Two years ago, I attended my first nutrition conference. In a crowd of 500 people, I raised my hand to ask a question: “how do you make nutrition sexy?” It’s a fair question because let’s be honest. The recommendation of “eat your fruit and vegetables” is becoming cliché. (Cue the eye-rolls.)
We live in a very exciting time when almost everyone is pumped to start a new regiment. There are so many options and it can be a bit disorienting. We’ve been trained to view food as good, bad, super, or functional. The main danger of this is that our perspective becomes too singular and we get lost in the details. We demonize/celebrate certain foods and blame our failures/pinpoint our successes on other ones. Let’s examine a few foods and add some context to them:
– Gluten/Grains. Celiac disease is real. However, those who do not have an allergy or intolerance to gluten and choose to eat gluten-free (or grain-free), this one’s for you. You might be avoiding gluten, but many GF diet focus on whole foods, fruits, and vegetables. That’s the real winner. (Also, that gluten-free donut is still a donut.)
– Protein shakes. If you’re not doing resistance training with the right intensity or frequency, muscle growth won’t happen, even with protein supplements. They are helpful to provide you a quick source of protein to promote muscle protein synthesis and a surplus of calories to help your body grow. (Still, for athletes, carbs reign supreme for performance.)
– Super Foods. These may be more nutrient dense foods, but don’t pile these foods onto an already crappy diet. Proponents allege that these super foods give you “an edge” but only when part of a balanced diet which includes regular exercise. Also, don’t just eat these super foods: eating two bags of kale chips does not equal a healthy lunch.
From my experience, I’ve realized two important things. First, it is our human nature to attach ourselves to singular points of view. (“Ooooo! Shiny!”).
Second, I don’t want to be someone who promotes one diet, one type of food, or one form of exercise. My recommendations go back to basics and may not be the sexiest at its core. But I think my role in this all is to bring my genuine belief that food can be healthy, functional, and delicious. To me, that is sexy and exciting. I have a loud mouth and I’m persistent. Maybe I’ll convince enough people to believe me by sharing my sincere energy and excitement for the truth instead of the bullshit out there. No gimmicks here. I want to start the conversation and to open your perspective.
Takeaway message: take a step back when eating and understand that one meal doesn’t make you fat, just like one meal won’t make you fit. We are a sum of all that we do and eat. Don’t get lost in the details. Oh…and eat your fruit and vegetables.
Thomas Ngo RD