It seems like a day doesn’t go by when we read about some contradictory advice about what to eat. Eggs are bad; now they’re good. Same for cheese, butter, etc. Carbs are bad; now not so much! What are we supposed to eat?

Extreme diets don’t work. Too few calories will lower your metabolism and not provide you with the nutrition that you need to maintain your health. Also, eating too much protein can negatively impact your health. Too few carbohydrates is another problem; as is, eating them in the form of sugar (fructose, corn syrup, etc.) Red meat can be a problem (hot dogs especially) which contain carcinogens which can cause cancers such as colorectal cancer. What’s left to eat?

Actually, quite a lot of foods are good for you. It’s just a matter of figuring out what works for you. I’ve always felt that a cookie cutter diet approach doesn’t work for most people. Based on age, sex, health, genetics and medical conditions; we are different and we have different nutritional needs. If you have health issues; I suggest you ask your doctor for a referral to a nutritionist. Or find a health coach who specializes in nutrition.

If you like to do research; then have at it! With the internet, there is a wealth of information (and misinformation) out there. Stay away from fad diets, pills and potions that promise perfect health, weight loss, etc. without doing anything other than taking their concoction. You want to look at things that are science based. It’s a confusing world out there when it comes to food!

My philosophy is to keep it simple. Food should be as whole as possible. By this I mean, not processed. Try to eat as clean a diet as you can. This doesn’t have to be expensive. Buying in bulk and cooking your food yourself is one way to go. Or if you don’t have time; rotisserie chickens (hormone and antibiotic free) with frozen vegetables (not with sauces, etc.) are a good option. If these chickens are too expensive, buy one and cook it yourself. We have many food options now and it’s possible to eat healthy on a budget.

Summer is a great season in New England for fresh healthy food. I go to Ferjulian’s farm stand in Hudson for a lot of my produce. I also go to the Farmer’s Market at Russell’s this time of year. As I’ve gotten older, I crave less meat so I load up on more dairy (whole fat only). When fat or sugar is removed from food, usually something else is put in (chemicals, etc.) If you look at the sugar content of low fat and fat free yogurts; it can be sky high. That’s because it’s a processed food and they’re looking for a way to make it taste better. Buy plain full fat yogurt (Greek or otherwise) and add fruit only jam or fresh fruit to it.

Be aware that your nutritional needs change as you age. I used to eat a salad every day but I can’t any longer. My body doesn’t like to digest raw veggies any longer. I eat a salad a couple times a week now and have to time when I eat them so I’m not up all night feeling sick. I eat more lightly cooked veggies now. I also eat high fiber pasta and make my own sauce with veggies pureed into the sauce. I also do this with my healthy lasagna in the winter. My family doesn’t even know the veggies are in there!

Variety is also important when it comes to food. When I was younger I used to eat the same thing every day for months at a time. No more! I like to eat different things. I love Middle Eastern food! Whether it’s Greek, Turkish, Armenian, etc., it’s all good. Mostly vegetarian, with healthy ingredients like lentils, feta, olive oil; what’s not to love! Massis Bakery on Mt. Auburn in Watertown has wonderful healthy food. Pop their falafel in the microwave and enjoy!

What’s your lifestyle like? Do you exercise regularly which means that you need more calories to support your exercise? Do you have a medical condition such as hypertension which means you should limit your sodium intake? Diabetes presents another challenge when it comes to nutrition. Obesity can present it’s own challenges if it contributes to poor health. Get some help when it comes to what you put into your body to fuel it.

Unlike cigarettes, drugs and alcohol; we can’t live without food. My goal is to eat healthy and move my body every day. I’m looking forward to a long healthy life of good food and company. As I’m fond of saying; I’m not the food police. I don’t monitor what others eat. I do that for myself not others. The old saying; “You are what you eat” is so true. To maximize your health and therefore your life; eating a healthy diet is the way to go. Bon appetit!

Debra Goldman is the owner of Pilates Works Inc. a private Pilates and personal training studio in Wayland

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