The concept of Yin Yang can be applied to food selection for a healthy diet

The Yin Yang Symbol Offers Path to a Balanced Diet

How to use the philosophy of Yin Yang instead of MyPlate to make healthy food choices

The food world got a new circle in June called MyPlate. It was created to illustrate how we should proportion our food at each meal to balance the diet. It works pretty well if you can separate your food into individual piles of grain, protein, fruits, vegetables and dairy, but not if you’re eating a slice of mushroom pizza and a fruit smoothie.

Given the many ways food is combined to make it taste good – think lasagna, burritos, sushi – the strategically divided MyPlate is not the handiest tool for diet planning. But the ancient symbol of Yin Yang is. It represents the idea of balance by viewing everything in relation to its whole, like the complementary characteristics of day and night, sky and earth, fire and water.

Using the concept of Yin Yang at meals would encourage us to think about whether our choices harmonize well as part our daily diet, instead of trying to figure out into what food group each item on our plate belongs. I particularly like the way the symbol of Yin Yang invokes the importance of balance without making us feel like we need a scale to get it right.

Seeing the image of Yin Yang might gently nudge us to be mindful when eating and consider whether we have had enough whole grains for the day or possibly too many. In that way it could help us make healthy food choices without ever having to deconstruct a bowl of soup into its component parts.

The inclusive nature of Yin Yang also allows for all of our food choices, without judgment, as long as no food or drink dominates our diet or is neglected. This distinction of Yin Yang preserves the essence of cuisine that makes eating so enjoyable. In the harmonizing world of Yin Yang, food can be a little salty or spicy or savory or sweet. It can be hot or cold, liquid or solid, crunchy or smooth. All of the most highly personal to the most patently universal aspects of food selection can be accommodated.

In short, the Yin Yang message can be used to promote moderation and variety in the diet. And that’s pretty much all we need to know to achieve good nutrition. Why not conjure up the image of Yin Yang at your next meal and see what happens?

Super foods are not enough for a healthy diet

Are Super Foods the Key to a Healthy Diet?

Quality and variety are essential for good nutrition

The battle of the super foods has always fascinated me. We live on a planet with more than 390,000 plant species, many of them edible but never sampled, yet there are some who think they have figured out what the Top 10 Super Foods are that we should eat for good nutrition.

I don’t buy it and never did. Any time you limit your diet to a top 10 food list, no matter how virtuous, you are losing the value of variety.

Eating a wide variety of foods is one of the basic tenets for a healthy diet. This means you should spread out your choices over all food groups and within each one, while also switching it up with the seasons. For example, if you like apples, it’s a good idea to buy some from New York State as well as Washington and swop out a Cortland for a Crispin or a Cameo occasionally, too.

That said, eating an apple a day is not the goal. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that we eat 3-4 servings of fruit every day. That’s 1 ½ – 2 cups of fruit 365 days of the year. Most Americans don’t even come close to meeting that goal.

A 2009 report from the Centers for Disease Control found that in no state were U.S. adults eating the recommended 3-4 servings of fruit a day and only 32.5% were consuming fruit two or more times a day. Debating whether blueberries or pomegranates should hold first place on this year’s super food list is a distraction from the more important issue that most Americans simply need to eat more fruit!

Eating fruit in any form can help close the gap. Fresh fruit is fine when available and affordable, while frozen fruit offers year round value. Canned fruit in unsweetened juice provides convenience and cost savings every day of the week, and dried fruit offers economy of space as well. And what could be easier than drinking a cup of 100% fruit juice once a day?

My strategy has been to always include a serving of fruit as part my breakfast and lunch, then have another as an afternoon snack. Even if I’m traveling, I can always get a glass of juice on a plane or in a bar and buy some trail mix with dried fruit in any convenience store. When the fruit bowl is empty at home, I always have berries in the freezer for my yogurt, mandarin orange segments in the pantry to toss into a salad and sundried tomatoes to snack on.

Something as basic as eating more fruit can result in dramatic changes in the quality of your diet. You’ll benefit not only from all of the vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytonutrients you’ll be consuming, but also because of all the other stuff you won’t be.

Why not keep a list of the different types of fruit you eat over one year to see if you can come up with 100? That’s a as a super food list I’d really like to see!

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Motivation comes from within, the reasons are your own.

Getting Motivated to Eat Right

Why motivation is a critical step to eating right

Somewhere along the way, after counseling thousands of clients about food and nutrition, creating hundreds of handouts, writing books and articles, teaching classes, delivering presentations and providing media interviews, I realized that all of the valuable nutrition information I was disseminating did not automatically motivate those on the receiving end to eat better. The only real measure of success for all of my efforts has been the improved knowledge about food and nutrition people have gained from me. But seeing that knowledge put into practice is another matter entirely.

Finding the motivation to act on one’s knowledge of how to lead a healthier lifestyle is a private matter. It cannot be taught, but must be discovered within. And it must be a deeply powerful motivator because we must draw upon it every day, several times a day, to reap the benefits. Making good food choices just three out of seven days a week doesn’t cut it. Nor does exercising like a fiend after every binge.

My motivators for eating right and exercising regularly have been clear to me for most of my life. I had the motivation long before I had all of the knowledge acquired as a registered dietitian about the do’s and don’ts of living well. Those forces have never weakened their hold over me. With each new day and every new situation I have faced, the decision to make wise food choices and remain active have always won out over all other temptations and distractions. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that my life is a bore – far from it. I just don’t lose sight of the prize.

Here’s what has motivated me to maintain a healthy body weight for over 50 years and better than average stamina, strength and flexibility for a woman my age:

Low pain threshold. I don’t like to hiccup, let along cough. Knowing certain behaviors can increase my risk for pain and discomfort is like an inoculation against living carelessly.

Belief in prevention. Most treatments involve some risk and lots of side effects, not to mention pain, so preventing injury and illness has always made more sense to me. By living clean I pay it forward.

Fear of hospitals. Maybe it was that first time I visited a hospital as a little girl and smelled that smell when I exited the elevator on the ward where my grandmother was a patient, but I can still recall wanting to run away as fast as I could. I have never gotten over my aversion to hospitals and do all that I can to avoid them.

If you haven’t found your personal motivation to eat smart and stay fit, this is where your journey should begin. If you have found it, I’d love to hear what works for you?

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