Work smart, not hard is my dad’s favourite saying and applies to everything in life. Not only is it a great philosophy, but he is great at it, which gives it much weight and prominence in my mind. I think it is the perfect approach for health management too, a facet of life which has become far too trendy and complicated.
There is a constant stream of nutrition related information made available to us through the world wide web and other media platforms while I am developing increasing sympathy for the general public expected to understand, choose and use the ever changing trends of the ‘diet’ world. Depending on the source, the focus of health related articles is typically the complete removal of a food and in some cases an entire food group or the implied excessive use of a select few foods labeled as ‘super’.
The first but less significant concern I have is the lack of perseverance fostered by jumping from one nutrition fad to another. While I am saying that you need work smart and not work hard, I am not saying that you need not persevere. Success in any health related area will not be achieved in a short period of time. While I do not agree with the promotion of superfoods or the extreme elimination of staple foods, I do encourage persistence when it comes to efforts made to live a healthier lifestyle. Why? Simply because it is not easy to change long held habits, create new routines or ignore the excessive exposure society in general has to food. Browsing through Facebook alone is enough to illustrate this point. Motivation can be tough to sustain but it is vital. If motivation is an obstacle, address this first. Losing weight or gaining health, whatever the goal might be, requires a lifelong commitment to the changes and habits initially necessary to achieve the goal. To be successful in health endeavours, the approach should be sustainable. There is no point in achieving health or weight loss if you have no interest in maintaining it.
My main concern is the simple lack of dietary diversity resulting from the endless advice out there. Ironic but true. The reason is simple though. There is a huge diversity to the information that is published and shared for public consumption. The result… a narrowed focus on ‘popular’ foods, a broad elimination of staple nutritious foods and a general lack in the consistency required for the development of health. Use of the word development is intentional to reinforce that health is not achieved in one week or even one month with one type of food or lack thereof.
The best information out there is science-based evidence transformed into practical advice for achieving a nutritionally diverse and complete diet. Dietary diversity, and more specifically nutrient diversity, within your available food budget is key to meeting nutritional requirements for health maintenance. Doing what you can with what you have is the most sustainable way to improve your health. Buying into fads is likely to be a waste of both time and money.
Working smart towards dietary diversity rather than working hard at dietary restrictions is a far more effective approach to optimizing health.
5 ways to work smart, not hard
- Include seasonal vegetables in at least one daily meal
- Keep a variety of whole-grains available (brown rice, barley, bran cereals, oats, wholewheat pasta)
- Carry seasonal fruits for on-the-go snacking
- Use minimum of 4 foods when preparing dinner
- Add salad vegetables to meat, chicken or tuna sandwiches
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