There are so many dietary fads around right now that all promise the same thing: lose fat, define muscle! Gain energy! Get 6-pack abs! While the diets may have some redeeming aspects, such as to reduce or eliminate sugar, cut back or eliminate simple carbohydrates, like bread, pasta, and rice, increase protein and “good” fats, the real catch is that they are all very difficult to maintain in the long run. In fact, something like Whole 30 can be great because it sets out a time-frame for you to adhere to the changes, but after 20+ years in the health and wellness profession, I can tell you that making sustainable alterations to lifestyle and dietary patterns we hold onto is hard for most people. Truthfully, even when people have serious illnesses, they are reluctant to make changes that will alter the course of their disease.
A healthy diet is balanced with a variety of foods, flavors, and ingredients. In addition to the plate-right-in-front-of-you-rule, the broadest suggestion I typically make to a patient is to have a rainbow assortment of colors for each meal. This is helpful for when you go shopping and take a look at the available produce. Choosing by color is easy, fun for the kids, which in turn can get them excited to try new foods, and may offer a larger variety of foods than you had been preparing, out of habit or boredom. This strategy is also a way to spend more time in the produce aisle and fill your cart with real food, instead of piling up manufactured foods.
See if this example of someone who really should look beyond salads or smoothies is you: often feel bloated? More prone to having loose bowel movements? Have a very hard time losing weight? Fatigue easily? Have soft muscles, despite exercising regularly, including lifting weights? Well if this is you, stop with the salads. The best foods for you are warm and cooked: stews, soups, cooked or steamed vegetables of all kinds, especially squash, sweet potatoes and yams; hot cereals, broths with protein, chai or ginger tea, and warm spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, pepper, especially in the colder months. If you do crave salads, try to have a cup of hot tea or soup along with it. The foods you should stay away from are raw fruits and vegetables, cold, iced or frozen drinks, sugar, and greasy, oily foods.
Does this type seem more like you: hot most of the time, night sweats, thirsty or dry mouth, tense musculature, maybe have a hard time gaining weight? Feel bloated very quickly after eating only a small amount of food? For you, water filled fruits and vegetables are best suited for your body type (ok, even salads!): examples like cucumbers, zucchini, celery, asparagus, lemons, oranges, pineapple, melons, tomatoes, most beans, sprouts, coconut milk, fish, eggs. Foods that work against you are hot, spicy foods, which you probably love and crave; onions, garlic, ginger, cinnamon, black pepper, coffee, alcoholic beverages.
The last example is the type of person who might have a lot of bleeding, like nosebleeds, or rectal bleeding, feel hot all of the time, quick flaring temper, violent headaches, red eyes. You are in luck on the salad front, but may have many health issues like hypertension or other inflammation that need to be addressed medically. For you, cooling foods like egg whites, fish, bitter green vegetables like kale, dandelion, arugula, endive, chard; fruit like watermelon, lemons, pears, adzuki beans, the water filled vegetables listed above, and drink lots of room temp or cool water with lemon, peppermint or chrysanthemum tea. Avoid pungent herbs, like ginger, cinnamon, pepper, coffee, alcohol, smoked foods, hot chili, onions, garlic.