Finding the right balance in healthy eating takes more than just nutrients and food groups. Take a closer look, and explore other factors that mean just as much to your health and happiness.
When you hear the recommendation to incorporate “balance” with food and nutrition, what comes to mind? Maybe you picture a plate with some veggies, a starch, and a protein, or maybe you visualize some ideal proportion of the major food groups throughout the day.
While those conceptions of balance with nutrition are useful and true to a sense, there’s much more to the concept of balance than the principles of nutrition science alone.
There’s also the art of how to put these things into practice, and how to ensure the way you eat is sustainable and realistic in the long-term.
It’s about uncovering whether your nutrition is in balance for you.
Sure, the plate you pictured with a protein, starch and veggies on it is one form of balance — this is one of many elements of gentle nutrition.
Gentle nutrition is applying the concepts of nutrition science in a way that isn’t obsessive, rigid or overly rules-based. While gentle nutrition is important, there’s so much more to balance when we’re talking about food.
We’re missing the point in the conversation about balance when all we’re talking about is getting a balance of food groups—there’s more to balance than that.
Balance also means allowing yourself to make food decisions that bring you closer to other people, such as eating that birthday cake with your kids and having a great time doing it.
Balance means occasionally realizing you haven’t had many vegetables lately, and planning meals with plenty of veggies to be able to feel your best.
Balance means that you occasionally choose to eat what’s convenient because there are only so many hours in the day.
Balance with nutrition is the art of allowing each of these reasons for eating to have their time and place.
When you allow any one of these reasons for eating win out every time, your sense of balance and well-being may suffer. When a person takes their nutrition knowledge to the extreme and makes every single food choice from a sense of good vs. bad, there are consequences. When a person makes every food decision out of a sense of what’s convenient, they might not feel as great as if they were able to cook more at home.
In order to really practice the principle of balance with nutrition, one must balance the ways they decide what to eat, and allow different reasons to win out occasionally.
Healthy nutrition is definitely a science, but it’s also a delicate art of balancing our reasons for eating and nurturing a healthy relationship with food. Don’t get overly caught up in rules — use the principles of nutrition science to help guide you, but allow yourself to figure out the delicate art of balance with nutrition.
Your job is to take the best care of yourself possible, and that’s a delicate balance between gentle nutrition, what sounds good, what’s satisfying, what’s convenient or doable with your schedule and financial means, and what’s delicious.
All of those reasons for eating deserve to be in balance with one another.
Adapted from the original article.
HEADER IMAGE: JONATHAN GALLEGOS
Paige Smathers, RDN, CD is a nutrition therapist based in Salt Lake City who helps individuals find positive ways to overcome struggles they experience with food and body image. She specializes in practical, down-to-earth solutions for those in eating disorder recovery and chronic dieting through a weight-neutral positive approach. Paige hosts the popular Nutrition Matters Podcast and runs her private practice, Positive Nutrition.