Just Tell Me What I Should Eat

by | Apr 10, 2023 | Nutrition

Image: Shutterstock

The fundamentals of how to eat to be metabolically healthy don’t need to be complicated.

What should we eat to be healthy?

The answer to this question, if you’re already healthy, is surprisingly simple.

But if you’re not healthy, the answer can get incredibly complex. Why? Because of all the possible combinations of things that can go wrong with a human body. 

For a variety of reasons, the field of nutrition has grown overly focused on fixing what’s wrong. Most likely this is simply a natural development stemming from the rapid increase in diet-related chronic conditions such as diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and high blood pressure.

Yet, this doesn’t mean that the fundamentals of how to eat to be metabolically healthy need to be complicated. Cultures and societies across the world have managed this successfully with virtually no assistance from nutrition science, physiology, or biochemistry.

Let me break this down into two broad categories: the fundamentals, and the specialized. The fundamentals aren’t complicated. In fact, I can cover them in this one short article. 

On the other hand, covering the topics I think of as specialized, because they apply only under certain conditions, might well take an encyclopedia, depending on how detailed you want to take things. It’s worth noting that almost all the combat found in our Diet Wars culture occurs in this specialized category. Most commonly things get complicated when people are trying to handle weight gain and obesity, but complexity also crops up in relation to other conditions, such as gluten and lactose intolerance and auto-immunity.

Just think for a moment how simple nutrition and eating would be if these chronic diseases were at very low levels. Like they were a few generations ago! Quite a different picture. 

To address the fundamentals, let me introduce Luise Light, the scientist tapped by the USDA in the 1970s to develop an update to their 1956 Basic Four food groups dietary recommendations. Light and her team did their work, created the new food pyramid and sent it to the USDA. Unfortunately, the pyramid they had created was not the pyramid that the USDA eventually published. In fact, it was so significantly altered that Dr. Light felt compelled to write her own recommendations in a book entitled “What to Eat.” This is how she described her approach:

While it’s not possible to live 100 percent risk-free, this book explains how to tip the balance in your favor. It offers Ten Rules for Healthy Eating, a new simpler food pyramid guide, and a step-by-step eating plan that breaks through the nutrition confusion, helps you filter out the disinformation that abounds, shows how to protect your kids from ad-pollution, and arms you with strategies that will help you confidently make smart, sane, safe, and enjoyable food choices. Yes, food is supposed to be a pleasure, not a prescription like medicine! This is not a case of the nutrition police trying to confiscate your Twinkies and hamburgers. It is a matter of giving you tools to choose foods you relish in the amounts and forms best suited for your health and well-being.

Here then are the fundamentals, presented in a simple way to guide our choices of the foods we buy, prepare, serve and eat.

Ten Rules for Healthy Eating

  1. Eat a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables.
  2. Eat whole-grain pasta, rice, breads, and cereals.
  3. Eat certified organic foods.
  4. Eat natural fats/avoid synthetic fats.
  5. Avoid refined starch and sugars.
  6. Eat wild fish and meat and eggs from range-fed, antibiotic- and hormone-free animals.
  7. Eat several good sources of calcium.
  8. Avoid too much salt and salty foods.
  9. Avoid processed and additive-rich foods.
  10. Drink plenty of clean, filtered water.

True, given the state of our food supply it can be a major challenge to make these basic healthy eating practices accessible to everyone. That’s a very real problem and not one to be minimized.

However, I like her recommendation that you can think of these rules as tools that you can use when you are making food choices, all under your own control. By adding or exchanging one better food practice for a poorer one, you can begin to turn things around and take change in stride.

Here at eSavvyHealth we make it our business to provide information to assist you to control your own food environment. Our news briefs, guidebooks and courses offer a wide array of resources to help sustain and improve your health. We hope you make good use of them. 

Bob Graves

Bob Graves


Bob Graves is a long-time veteran of publishing of health, environmental and public-benefit information. He holds a Masters degree in Nutrition from UC Davis.

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