Immersed in the food and nutrition profession, I’m always surveying the landscape and trying to come up with simple yet impactful messaging to encourage eating well and feeling great about it.
I continue to promote taking an 80-20 approach to healthy eating. Perfection is never the goal or the requirement in achieving optimal health. Where being mindful of the source and quality of what we eat is important, being meticulously “clean” about eating in every choice is also not necessary. Washing our hands before we eat is actually the most important and proven effective “clean eating” measure we can take in preventing illness. Cook at home and you’ll also be well on your way to mastering clean eating!
You’ve heard me speak about how doing diet math and precisely tracking each morsel you eat by using the numbers on the Nutrition Facts section of food labels isn’t the answer either. Instead, reading the Ingredients List and noting what the food is actually made of is useful. Many of the very best foods out there, think fruits and vegetables, have no labels at all and minimal packaging. They don’t have to try to convince us they’re good for us with bold misleading claims about what they don’t contain. I’ve also encouraged choosing mostly food that rots if left on the counter for too long since foods with an eternal shelf life don’t typically provide the natural nourishment we require.
To all of these guiding principles and in an ongoing effort to make all of this even easier, I’m adding this latest rule of thumb for choosing great food:
Decent food doesn’t generate excess garbage.
Garbage food promotes both garbage as waste/litter and garbage behaviour.
Sadly, I’m reminded of this every time I head out on one of my regular running routes. I run up a rural-ish road that takes me past a lush green sports field and along a path leading to spectacular ocean and mountain vistas. The scenery is pristine, fresh and energizing. I can’t imagine throwing a speck of litter onto this sacred ground and the beauty that’s all around.
I think, or at least hope, it’s the minority, but every time I head out on this route I see garbage at various points on the side of the road. I never see salad bowls, nut butter jars, fish bones, vitamin bottles or paper bags from wholegrain bread strewn along the route. What is always there is pop cans, potato chip bags, chocolate bar wrappers, slurpee cups or fast food shrapnel – all litter from what can be considered unhealthy food we should eat less than 20% of the time, if at all. Note: Real ‘rock stars’ don’t litter. There are also always cigarette butts on the ground. A serious fire hazard in this wooded part of the country, I’ve always wondered how our beautiful earth can possibly be considered someone’s ashtray??? Sober or not when doing it, I wonder if some people aren’t even conscious of the fact they’re littering? That seemed to be the case in a news clip I saw where a local reporter interviewed a young couple who denied littering mere moments after throwing their McWaste out their car window – an action that was captured on film.
Perhaps the worst food I’ve ever come across for lack of nutrition along with over-packaging is those gimmicks marketed as a kid’s lunch or snack pack. As I ran along on a gorgeous blue sky day and saw a couple of those on the ground, all I could think about was how garbage food leads to garbage behaviour. I had to write this post because I suspect many of my nature-loving friends have also made this observation at one point or another and been baffled by it. If I see a trash bin nearby, I pick up the trash to discard properly. I then wash my hands while shaking my head in wonder. Then I reflect on the walking group I can start someday for earth-conscious nature-loving retired folk who value fresh air, getting outside for walks in the company of friends and doing something to keep the neighbourhood beautiful.
I know I’m speaking to the converted, but continue to respect your body and the earth by eating wholesome, low garbage-generating food. Ingesting quality, nourishing food also leads to clearer thinking and most likely the kind of thoughts that would prevent throwing garbage out your car window or anywhere you feel instead of in a proper recycling or trash bin. Also encourage kids to eat for their health and the health of their planet.