Hey! Guess what time it is? It’s National Nutrition Month time again! That’s right, the entire month of March is devoted to celebrating the wonderment that is life-sustaining, nourishing sustenance, otherwise known as…healthy eating! Furthermore, March 14th happens to be Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Day! I know; it is difficult to contain all the excitement, isn’t it?!
Anyway, today’s topic was brought to you by the colors black and white, because those are the colors nutritional concepts are NOT. Every single day someone asks me a point-blank question about some food or nutrient expecting a point-blank answer. Those of you who have spent any time around me already know that my answers are never point-blank…they are loooong and probably annoyingly informative. The reason my answers can typically never be “cut and dry” is because nutrition simply doesn’t work that way. Nutrition is not “black and white;” it is not always simple; rather, nutrition concepts are sometimes gray and blurry. Let’s get to some examples, shall we?
One of my most favorite and recent examples of gray concepts happens to revolve around the most delicious yogurt in the world, Noosa. First and foremost, please know that I do not work for Noosa, nor do I receive any sort of compensation for what I’m about to say (but Noosa – if you’re listening – some coupons for free Noosa would be DOPE; just sayin’). I often catch a lot of flack for eating Noosa, mostly because it is “high in sugar.” But let’s dissect the situation and make it complicated for a second. An average Noosa can have more than 20 grams of sugar in an 8-ounce container. Ok, ok…peel your jaw up off the floor and hear me out. Of that 20-something grams of sugar, a significant portion is lactose. Lactose, if you’re unfamiliar, is simply “milk sugar;” it is a natural carbohydrate (aka sugar) found in milk. Some of those grams of sugar do come from ghastly added sugar, sure. But here’s an important aspect to consider: the scant amount of added not-good-for-you added sugar is typically mixed into a real fruit puree that is the essence of what makes Noosa so amazing. That little container of joy also has roughly 12-15 grams of protein, a boatload of calcium, and some delightful little gut germs, all of which keep your insides happy.
What’s the point of my droning on and on about Noosa? Honestly, it’s just a detailed example of something I desperately try to help people understand each day, which is to stop missing the forest for the trees. In other words, stop getting so hung up on tiny aspects of the food you eat that you miss the chance to get NOURISHED. If I was given the choice between plain yogurt or no yogurt, I’d pick no yogurt. (We could get into a debate about whether or not you can or should have dairy, but that is for another day.) What I’m getting around to is the fact that one of my major sources of calcium is Noosa. That tiny amount of sugar in Noosa makes it so stinking tasty that I have one nearly every single day. And, because of Noosa, I have a protein-rich and nutrient-rich snack most days around 3 pm, which prevents me from eating my children and husband when I walk in the door due to being uncontrollably hangry after a long day of work.
Don’t pass up the avocado because it “has too many calories;” you’ll miss out on a TON of fiber, potassium, B-vitamins, and antioxidants. Don’t pass up the Noosa because it has “too much sugar;” you’ll miss out on probiotics, calcium, vitamin C, and protein. Don’t avoid the 100% whole grain bread because it’s got “too many carbs;” you’ll miss out on magnesium, fiber, and folate. When you take a step back from all the noise about nutrition and start to refocus on eating real foods, you don’t need to count anything or measure anything. Ask yourself how that food got to you (without a Google search), and if you can’t figure it out, don’t eat it. If you don’t recognize the ingredients on the package, don’t buy it. Food should be simple, pure, and wholesome. Food should not be created by someone in a lab wearing goggles; food should be grown and raised. But, occasionally, indulging in stuff that sucks nutritionally but makes you have a moment of joy…well, that isn’t terrible if done sparingly. Be smart.
Don’t get so caught up in the details that you miss little opportunities to put nourishing, tasty, amazing nutrients into your belly. Eat mostly vegetables, some fruit, some 100% whole grains, some protein-rich foods, some fats, drink LOTS of water, and get up and move around. Despite all the talk about sugar today, try to consume less and less and less added sugar to the best of your real-life abilities. But try not to overthink it! And, as always, consult a local registered dietitian nutritionist to help you work out the details and optimize the best you there is.
Love ya – mean it.