Being “healthy” always feels like a delicate balance. Between eating 5 portions of fruit and veggies, sleeping for 7-9 hours, drinking 2-3 liters of water, exercising 3-4 times a week. We’re exhausted just thinking about it. But when it comes to eating well, it might be easier than you think to tick all the nutritional boxes.
We caught up with Paola Atlason, a nutritionist with a “food as medicine” approach, to get the truth behind eating well.
Food Truth 1. Eat more, not less
“The most common question I get asked is: ‘What should I not eat?’. And it’s usually like, no, actually, we need to add in a lot of stuff here,” says Paola. “I like to give people proportions you can gauge with your hands, so people have some parameters to make sure they’re eating enough. People are always nervous, asking if they shouldn’t eat more than that. And I tell them, no, this is the minimum I want you to eat.”
The ideal plate
Raw or cooked vegetables: 2x fistfuls
Protein: 1x palmful (up to 2 for men)
Beneficial fats: 2x thumbs
Starch: 1x cupped handful
Food Truth 2. Fat is a superfood
“If you are not eating enough fat in your diet, you're not absorbing most of the nutrients that you're eating. This includes the ones from vegetables, because most of these vitamins are fat soluble.” says Paola. “In order to get to the center of your cell, they need to be carried by a fat. If you’re eating a low fat diet, a lot of vegetables and lean protein, a lot of that stuff is just gonna come in and go out. Make sure you have enough fat in your meals to take the nutrients where they need to go.”
Food Truth 3. Animal protein is best
“I do encourage people to include animal protein in their diet. I don't force anybody to eat it, but I encourage it,” says Paola. “We get amino acids, vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids from animal protein. A little bit goes a long way. It has the largest concentration of micronutrients that support the body in growing, from growing muscle to tissues, your thyroid, your glands and your brain. If you want to stay strong, try incorporating a little bit of animal proteins with an egg, or a small piece of fish like salmon.”
Food Truth 4. Eat with your circadian rhythm
“We need to eat at certain times of day, when the body’s circadian rhythm needs it,” explains Paola. “One of the first things I ask my clients is: are you eating three meals a day within a certain time window? We need to eat morning, noon and night. When we aren’t eating regularly, there can be a lot of noise in the body caused by not eating on time, skipping meals or eating meals that are out of balance. Once we refine a routine, eating a balanced meal three times a day, we become more in tune with the body. Intuition comes when there’s clarity. Once we have that clarity, we can start to hear what the body needs.”
Food Truth 5. Raw vegetables aren’t better
“We tend to lean on raw vegetables and salads more as the healthier option. But when we cook vegetables, we're able to extract more nutrients because we're actually breaking down the fiber,” explains Paola. “For some bodies, a salad the size of your head actually may be too much raw fiber. Get in the habit of having at least an equal amount of cooked vegetables and raw vegetables to get more of that superpower nutrition out of them.”
Food Truth 6. Your body is always talking to you
“Your body will speak to you very loudly, but you have to start learning its language,” says Paola. “It doesn't speak with words, it speaks through cravings, through emotions, through pain and sensation in our body. In order to become an intuitive eater and listen to what the body needs, you first have to put the 1, 2, 3s in place.
“So, for example, if you're eating your three meals a day, they're ideal plated, and you’re eating at the right times, but you're craving sweets. You’ll start to ask questions to yourself. Am I tired? What has my activity level been, physically and mentally? Then we realize maybe the body is asking for sugar because that means a quick energy boost. But if once you’ve eaten something sweet, and feel like crap afterwards, you know that’s not what your body needed. Maybe what you really needed was rest. So, you have to go through a series of self inquiry questions.
“Once there's clarity in the body, you start to learn what your cravings mean. Over time, you start building your own library of information about what your body needs and how to support it.
“I want to make this clear that craving is not always a sign of what to eat. The craving could be a sign that you need to drink water, that you need to rest, that you need to meditate, that you need to step away from a computer, that you need a hug. It’s ok to take a pause to figure it out.”
Food Truth 7. Don’t be scared of salt
“I love a good salt. I'm a big fancy salt fan because, apart from spices, you can have the same ingredients, but seasoning is going to finish the food and make it taste great,” says Paola. “I could roast you a cauliflower and depending on which salt or spices I use, it’s going to taste completely different. My favorite is Icelandic Lava Salt. It’s a black salt that tastes like the earth. So if you’re ever bored of cooking vegetables, get some fancy salt!”
Did you know? 90% of us aren’t eating enough fruit and vegetables. THE ESSENTIALS fill the gaps. Tap to learn more.
Follow Paola @paolaatlasonwellness