Guiding Principles for Optimal Nutrition

I started dieting at the age of 12. Because this was before Google, I didn’t have any guidance. When we finally got AOL dial-up in high school, I understood the Internet to be a place for me to chat online with boys and leave dramatic away messages.

Now, we are at the other end of the spectrum. We are bombarded numerous times a day with how one ‘should’ eat.  So, which is it? Should we be eating Paleo or Vegan? Pescetarian or the Grapefruit Diet? Is the Grapefruit Diet even still a thing?

While there are infinite opinions out there, there are a few principles we all can agree on...

1.    Eat more plants.

Plants contain enzymes. Think of enzymes as little workers that ensure you’re digesting properly and absorbing all of the useful nutrients within your food. Every cell in your body (and there are 37 trillion…) needs specific nutrients to function. Want to ensure you’re providing adequate cell-fuel? Eat more plants.

2.    Eat whole foods.

Whole foods are ones grown in nature, processed foods are created in a laboratory.

It’s not your fault that foods tinkered with in a laboratory taste so good. In fact, food manufacturers pay chemists to create the most satisfying and addicting combinations of salt, fat and sugar so you always want more. Unfortunately, your body doesn’t recognize fake chemicals as ‘food,’ but rather as an invader. This means your immune system attacks it, diverting attention from other important processes within you, like keeping you alert and removing toxins from your body.

Fortunately, Mother Nature is brilliant. Our world was created with such intricate, intentional detail—and that applies to our naturally grown foods. Whole foods contain nutrients in specific ratios for optimal digestion.

3.    Eat organic and/or local foods.

Foods that aren’t organic have been dowsed with chemicals to keep bugs and weeds away. The chemicals used are extremely dangerous to inhale or touch, yet WE EAT IT ON OUR FOOD?! As these pesticides and herbicides pass through our intestines, they continue to kill bugs—our gut bacteria! Up to 70% of our immune system lives in our gut, please be gentle on your healthy bacteria.

Nutrients deplete over time. If you are eating an orange from California, but live in New York, you have to take into account:

Orange is picked and transferred to a holding area.

Orange is transported across the country.

Orange sits in the grocery store for a week before you buy it.

Orange sits in your refrigerator for 3 days before you eat it.

By the time the food is actually in your body, most of the nutrients are gone! By eating local, you cut down the crop-to-table time frame.

4.    Eat simply.

All foods have different transit times (how long it takes to digest and exit your body) and require different digestive enzymes. For instance, fat doesn’t really start to breakdown until it hits the small intestine - but carbohydrates start to break down in the mouth with the release of an enzyme found in saliva. Protein doesn’t start to digest until it hits the stomach. Suddenly, your pepperoni pizza is making you feel a bit sluggish as your body tries to solve 3 different digestion puzzles at the same time.

Many people eat fruit as a dessert. Fruit can speed through digestion in 30 minutes due to the high water content, but if it gets stuck on top of something else being digested, it is forced to sit and wait. This waiting process often results in the fermentation and rotting of the fruit. This rotting results in bloating and gas.

5.    Eat when you’re hungry. Stop eating when you’re full.

While this sounds the simplest principle, re-learning how to feel our internal hunger signals can be tough. We’ve been told when to eat since we were infants, and many processed foods interfere with our natural process to regulate hunger. Vowing to sit and eat your meals without distraction (not even your cell phone!) is a huge first step towards reconnecting with your internal hunger meter. Eating with awareness and intention is key and creates an experience which is nourishing and holistic – a complete body, mind and spirit experience.

TORY DUBE is a Holistic Nutrition Specialist, Certified Life Coach and Certified Hypnotherapist through Southwest Institute of Healing Arts. She is the founder of Tory Dube Holistic Health (formerly 'Hotchickpea', founded in NYC). Tory writes for several health publications, is a children's book author, hosts international wellness retreats, and works with clients around the world. Follow her here:

Tory Dube

TORY DUBE is a certified Holistic Health and Lifestyle coach in NYC. After overcoming a 12-year stint with crippling anxiety, a people-pleasing addiction and an eating disorder, she's on a mission to free woman and teens from their own heavy food baggage. (Disclaimer, she has a bigger motive -- the less you're obsessing over your thigh-gap, the more you can show up in the world as your unique and perfectly imperfect self).