eat 10 gluten-free cookies. Just because you are following Jenny Craig doesn't mean you shouldn't be concerned with the sodium and preservatives in the food. Just because a recipe has fruit in it doesn't mean you shouldn't care about what else is in the dish, or how large your portion is. If you get a smoothie from Booster Juice the frozen yogurt doesn't become inconsequential just because the smoothie contains fruit and/or an antioxidant-rich powder. A large Booster Juice is not the same a regular size juice. Portions count. There is no diet referee in the sky keeping track of if you can trick the system!

I am NOT arguing you shouldn't have a treat, just be mindful of your choice. Don't tell yourself that since you are picking off someone else's plate you are not eating the french fries. If you want

ice cream (or in my case a Fudgsicle -- I love Fudgsicles), have some, just be mindful of how much and why you are eating.

No matter what diet or delivery system you are on remember that moderation, mindfulness, fruits, vegetables and a limited amount of processed foods are the cornerstones of healthy eating. A gluten-free cookie can be made of as much crap as a regular cookie. At some point it has to come back to common sense. Think about what you are eating, don't use the rules of your nutritional regime as a way to justify eating foods in a way you know is not healthy or helpful!

Become mindful of WHAT you eat (foods high in sugar, salt etc), WHY you eat (are you bored, tired, sad, happy) and HOW much you eat (do you take seconds, do you pick of your neighbours plate). Instead of being discouraged by setbacks, take a long-term approach and use them as a learning experience. Remember, adopting a healthier lifestyle is a marathon, not a sprint.


Sunflower Seeds
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For baseball fans (and everyone else), sunflower seeds are definitely a better choice than ballpark franks, thanks to their antioxidants. Sunflower seeds also have vitamin E, which is important for skin and bone health. Ashley Pettit, a holistic nutritionist and nutrition coach, recommends making or buying sunflower seed butter to replace those made from peanuts or almonds — this is also great for those with nut allergies.
Wheat Germ
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In plants, the germ is the part that will develop into a seed. Because it's intended to feed the new plant from that seed, the germ is highly concentrated with nutritional value. And wheat germ, which comes from the wheat kernel, is no exception: it contains protein, iron, B vitamins, and fibre. It can easily be added to smoothies, yogurt, or hot cereals like oatmeal. Be sure to store wheat germ in a tightly sealed container in the freezer to keep its polyunsaturated fats from going rancid.
Pumpkin Seeds
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Also referred to as pepitas, these seeds are worth holding on to when you carve your Halloween pumpkin this year. Pumpkin seeds have a great light flavour, and contain iron and zinc, making them a great snack option for vegetarians and vegans, Pettit says. Add them to salads for a bit of crunch.
Pomegranate Seeds
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The juice surrounding the seeds inside of the fruit is the source of a pomegranate's health benefits, including antioxidants like polyphenols. The fruit is also a great source of vitamin C, fibre and potassium. Pomegranate seeds, also called arils, also contain potassium, iron, and vitamin K.
Chia Seeds
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These seeds are a hot superfood right now, and for good reason: chia seeds contain fibre, protein, and healthy omega-3 fats, among other health benefits. They can be used ground as a thickener for everything from smoothies to soup, or added whole to baked goods for a fibre boost. Pettit likes to eat chia seeds in a pudding because of their gel-like layer.
Sesame Seeds
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Don’t just eat sesame seeds on top of burger buns! These tiny seeds are a good source of essential minerals manganese and copper, among other benefits. Along with calcium and vitamin B1, the seeds contain two substances called sesamin and sesamolin, which are both lignans. Research indicates that lignans may have cholesterol-lowering effects.
Hemp Seeds
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Along with chia seeds, hemp seeds are a vegetarian source of all 20 of the essential amino acids for human health. They also have fibre and omega-3 fatty acids, and a great nutty taste. Add them to your smoothies, Pettit suggests, or eat them post-workout for a protein boost that can help build lean muscle mass.
Flax Seeds
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Flax seeds have great anti-inflammatory properties, which could be important for a variety of health benefits, Pettit says. They also contain fibre and healthy fats, and can be used in many of the same ways that you would eat chia seeds or hemp seeds. It’s important to eat flax seeds ground, however, in order to get their full benefits — whole seeds will just pass through your body undigested. If you grind more than you use in one go, keep the leftovers in the fridge to keep the oils from going rancid.
Cumin Seeds
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You may be familiar with powdered cumin used as a spice, but these seeds are also added to food for its flavour. Cumin seeds are often used in Indian recipes, for example. Along with the great taste, the seeds contain iron and have traditionally been used as digestive aids.
Mustard Seeds
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Along with alfalfa and beet seeds, mustard seeds can be sprouted and eaten for their health benefits and their great taste. When sprouted, mustard seeds add a peppery taste to salads and soups. The seeds themselves contain selenium, omega-3 fatty acids, and manganese.
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