For those of you who watch what you eat, here's the final word on nutrition and health. It's a relief to know the truth after all those conflicting nutritional studies.

1. The Japanese eat very little fat
and suffer fewer heart attacks than Americans.

2. The Mexicans eat a lot of fat
and suffer fewer heart attacks than Americans.

3. The Chinese drink very little red wine
and suffer fewer heart attacks than Americans.

4. The Italians drink a lot of red wine
and suffer fewer heart attacks than Americans.

5. The Germans drink a lot of beers and eat lots of fats
and suffer fewer heart attacks than Americans.

Eat and drink what you like. Speaking English is apparently what kills you.

If you’ve ever tried to keep up with current diet advice, you’re probably shaking your head and laughing right now. This joke illuminates how confusing it can be to understand nutrition and keep up with the current trends. One year, butter and anything with a gram of saturated fat will kill you. The next, you should be putting it in your morning cup of Joe.

And you definitely shouldn’t eat anything with gluten.

Or dairy.

Or sugar.

Or, flavor.

What is considered “healthy” is constantly changing and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to wade through all the pseudo-science and make informed decisions about what to put in your body.

While proper nutrition will vary from one individual to another and some foods truly do aggravate some individuals, there are basic tenets of healthy eating that will ensure that you’re on the right track to consuming the healthiest diet you can.  

To avoid an overly boring and detailed blog on nutrition I'm going to hit you with the basics that are essential to a sound diet (and by diet I mean the array of foods that you eat, not something promising that you'll drop 5 pounds in a week).

If you follow this advice, you won’t have to worry about next year’s hot new diet and can be content knowing that your eating plan is the healthiest for your body and your individual needs. 

Basic Guidelines for Creating a Healthy Diet
- Focus on what you CAN eat, not what you can't eat. Include fruits, vegetables, lean meats, healthy fats and complex carbohydrates. Focus more on nourishing your body by feeding it good things as opposed to restricting or cutting things out.

- Eat real food. 21-year-old Kelsey wouldn't have told you this but a piece of fruit and nuts are better than a protein bar. Yes, even a quest bar. If it swam in the ocean, crawled on the ground or grew out of it, it’s probably good to eat (barring individual dietary restrictions such as celiac disease or vegetarianism).

- Mostly plants. Mostly is a relative term. You don't have to eat a diet comprised of 99% plants but include as many as you can every day. A really easy way to cut down on eating other crap is to start by adding more fruits and veggies in. Throw spinach in your protein shake (or literally any dish). Add vegetable side dishes or salads to your meals or snacks.

When you include more plants, you’ll naturally have less room for other junk. If it grows from the ground consider it a plant - fruits, vegetables, beans, lentils, seeds and nuts (yes, in my world this includes peanut butter)

- If you don't like it, don't eat it. Seriously. Ever find yourself eating egg whites and asparagus all day only to find that you binge on an entire quart of Rocky road at night? When you are on a diet that leaves you feeling deprived the end result is often overeating at the first sign of temptation.

- Eat stuff you do like. Sort of goes without saying after the last point. Eating should be an enjoyable experience; it's part of a healthy relationship with food. Try to find unprocessed, healthy foods that you enjoy. Don’t have any now? Experiment with healthy foods and check out recipes on sites like Greatist or Fannetastic Foods.  

- If you need to eat, eat. If you don't, don't. I hear you, easier said than done.  However, learning to listen to your body's internal hunger cues is ultimately the best long-term weight management strategy available. Chronic dieting can turn off these cues and make you overly focused on food. Learn to listen to your body and eat when and what it needs. This also includes listening for cues on when your body is done eating.  

- Focus on your food. Avoid distractions when you eat. How many times have you eaten while driving or engrossed in a scandalous Facebook post only to finish and not even recall eating at all? Just like exercise, eating is a health honoring practice. Give yourself time to fully engage in and enjoy your meals to fully appreciate the experience (this will help in the process of learning when you need to eat and when you don’t).

- Don't starve yourself. As a human being, this should seem intuitive. Bodies run on fuel, that fuel is food, not getting enough of that fuel makes your body run poorly, and can even contribute to long term weight gain. (More on that to come in a future post on dieting and intuitive eating)

- Give yourself some wiggle room. Dichotomizing foods into categories that are “good” or “bad” is a sure way to create an unhealthy relationship with food. By aiming to follow the advice above you can rest assured that most of your dietary choices will be health promoting. This way, when you do indulge in foods you would have once considered “bad” their effect on your overall diet and health will be minimal.

Healthy eating is a fluid experience and not defined by one super-healthy meal or one sugar-loaded dessert. By following these guidelines, you will find a diet that is healthy, sustainable and tailored to your individual needs.

Now go, eat and be merry!

By Kelsey Brown



* For further resources on intuitive eating check out or Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole M.S., R.D. and Elyse Resch M.S., R.D., F.A.D.A.