Throughout the years, I have fine tuned my stance on what works when it comes to nutrition. While there is no such thing as a “one-size-fits-all” diet, I believe that many people will benefit from a diet that follows the basic principles listed below:
1. Eat as close to nature as possible. If you can pick it, gather it, hunt it, or fish it, you are probably on the right track! In the words of Michael Pollan, “Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.”
2. Foods in your kitchen should have a short-shelf life. You should be going to the grocery store or farmer’s market at least once per week because real food is not shelf stable (with the exception of a few essentials like spices and oils). This means avoiding highly processed and packaged foods. If it’s in a box, plastic container, or has a health claim on it, think twice.
3. Eat Fat! Fats (including saturated fat) and cholesterol NEED to be part of your diet on a daily basis. This is especially true when it comes to optimal hormone balancing! The old school theories about avoiding saturated fat and cholesterol are far more complicated than what is presented in the media and have limited scientific backing. If you’re still skeptical, I’d recommend looking into the work by Chris Masterjohn, PhD or this journal article.
4. Balance your plate. A healthy hormone balancing plate has plenty of vegetables, clean protein, and healthy fat. As a general recommendation, each of your meals should include these three components. Yes, even at breakfast.
4. Quality is a priority. This means choosing local, seasonal, organic, grass-fed, pastured, and wild foods as often as possible. Ideally, you should be eating animals that have eaten well themselves. You should be consuming produce that hasn’t relied on 21st century pesticides and farming methods. If money is an issue, please check out this amazing ebook by Robb Wolf.
5. Listen to your body. What works for you today may not work for you tomorrow. Food sensitivities are commonly undiagnosed, so pay attention to how you are responding to certain foods. By following the template below, you will be minimizing your exposure to many of the common food allergens and sensitizing agents.
6. Variety is key. In the beginning, you may find that choosing a few foods that you feel comfortable with works well, and that’s great! However, after you master the basics please start adding more color and selection to your meals. Chicken, broccoli, and coconut oil work fabulous in the beginning, but your body needs a range of proteins, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds to function at its very best!
7. If you can’t stop, keep it out. You know those foods where “just 1” turns into the entire package? (for me it’s ice cream), keep them out of your household. These foods are what my friends at Whole9 call “foods with no breaks.” Hormones trump motivation every time. You’re not a weak person, the foods are designed to win. Keep tempting foods out of the house.
As a general rule, consider this food template as your nutrient-dense, anti-inflammatory starting place and tweak it from there.
Eat more of these foods:
- Quality meats: (beef, wild game, chicken, pork, turkey, fish, eggs)
- Quality fats: (avocados, olives, olive oil, coconut products, raw nuts, seeds, grass-fed ghee/butter)
- Lots of vegetables
- Organ meats
- Fermented foods (traditional sauerkraut/pickles, kimchi, kvass, kombucha)
- Bone broths
Eat these foods in moderation:
- Processed meat that is gluten and soy free (organic and grass-fed is preferable)
- Whole fruit (amount is dependent on weight goals and blood sugar control)
- Nuts and seeds (preferably raw or dry roasted)
- Coffee/caffeinated beverages (or avoid completely)
Avoid these foods:
- Conventional dairy (pasteurized, non-organic, non-grassfed)
- Grains and Pseudo-grains (all – including corn, quinoa and rice)
- Concentrated sweeteners/artificial sweeteners
- Processed/refined foods
- Industrial seed oils (soybean, corn, safflower, sunflower, cottonseed, canola, etc)
- Processed condiments/sauces/seasonings (with a few exceptions such as mustard, coconut aminos, and other condiments where you can easily understand the ingredients and it follows along other guidelines of the template)
Give it time. Making changes to your diet isn’t easy. In a world of hyper-palatable food we have to navigate through many tempting barriers. Stay focused on the prize. If you treat your body well, it will reward you ten-fold.