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Gentle Nutrition: 2 Key Tips

Updated: Dec 12, 2023

Wanting to transform your relationship with food is difficult. Plain and simple. There is so much information on the internet that it can be very overwhelming to sift through what is accurate vs not. Part of what I do as an RD is take the information, science, and evidence to do with nutrition and pare it down into some ‘digestible’ pieces of information and advice that you can implement into your life.

With the strong presence of diet culture online and within nutrition information, I often have clients come to me with an ‘all or nothing mentality’ in regards to their nutrition, where guilt and shame around eating are a daily occurrence. In reality, food thoughts, behaviors, and beliefs exist on a fairly large and flexible continuum; instead of it being black and white, it's a whole bunch of shades of gray in the middle and then some. Learning to live in these shades of gray with flexibility takes time, it takes learning, and listening to your body, and compassion! A positive relationship with food can be empowering, freeing, energizing and can bring so much value to your life. Everyone deserves to enjoy their food!

Within Intuitive Eating, the 10th and often last principle that we talk about is ‘Honor Your Health - Gentle Nutrition’. Nutrition as it relates to health is a part of Intuitive Eating because different foods contribute to things like energy levels, satisfaction, bowel regularity, and there are aspects of eating and food decisions that impact your health. Intuitive Eating (IE), in fact, has a mountain of evidence to support IE based nutrition strategies for managing common chronic health concerns including diabetes, hypertension, elevated cholesterol levels, and others. Often, gentle nutrition is one of the last things that we approach within the Intuitive Eating framework because it is really easy to turn ‘healthy eating’ principles and advice into more food rules. Today I wanted to talk a bit more about two pieces of gentle nutrition advice that I share with almost every single one of my clients. But before you read on, I want you to make sure that you aren’t turning these into new food rules for yourself! These are not an all or nothing rule - these pieces of advice encourage variety and flexibility with your food choices, and they are meant to help bring balance in a way that allows you to continue enjoying foods you love.

I have 2 key tips that help when it comes to transforming the all or nothing mindset into one where you have more balance and flexibility, and it’s actually realistic. The most recent iteration of the Canadian Food Guide introduces the plate model, which breaks your plate into 3 food categories where approximately ½ of your plate is fruit and/or vegetables, ¼ being protein foods, and the other ¼ being carbohydrate foods. Now, I know what you are thinking - how am I supposed to have those portions at breakfast?? This is where I bring a unique perspective to this guideline: think of this plate breakdown over the course of your meals throughout the day, and not just at one specific meal. This allows for flexibility in what you choose to eat at each meal or snack and you are then able to honor what you want and what you feel your body needs.

My second piece of nutrition advice is one that pairs very well with the plate model (my slogan, mantra if you will): nutrition by addition. This means that we are prioritizing adding foods that we need to our intake rather than removing/avoiding/restricting. I know around this season I want all things pumpkin, pumpkin pie, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin spice lattes… I’m a fall girl, what can I say. With the nutrition by addition perspective I am focusing on adding foods that will help make this a more balanced snack. For example, instead of just having the pumpkin muffin, I am going to have a pumpkin muffin, a slice or two of turkey or cheese, and some cucumber. This way I am still having the pumpkin muffin that I want (yum), I am not restricting or avoiding, AND I get some nutrients that my body needs, while balancing out the snack so that it will last me until my next meal.

Overall, creating a positive relationship can feel really overwhelming - there are so many aspects to nutrition, it’s hard to keep up. Focusing on your ‘plate breakdown’ over the course of the day and approaching meals with the ‘nutrition by addition’ perspective, you’ll find that you have flexibility with what you’re eating, while finding the balance that works for you, and the freedom to enjoy the flavors you love.

Needing a bit more support? Join my FREE community and connect with others who are going through the same thing. You'll have the space to ask questions, seek advice, and vent about how frustrating diet culture is.

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