Have you ever wondered how it’s possible to meet your nutrient needs without tracking your food intake? You’re not alone! As a registered dietitian, this is a common question I receive. And, it’s a piece of advice I see doled out to the general public on social media that makes me cringe!
The reality is we don’t need to meticulously measure and analyze every bite we eat in order to eat plenty of nutrients.
And, as someone who specializes in disordered eating, I’ve seen firsthand (and have experienced myself) how food tracking can become disordered. This may not happen for everyone, but it has happened to almost every one of my clients who has tracked their food.
Food tracking can become a slippery slope into rigidity, control, fear and anxiety around food.
Also, food tracking is often highly inaccurate. We may not remember exactly what and how much we ate, we might not know what is in all of our food, and the database or app we’re using to track may not contain accurate information. Tracking gives the illusion of knowing the exact amounts of nutrients we’re consuming, but in reality there is a huge margin of error.
And finally, it’s just not necessary in most cases to track what you’re eating. In some specific cases, during the treatment of certain diseases or conditions, tracking intake may be helpful under the guidance of a healthcare professional. But it certainly isn’t something I would recommend for most folks.
So, how do you feel confident about nutrition without tracking everything you eat?
I’m here to share with you a few core nutrition strategies that are a better use of your mental energy rather than tracking what you eat! These key strategies are important skills for healthful eating that will help you build long-term, sustainable eating habits that are both nourishing and satisfying!
Get Enough Nourishment by Eating Enough Food
This may sound way too simple, but the reality is that many people are not eating enough food. And the foundation of nutrition is adequacy. It’s eating enough.
Before getting into any more details about what you’re eating, it’s important to ensure you’re eating enough.
There are a couple ways to do this. The first is eating every 3 to 4 hours while you’re awake. Contrary to what diet culture may tell us, the human body thrives on regular, consistent nourishment throughout the day.
If you’ve been eating irregularly, or have been dieting, this one can feel like a huge change. Spend ample time here to get into a good routine of eating regularly throughout the day.
The second way to help ensure you’re eating enough is to make sure you’re eating full helpings at mealtime. Again, this can be challenging if you’re used to restricting or eating very little.
Sometimes it can take a lot of work to eat plenty of food regularly throughout the day. We’re here to help! Learn more about our nutrition counseling services.
Get Enough Nourishment by Eating a Variety of Foods
Once you’ve got the consistency nailed down, it’s time to direct attention toward variety. Eating a variety of foods means including different foods groups throughout the day, in meals and snacks.
This doesn’t mean every single meal and snack has to contain all of the food groups.
When I say food groups, I mean: protein foods, grains & starches, vegetables & fruits, and fats.
I don’t mean that these groups have to be individual foods, just that you’re covering these groups adequately throughout the day. Some foods cover different groups simultaneously (for example, peanut butter is considered a protein food and also a fat).
You don’t need to get too in the weeds here or try to be perfect. Just consider if you’re regularly missing any of these.
If your meals are feeling small or lacking, or you’re often unsatisfied after eating, ask yourself if you’re missing any of these groups.
Why does eating a variety of food groups matter? Eating a wide variety of foods is associated with greater overall nutrition status and gut health. It’s a relatively simple way to help get in a lot of different nutrients without having to think about those nutrients in detail.
Some helpful strategies are to mix up your foods day to day and week to week. It’s OK to eat some things on repeat (for example, we’re creatures of habit with our breakfasts over here) but it’s best if not every day of eating looks exactly the same.
If you find it’s very challenging to eat a variety of foods, or you’re only able to eat a very limited selection of foods, reach out to a registered dietitian for some support!
Get Enough Nourishment by Choosing Fortified Foods
Fortified foods are super helpful means of boosting nutrient intake. Fortified means nutrients have been added to the food. The purpose of this is to help you consume more of those nutrients!
My two favorite fortified foods are calcium-fortified plant milks and iodized salt. These are staples at my house and we consume them daily!
RELATED: Fortified Foods for Vegans
Remember to Supplement Appropriately
Dietary supplementation needs vary depending on the person. This is where working with a registered dietitian can really come in handy, because we can help you determine what if any dietary supplements you may actually need.
I have an entire module on dietary supplements for vegans inside my vegan nutrition online course!
Don’t Forget Satisfaction
I don’t believe that nutrition is just about nutrients. I know that there are many factors that impact our nutrition and health and a big one when it comes to food is satisfaction.
This means eating foods that you enjoy, that feel good in your body. It might look like eating the foods that help you feel connected to your family and culture, incorporating your favorite foods regularly, and not shying away from those you consider comfort foods.
If you’re unsure about how to balance both nourishment and satisfaction, you’re not alone. A lot of people are afraid that if they allow themselves to eat for pleasure then their nutrition will suffer. This doesn’t have to be the case. We specialize in helping clients find peace and confidence with food, without dieting or restriction. Learn more about our approach.