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Principles of Healthy Eating

What I’ve Learned About Healthy Eating and What Works for Me

I have come to realize that despite all the information that is out there there are a few things I’ve learned about nutrition and healthy eating that I am very unlikely to change.

Over the past 2  years my interest in nutrition and what I eat has become more of a passion and the connection between what I eat and athletic performance continues to fascinate me. I will always question and be open to new theories and trying new things. I will continue to make dietary changes as I learn and as my nutritional needs change but some things I know for sure and I can say with almost 100% certainty I will not change:

I don’t “diet.” Stand in line at the grocery store and your bombarded with headlines about diets to lose weight easily and fast. The diet industry is a bazillion dollar business with promises of looking your best, lose 10 pounds in 3 days or lose weight without working out. The headlines and marketing [very briefly] catch my attention but in the end I put the magazine back on the rack without giving the headlines a second thought. I eat to be the healthiest and happiest I can be. 

I avoid processed foods. With the nutrition changes I’ve made over the past 2 years I noticed the biggest improvement in my health, how I felt and my appearance when I eliminated processed foods. That one small step made the biggest difference.

I find alternative ways to handle stress. I have a tendency to be a stress eater. I am quick to grab something to eat when I’m stressed to feel that brief time of relief. I understand that I can easily fall into a cycle of stress>eat to feel better>feel bad physically and mentally about what I ate>stress>eat again. Recognizing this this about me makes it easier to rethink how I handle stress and successfully avoid the cycle.

I eat to run and what I eat affects my performance. With eating a plant-based diet I feel less beat up and less run down after a long run or race and my recovery time has decreased significantly.

I eat 5 times a day. When I eat 3 meals and 2 snacks I avoid, “OMG I’m starving” which is when I’m more likely to grab anything that is readily available healthy or not.

What I eat affects my health. I have a history of severe migraines, often on a weekly basis, some of which ended up with me in the emergency room. In June of 2011 I eliminated processed foods from my diet and to this day I can say it takes less than the number of fingers I have on one hand to count the number of migraines I’ve had. Maybe it’s coincidence? I don’t think so and I’m not willing to take the risk. Nothing is worth eating that means I would go back to having debilitating migraines. 

I’m not a doctor and I’m not a dietician [yet]. The principles are from personal experience, experimenting and with monitoring by my doctor.

Have you found nutrition and/or fitness principles that work for you? What are your principles of healthy eating? Do headlines of a quick fix or an easy diet catch your attention?

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34 Comments

  1. I just feel so much better when I eat fresh food and lots of fruit! I really notice the difference. I think it’s mostly because I exercise, and doing it after a heavy or greasy meal or a night of drinking makes me feel very gross!

  2. I share some of your approaches, but I still eat processed foods – protein bars/nutrition bars are a staple in my diet since I’m away from home 10+ hours a day.

    1. Hi Coco. Fortunately we have a lot more clean choices for so many convenient prepackaged foods. Eating on the go can be a challenge.

  3. My wife at times suffers from migraines. It would be a interesting test to see if eliminating processed foods will help her. Even if the migraines don’t go away, the health other benefits make it a no-brainer!

    1. Hi Franc. I would love to know if your wife tries and whether or not it made a difference. Like you said it’s a no-brainer.

      1. Hi Jill,

        I think the migraines are a combination of diet and stress. With my wife I am beginning to think it’s more stress as lately her diet is not too heavy with processed foods. Right now she is vacationing in Greece away from her stressful job and she hasn’t complained about migraines at all.

        When she gets back and eats right and the migraines return, then I can say that in her case, it’s more likely stress.

  4. Love this! I try to stay away from processed foods as well, although it’s not always easy! :0)

  5. How did you get started with eliminating processed food? What exactly is processed food? I feel you are a nutrition expert. How about a nutrition 101 post? 🙂

  6. I feel like more people need to pay attention to simply eating unprocessed foods! A lot of people also eat the “healthy” processed foods and don’t realize how bad some of them can actually be for you. While, they’re healthier options- a lot of the time it’s just not being aware. I’m sure if more people knew they’d simply just chop up some carrots or slice cucumbers with a little sea-salt for flavoring! Great tips!

  7. My fitfriday post is lame, so I wont be adding it to this weeks ff link up.
    But I will participate for next week.

    Around this time last year I started listening to the podcast the smarter science of slim. I started applying the principles in the podcast a few months later. But it took till the start of the year for me to really find a balance. I find that I eat paleo(ish) now and it really works for me. I also don’t eat as much gluten as I use to. I have definitely been arming myself with more knowledge with reading various books like wheat belly.
    I can only eat bread in limited doses now, because it makes me feel terrible. And I definitely eat more protein, which is awesome cause I crave less crap food.

  8. We probably eat too many processed foods. I try to make sure that we eat plenty of fresh foods and lean meats to try and at least partially balance it out.

  9. Yes! I agree with all these. I too am one who would get severe migraines often, many were due to working crazy hours and no sleep but eating junk is another trigger for me 🙁 Since I cleaned up my way of eating 2 years ago I have felt so much better all around 🙂 I often wonder why this is not the norm!

  10. Such great points! I always say that the best thing to cut out first is the processed foods! There is so much garbage out there!

  11. I know that I should avoid processed foods but I find it so tough when I eat out or at races…easier said than done for sure! Even though I know it does me no good I can’t resist! I have started doing a regular detox which is strict and helps me reset every month or two

  12. These are really great tips! I really need to cut out MORE processed food and have been doing it incrementally for several months, your blog is very inspirational!.

  13. I don’t eat too many processed foods. I wish I could say that my migraines have become less frequent. So happy that it’s working for you! I guess I need to try harder 🙂

  14. I’m so glad your migraines are few and far between:) It is definitely no coincidence that your food choices are helping you feel better. I know I would feel better if I cut out processed foods, just haven’t taken that step yet:/

  15. SO much truth here! My diet needs a serious overhaul, and like you, I find that its a lifestyle. I’m giving myself a challenge of clean eating for 30 days to get a good jump start. I just want to be fit and healthy! Love your blog!

    1. Well, today was day 1 and I made it! In all seriousness, even just one day has shown me how much more sugar I usually eat without even realizing it! I am no stranger to nutrition labels, but I think the most mind blowing for now has to be cereal labels! Even the “healthy” ones have so much sugar many times! But, 1 day down, 29 to go, and then a lifestyle to maintain 🙂

  16. As always, thanks for hosting Fitness Friday! We really try to limit our intake of processed foods and make sure our girls get lots of fresh fruits & veggies. It’s difficult to eliminate all processed foods, especially when we’re on the go and need a quick snack to appease the girls on long car rides, but thankfully there are lots of healthy options for prepackaged foods today. All things in moderation! We got a breadmaker for Christmas, and we’ve pretty much stopped buying commercially made bread. Not only is homemade bread super tasty, but it’s nice to know exactly what’s going into it!

  17. I totally agree! I think that eating often (as you said 5 times a day) definitely helps to regulate my hunger and has even sped up my metabolism. In making my own nutrition changes the thing that has helped me the most is eliminating processed foods as well. This was a huge change for me and has made the world of difference. Awesome post!

    1. Thanks Amy! If I had to recommend one diet change to anyone it would be to eliminate or greatly reduce processed foods. It seems like common knowledge to me because I surround myself with people that think like I do but, do you think people, in general, really know what is in the processed foods?

      1. I think people, in general, are starting to become more aware of what is in processed foods because this information is greater displayed in the media. We are introduced to these “bad” foods but are often not told why this processed gunk is “bad” for us.. that’s where a lot of the the disconnect was for me so it took effort to then research and educate myself with this information.

  18. It’s really too bad that common sense advice like yours doesn’t sell books because this is the message people need to hear! I can’t say that I’ve completely undone my “dieting” habits but I am getting there. Thank you for the reminder!

    1. Getting there is awesome! Baby steps. You’re keeping at it and trying Rhonda and that’s a great start 🙂

  19. I’m no expert by any means, but I totally agree with you about eating right! I’ve noticed a huge change in my overall performance by removing bad carbs and breads out of my diet. I feel less rundown and I feel lighter.

    That is so interesting about the processed foods and the connection to your migraines. Glad you were able to control with diet!

  20. So many great points… I think avoiding processed foods (or limiting them) is the single most important thing we can do for our health. Anything that can survive on a shelf for years is not something I want in my body! 🙂

    1. That reminds me Laura! Did you see someone bought Twinkies and they’re back on the shelves (or soon will be). Yuk!

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