The New Healthy

First, a warning:  I’m not a scientist, nutritionist or dietician. My only formal training in this field is a college course I took entitled “Public Health and Nutrition”, and I was really surprised when that turned out to be “diseases of the third world” and not “hot dogs are bad for you.”  I’m just a hobby nutritionist with a longstanding nerdy interest in health, nutrition and fitness.

But it doesn’t take a scientist to see that we have a major problem these days with our relationship to food. It’s time to rethink your assumptions about what’s healthy–and what’s not.  It’s up to you to figure out things on your own, because everything you’ve been told about nutrition is wrong.  These are becoming mainstream conversations.

This is not a comprehensive guide.  I’m just giving you just enough to get you thinking (and a menu plan).

1.  Hyperinsulinism, Syndrome X, and inflammation are the new buzzwords.  You want to avoid them like the plague they are.

Have you been told your whole life that a calorie is a calorie, and fat makes you fat?  It’s time to re-think and research these assumptions, because this misinformation is wreaking havoc with our health.  It’s the high-glycemic carbs that are killing us.

2.  Sugar is bad for you.

I grew up in the era when the gurus said you could eat the whole box of Cocoa Puffs as long as it was low-fat.  Well, no longer.  We now know that is a sure road to metabolic derangement.  Sugar makes you fat, lowers your immunity and leaches minerals from your bones.  Need convincing?  Try these 25 reasons to avoid sugar.

3.  Fat is good for you.  (Healthy fat, that is.)

I was stunned when I first heard Dr Sears say that the biggest nutritional deficiency in the American diet today may be healthy fats.  Don’t be scared of fat–excess insulin makes you fat, not excess fat–and fat has zero impact on insulin.  And “healthy” fats may not be what you think they are:  even “healthy” fats are getting back in the good graces of health nuts.

4.  White flour is bad for you.

Yes, it’s used to make all kinds of tasty bakery treats–and they’re all bad for you.  White flour is a highly refined carbohydrate, so eating it causes your blood sugar to spike and then crash.  And white flour is a grain, even if it’s far-removed from the wheat in the field–and consuming grains doesn’t do good things for your health.

As for snacks like “whole-grain” goldfish and cheez-its?  They’re made of white flour, and are not good for you, no matter what the marketers try and tell you.

5.  Think twice about dairy–with a bonus tip!

The jury’s out on dairy–do what works for you.  But know that it’s likely you’ll feel better with no dairy in your diet, and if you’re aiming for fat loss, eliminating dairy can help this as well. (After all, lactose is a sugar.  And sugar inhibits weight loss.)

Here’s the bonus postpartum weight loss plan:  I definitely don’t advocate “dieting” for the postpartum mother, but if your body is clinging to the baby weight, try eliminating flour, sugar and dairy products from your diet.  This was my personal silver bullet.

6.  Vegetables (and a little fruit) are good for you.

Green leafy vegetables are packed with nutrients and should be a priority.  Go easy on starchy vegetables like potatoes and peas, and high-carb fruits like bananas.  Fruit has lots of nutritive value, but if you’re trying to lose body fat, you want to avoid eating excessive amounts of sugar–even naturally occurring sugar.  Proceed with caution.

7.  Soda is bad for you.  (Even Diet Coke.)

Sodas are loaded with sugar–or worse, corn syrup–and mess up your insulin levels.  Aspartame is generally recognized as safe by the FDA.  But even if it’s “safe” (I’m skeptical), aspartame is really sweet–2000 times sweeter than sugar.  If you want to get control over sugar cravings, you need to stop eating sweets–even fake-artificial-sweet.

Need more motivation?  Here are 8 reasons why people drink soda and 16 reasons to give up soda drinking.

8.  Stress is really bad for you.

Stress hormones wreak havoc on a healthy body, cause inflammation and tension, and can make it impossible to lose weight.

9.  Prioritize sleep.

You need sleep to be healthy, and to keep your weight under control.  Not just to be “not sleepy.”  Not getting enough sleep will keep your stress hormones elevated, decrease your brain function, and make you cranky.  Get enough sleep.

10.  You need to work out (and not just to burn off that cake).

Being fit and strong keeps you healthy for myriad reasons.  Exercise even if you’re happy with your weight, because while exercise has many benefits, diet is far more important for healthy weight maintenance than exercise.

Where can I find out more?

I’m just scratching the surface here, but these are some of my favorite healthy-living resources:

Robb Wolf is a nerdy, super-fit scientist with an informative blog and a new book called The Paleo Solution

Wellness Mama.  I recommend starting with her Wellness 101 series or her recent excellent post 35 Excellent On-the-Go Lunch and Snack Ideas

Whole Nine Life:  well-rounded approach to The New Healthy lifestyle (and home of the Kill Your TV series)

Everyday Paleo:  recipes and pictures that meet The New Healthy criteria

Mark’s Daily Apple: Mark blogs on “primal living” in the modern world

Two excellent books by Gary Taubes: Good Calories, Bad Calories: Fats, Carbs, and the Controversial Science of Diet and Health and Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It.

What do I eat?

I like the Crossfit healthy-nutrition-in-a-nutshell summary:  Eat “vegetables, meats, nuts and seeds, little starch, no sugar.”

Any dietary change is really hard for the first two weeks.  Then we adapt, and it gets easier.  If you plan ahead it’s easy to eat according to New Healthy guidelines.  Here’s a week’s worth of dinners to get you started.

A menu plan for The New Healthy:

Monday: Smokey Crock Pot Roast with Coffee Spice Rub, savory sweet potato fries, steam sauteed mixed vegetables

Tuesday: Best Chicken Fajitas

Wednesday: Mexi-salad with fresh guacamole

Thursday: Grilled flank steak, Pam Anderson’s jicama slaw, grilled asparagus

Friday: Easy grilled salmon, baby greens with eggs, avocado and shaved parmesan, lemon zest broccoli


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Leave A Comment
  1. Linda says:

    Have you ever done a post on what you use in place of sugar? I love to bake and that’s been the one thing that’s stopped me from totally eschewing sugar. Any help would be appreciated.

    • Anne says:

      Linda–when I first started easing off of sugar, I replaced it with sucanat. It has a slightly lower glycemic index, and it was so expensive I was motivated to use less and not bake as much! Carrie’s suggestions above look great to me (thanks, Carrie!).

      I’ve since discovered that I do much better, personally, with skipping the sugary stuff entirely, because then I don’t crave it. I’m an abstainer, not a moderator. Though I wish it were otherwise!

  2. LOVE this! What a great post and I’m like you also a “hobby nutritionist” (love that term!! lol I now have an official title! lol) I will be sharing this post with friends, it’s all such great (and reliable) nutrition info!! 🙂 And thanks for the sweet comment on my blog! (((hugs!)))

  3. PS… to Linda: lately I’ve been using fruit to sweeten baked goods, I also use stevia, coconut palm sugar, and other natural sweeteners like maple syrup & honey. All in very limited amounts. The muffins I made this week were only sweetened with bananas, stevia, and raisins and they turned out quite well! 🙂

  4. Audrey says:

    Meat actually is really unhealthy for the body, not to mention it is very inhumane and unethical. Learning these things is what spurred me to become vegan and I am so glad that I did. I find that it is much easier to eat healthy being vegan (though I still have to be wary of vegan junk food).

    I agree with you, though, on sugar being detrimental. That is definitely my kryptonite, but I have been able to successfully eliminate added sugars for a while now. It does get [a little] easier!

    • Maggie Dee says:

      Actually meat is not unhealthy for every body. Maybe you feel better not eating it, but my body chemistry does not function on a carb only diet. It makes me feel like I have the flu and I put on weight. And I’m talking healthy carbs, veggies, real whole grains you grind yourself, tofu, etc. Not everyone’s body chemistry is the same.

      As to unethical treatment of commercial animals, yes…that is absolutely the case, which is why I eat local, humanly raised meat.

      • Just Audrey says:

        Hey, sorry if I came off as judgmental there! I’m just curious…have you read THE CHINA STUDY, DIET FOR A NEW AMERICA, or seen the new documentary FORKS OVER KNIVES? Those do a lot better job than I could in explaining the benefits of a plant-based diet and the role it plays in preventing heart disease, diabetes, cancer, etc. Of course, even vegans can be unhealthy, though. There is a lot of vegan junk food out there and one does have to be vigilant in eating a variety of wholesome foods. Also, vegans need to supplement with vitamin B12, and sometimes vitamin D. These are also things that omnivores should be aware of, though, so it’s not really a lot different. But if you did feel lousy it could’ve been because you were missing out on one of those nutrients (B12 is especially vital). There is a really great site by a nutritionist that studies all of this stuff that I have found really helpful and scientific. It’s called I totally agree that not everyone’s bodies are the same but I also believe that there is absolutely nothing in animal products necessary to our health.

        I think that is great that you don’t eat factory meat–many people do not even do that. Yet those animals are still subject to harrowing and unnatural lives and deaths. Personally, I just can’t see myself ever eating anything with a mother! I would recommend the book EATING ANIMALS to learn more about the conditions that even so-called ‘humane’ slaughterhouses put livestock through. The author of that book actually hired a professional fact-checker, before printing, to make sure that there was nothing in it that could be disproved.

        Well, I just wanted to give some food for thought. 🙂 I certainly DO respect your ability to decide your dietary choices, but I just wanted to give some more sources to look into things if you choose. 🙂

    • Audrey says:

      This is the same Audrey that posted this comment years ago. I came across this article again while browsing Anne’s site. I’d forgotten I posted here, but I just wish to say that I’m no longer vegan, and I’ve come to agree with a lot of what this post says. Being vegan does work for some people, so I do not wish to slam that approach, but it didn’t work for me. I found it really isolating, as there wasn’t much I could eat at social functions and I was very judgmental of others’ choices. I love the Whole30 approach, but I still have to check myself and make sure I don’t get *too* into diets. I can easily become very dogmatic about food, and I think that’s the danger of our culture. I love learning and working on making better food choices, but I have to remind myself that I just eat to fuel my body well. It shouldn’t be something I think about 90% of the day. So now I think that whatever plan or eating style helps you feel your absolute best and forget about yourself so you can live a full life–that’s the best. For example, I know if I make poor choices and my blood sugar is out of whack, I will be extra irritable to others and not very productive. So I have to make choices that lead to my end goal. This doesn’t have a lot to do with the original post, I just wanted to apologize for being the dogmatic vegan on the post complaining about Anne’s approach. 🙂

  5. Anna says:

    This is a great article! Thanks for all of the great tips and links!! We’ve been using Blue Agave Nectar recently instead of maple syrup and as a sweetener in baking, because it costs much less, and has a lower glycemic index. There is so much to learn about this topic.

  6. Alice says:

    Terrific post on so many vital topics–and I love your recipes! These are dishes that could even be served at a dinner party. Now, if I eliminate sugar (I, too, am an abstainer, not a moderator), go to bed when I’m tired, and substitute water and tea for Diet Coke, I’ll be able to keep up with my adorable, young grandchildren! And that is a very worthy goal:-)

  7. Maria D. says:

    Great post! My 2011 New Year’s Resolution was to cut out all sugar for the entire year. So I was pleasantly surprised to find out last month that I was already ten pounds below my pre-pregnancy weight!! I was starting to flag on the no-sugar diet, but after seeing the numbers, I’m right back on track! 😉 Have you seen the documentary “Fathead”? It has a lot of parallels to the points you made in this post.

  8. Kelsey says:

    Great thoughts! Our diets probably differ in that I eat less meat and more fruit, but I think we share a lot of basic tenets. It’s amazing how bad some things are that I thought were harmless for so long!

  9. Amber @ says:

    My husband just started the Engine 2 Diet, invented by a fireman here in my hometown, Austin. It is vegan and then some. It is completely plant based, no oil of any kind (even olive oil is out). He is a triathlete and wants to lose about 10 stubborn pounds. I am going along and making dinners from this diet (which really isn’t a diet, but a lifestyle choice) except I will eat some meat/dairy everyday since I am still nursing. I don’t want to alter my diet too much.

    It is sad that even with all of the information about most Americans consume too many over-processed, low nutrient, high fat/calorie foods, it doesn’t seem to resonate since we still see obesity trends rising. Sad.

    • Anne says:

      I’ve not heard of the Engine 2 diet, I’m going to look it up. Vegan and then some? Yikes!

      Personally, I spent a few years as a vegetarian, but feel much better eating meat, and no grains. And I craved red meat like crazy when I was pregnant and nursing!

  10. I LOVE your list of the NEW Healthy! It’s not diet coke, a diet pill and low cal anymore! Thank you for this very informative post and for linking up with Healthy 2day Wednesdays and for spreading the word about what healthy really means!

  11. Thank you so much for this informative post! The Paleo links are especially helpful – I wish I had the money to eat a clean Ii.e. grassfed instead of CAFO) paleo diet, but for now, I have to include properly prepared grains and some cheap starches (like potatoes) in our meals to stretch the budget!
    The crazy part of all this is, even though “hobby nutritionists” like you and me have figured out that sugar is EVIL and fat is important, there seems to be reluctance by “official” dietary community to move away from their traditional food-pyramid stance. That makes posts like this even more important and helpful!

  12. Kori says:

    I am so glad to find more and more people embracing the no sugar/no grains lifestyle (whether you call it lowcarb or paleo or primal). I have changed my own eating habits, feel 100% better and will be moving on to adapting my family to this way of eating.

  13. cool mum says:

    Wow, this is just what I’ve been aiming for recently–no sugar or flour, minimizing grains, and eating healthy fats. I too am an abstainer. I have no self-control when it comes to food! Thanks for these resources…I’m glad to know I’m not alone!

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