Eat right, your way, every day. That is the message being promoted by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Every March they have a campaign called National Nutrition Month® to get people focused on making informed nutrition choices. I am pleased to see my profession moving away from rigid pyramids and plate diagrams that previously dictated how Americans should eat. Moving towards a broadened definition of “eating right” is long overdue.
Eating healthfully means different things to different people, as it should. We are all genetically unique and there is no one-size-fits-all diet that works for everyone. Nutritional needs vary depending on age and stage of development, gender and state of health. Food preferences vary by region and ethnicity. The uneven economic landscape of our country means that some have access to haute nutrition trends like grass fed meats and organic produce, while others face food insecurity on a daily basis. The science of nutrition is continually evolving, and as its evolution unfolds we slapped with the reality that we have been wrong about many previous nutrition beliefs. What we once thought was nutrition gospel for the masses has proven to be inaccurate in some cases.
When I was studying to be a dietitian I had no idea that what I was learning would literally be obsolete within a few years. I sometimes look back at my old clinical nutrition therapy textbook and realize how far our knowledge has come in such a short time. Looking back on my naivete as a new dietitian, I now realize that the field of nutrition is in its infancy. I no longer expect that what I am learning today will hold true forever.
The juxtaposition of the evolution of nutrition and my own personal nutritional needs hit me like a ton of bricks a few years ago. It was at this time that I developed numerous food sensitivities and everything I thought I knew about healthful eating went out the window. I, like many dietitians, practiced what I preached. I ate whole grains, lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, soy, nuts, lean meats, low fat dairy products, dark chocolate, and red wine. And in a cosmic sick joke sort of way, it turns out I am sensitive to many of these so-called healthy foods.
In the last few years I have truly learned what it means to listen to my body. I have discerned, albeit the hard way, the meaning of healthy eating for me. No longer do I approach nutrition with a one size fits all mentality. We are all unique and therefore food affects us differently. While almonds and blueberries may be considered super foods by many experts, they do not agree with me and will never be on my list of super foods. By honing this skill of identifying and eating foods that are best for me, I have been able to alleviate some symptoms that I never would have attributed to food, most especially healthy food.
My hope for the future is that the study of nutrition will allow us to help individuals understand what it means to eat right, their way, every day. Can you imagine a world where we can give a newborn baby a diet prescription tailor-made for their perfect little bodies? My ideal dream is that we can move away from chemically laden food and have an abundant supply of organic, seasonal, locally grown food that is affordable for all. My vision may seem utopian to some, but my own personal journey over the last year has taken me at least partway down this path.
My hope for each of you is that during this month of nutrition awareness you will begin to focus on the health of your body in relation to the food you eat, and make choices that that are right for you on your path to wellness.