Regardless of whether you’re looking to improve your overall health, address a particular health condition or engage in preventative health maintenance, designing a healthy diet plan is one of the simplest, most empowering self-care strategies you have available and it costs very little. There are no added costs beyond the food.
Although weight loss is usually a natural occurrence in response to giving your body healthier foods, the goal of a healthy diet is not to lose weight, it is to eat foods that promote optimal health and functioning in each individual.
Simple changes in the diet can make drastic improvements in your physical and mental health and provide you with lifelong protection against many diet related conditions. What we eat has a significant impact on our emotional, physical and spiritual health. However, there is not a one size fits all diet that will be healthy across the board for each individual.
What is healthy for one may be counterproductive for another. Many different factors will have an impact on which diet is healthiest for you, such as genetics, ethnicity, age and health conditions. What’s healthy for me, may be completely different from what’s healthy for you.
For example, nuts may provide numerous health benefits for one person, and yet be the root cause of chronic migraines, irritable bowel, aching joints, anxiety or stomach aches for someone else. Garlic may be a superfood for the much of the general population, but can be the villain behind gallbladder pain for others. A person with hypoglycemia will have different dietary needs than someone with type 2 diabetes and an athlete will have different needs from those of us who aren’t.
The definition of a healthy diet plan will vary from person to person and be dependent upon your unique biochemistry, what health issues you may face and the goals you’re trying to achieve. However there are some general guidelines that do apply to everyone and we’ll outline those below.
Healthy Diet Plan Outline
Over the years here are the factors that I have found to be essential when designing a healthy diet plan for myself and others.
Nobody benefits from eating sugar, because sugar is not a real food. Sugar weakens the immune system, depletes vitamin and mineral reserves, disrupts production and functioning of neurotransmitters, aggravates the gut, encourages Candida overgrowth, upsets the nervous system, destroys the endocrine system, and leads to a variety of debilitating symptoms and conditions like depression, anxiety, mood swings, hyperactivity, type 2 diabetes, obesity, alcoholism, heart disease, high cholesterol,adrenal fatigue, high blood pressure, insulin resistance, binging, hypoglycemia,addiction and many more.
Refined white sugar, powdered sugar, brown sugar, raw sugar and even organic sugar should be removed from the diet completely. Anything that ends in the word sugar should be avoided.
Many health conscious people mistakenly believe that organic sugar is a healthy choice, but it is not. If you are going to eat something with sugar in it, organic sugar is a better choice than traditional sugar because it is free of pesticides and contains more nutrients. However sugar is sugar, organic sugar will still result in impacting the health in the same negative ways as traditional sugar. It should be avoided.
Removing sugar from the diet is the single most important factor for designing a healthy diet plan.
Healthier sweeteners like brown rice syrup, barley malt, fruit juice or dextrins, agave, maple syrup, molasses, honey etc. should be minimized and reserved for special occasions, because they too will impact the health negatively if eaten in excess.
Many health conscious people feel that honey is a safe and healthy sweetener. Again, it is certainly a better choice than traditional sugar, and it is a better choice than even organic sugar, however in my experience, moderate amounts of honey trigger my sugar addiction, makes me crave more carbohydrates, causes a significant flare in Candida overgrowth, throws my blood sugar off balance, and causes anxiety. In my experience Agave is less offensive than honey. I don’t even feel like I’ve eaten a sweet if I indulge in something sweetened with Agave, as long as I don’t go overboard.
Stevia is an herbal sweetener that is completely healthy. It has no impact on blood sugar, candida, sugar addiction etc. However, be sure to get a pure brand from the health food store, not the Truvia brand or other mainstream brands, because they have processed it and made it unhealthy.
If you have trouble overcoming your sugar cravings you may want to take a look at my sugar addiction recovery program.
Alcohol is a sugar – it is the most refined sugar you can consume. It does not have to be digested by the body, it is absorbed instantly and directly through the gastrointestinal tract. Alcohol is a toxin to the body. It alters and depletes neurotransmitters in the brain, disrupts the endocrine system, destroys the gastrointestinal tract and leads to nutritional deficiencies.
The negative health effects of caffeine on the body are numerous. Caffeine is an addictive, mind-altering drug. It impacts the brain and disrupts neurotransmitter functioning just like hard drugs and results in numerous conditions and symptoms like inability to cope with stress, obsessive compulsive disorders, anxiety attacks, depression, hyperactivity, mood swings and can even lead to addiction harder drugs.
Caffeine is also detrimental to the bodies stress response system and sets the body up for adrenal fatigue, hypoglycemia, hormonal imbalances, pms, headaches, weight gain, heart disease and interferes in the sleep cycle.
Avoid Chocolate and Raw Cacao
The raw cacao craze has many people falsely believing that this is a nutritious superfood that should be eaten regularly. This is not true. Raw cacao is not really any healthier than a chocolate bar.
Raw cacao contains a large number of chemicals that are harmful to the human mind and body, including the central nervous system, endocrine system, gastrointestinal system and cardiovascular system.
Although it will probably not be too detrimental to have an “occasional” indulgence, it should not be consumed on a regular basis.
Eat Real Food
Next to removing sugar, this is the most crucial component of any healthy diet plan. Eat real foods, not processed ones.
The diet should consist purely of whole foods – fresh or frozen meat, vegetables, nuts, seeds, fruits, etc., should all be eaten in their natural state as much as possible. Stay away from processed and refined foods. The more refined a food is, the less nutrition it contains, the less nutrition you consume the more negative impact it has on your health.
Glycemic Index Diet Chart
Choose foods that are low on the glycemic index chart. Even foods that are high in natural sugars are destructive to the body if eaten in excess. High glycemic foods break down into sugar in the body, which we already established leads to disease and poor health, therefore the lower the number on the glycemic chart the less negative impact they will have on your health.
This does not mean you can’t ever eat foods that are high on the chart, but their consumption should be minimized and reserved for special occasions.
Food Sensitivities and Allergies
One of the most crucial but usually overlooked aspects for designing a healthy diet plan is identification of hidden food sensitivities or allergies. Many experts believe that approximately 80% of the population has hidden food sensitivities. These sensitivities result in numerous health conditions, syndromes and diseases like migraine headaches, depression, anxiety, hyperactivity, acne, eczema, obesity, chronic fatigue, arthritis, irritable bowel, insomnia, autism, fibromyalgia and many more.
Sensitivities are often found in the most common foods in the diet that are believed by most to be healthy, like wheat, corn, dairy, nuts, eggs, tomato, soy, cane sugar and potato. Identify your sensitivities with an ALCAT test and then remove them from the diet.
Scores of people find relief or improvements from their chronic health conditions by removing offending foods from their diet. For example, by removing cane sugar from my diet I eliminated crippling anxiety attacks that had plagued me for over a decade. By eliminating wheat from my diet I lost 20 pounds and almost eliminated irritable bowel. By removing sugar, all additives and preservatives and wheat from my sons diet I eliminated his ADHD. By removing nuts from my diet I eliminated a major trigger for migraine headaches.
If you have any particular health conditions, they too must be taken into consideration when designing your healthy diet plan. For example, people with ulcers, gallbladder problems, asthma etc. will each have additional dietary needs to consider. Anyone with Candida, sugar addiction, leaky gut, irritable bowel, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, hypoglycemia, type 2 diabetes, autism, mcs, alcoholism will have dietary needs that are unique. Although there may be some variance, each of the aforementioned issues usually do best on a slightly modified version of thepaleolithic diet.
A body cannot be healthy if it is filled with foods that contains pesticides, herbicides, additives and preservatives. They disrupt the endocrine system, weaken the immune system, destroy the nervous system and alter and deplete neurotransmitter functioning and production and result in numerous health conditions like hyperactivity, adhd, depression, anxiety, gastrointestinal disorders, nervous system disorders, chronic fatigue and many more.
The diet should contain as much organic food as is possible.
Get Adequate Protein
Although not general knowledge, we are society that is greatly deficient in protein. Because people falsely believe that meat is not healthy for them they fill up on junk food and carbohydrates. It is not meat that is responsible for all the disease in our society, it is sugar, white flour, pesticides, refined carbohydrates and even too many complex carbohydrates like grains and beans.
The lack of adequate protein in the diet has resulted in much of the population being deficient in amino acids, which among other things has resulted in neurotransmitter deficiencies or imbalances, which ultimately results in depression, addiction, hyperactivity, obesity, insomnia, anxiety disorders, candida overgrowth, OCD, attention deficit, autism, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and numerous other health conditions like obesity, chronic pain and insomnia.
Additionally adequate protein is needed for all biochemical and cell processes in the body, adequate muscle mass, preventing fatigue, a strong immune system to fight off infections, viruses and bacteria and the ability to heal.
Complete proteins — those that provide our bodies with all the essential amino acids — can only be obtained through animal sources and their byproducts.
There is nothing unkind or immoral about eating meat. Humans have been eating meat for more than two million years. It is the normal order of things in the food chain and the way nature intended it to be. No, our food supply should not be subjected to abusive and unethical treatment. We should treat our food supply with respect and raise them ethically. However, we were genetically designed to be meat eaters and most of us still have bodies that require this type of nourishment.
I encourage you to read 12 Reasons to Eat More Meat.
Complex carbohydrates like whole grains, beans and potatoes break down into sugar in the body, cause an elevation of blood sugar and insulin levels and if eaten in excess can be almost as damaging as refined carbohydrates in many respects.
As the name implies, the Paleolithic diet is based on the diet that our caveman ancestors ate. It includes eating only whole and natural foods – meat, fish, eggs, vegetables, seeds, nuts and fruit. It is high in meat protein and does not include sugar, potatoes, legumes, soy, dairy or grains.
The paleolithic diet operates under the assumption that we are genetically meat eaters and we should follow the wisdom of our ancestors by eating only the foods that were a regular staple at that time. Foods brought into the diet later with agriculture were not part of the master plan that nature designed for us and thus result in disease and deterioration in health.
Although there may be some variance, people with Candida, sugar addiction, leaky gut, food addiction or compulsive overeating, irritable bowel, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, hypoglycemia, type 2 diabetes, autism, mcs, alcoholism and drug addiction usually do best on a Paleolithic diet or a slightly modified version of the paleolithic diet.
Another very important component of a healthy diet plan includes pure water. Be sure you are drinking enough water that is filtered to remove chlorine and other harmful chemicals in our water supply. Of course avoid all colas, etc. The only thing we should be drinking is water and perhaps some herbal teas. Your water should not be stored in soft plastic as the plastic will leach chemicals into the water. Hard plastic is a better choice, but it should be for short periods of time, as some leaching can still occur. Water stored in glass is the best choice.
The last crucial ingredient for healthy eating is the practice of mindfulness. So many people wolf down their food as fast as possible without thought, which really erodes the pleasure of eating. Take your time when eating to fully appreciate the experience. Be one with your food. Savor the smell, texture, taste and sensations as if you are engaged in a tender lovemaking session. Be present and fully experience the act of eating. When you practice mindfulness with eating, you’ll find that your foods are richer in flavor and more enjoyable. You’re also less likely to overeat and it’s better for the digestive system, which will enhanve absorption of nutrients and improve GI health.
Creating Your Healthy Diet Plan
What is crucial to note at this point is that it is not one of the above factors that creates a healthy diet plan, it is the combination of each of them. Each one of these factors should be taken into consideration when creating the diet that will provide you with optimal health and functioning.
We first remove the big no nos which include, sugar, alcohol and caffeine, then we eat only whole foods that are low on the glycemic index, then from that list we choose only foods that are acceptable on the paleolithic diet. Then we have an ALCAT test to narrow this list down to the foods that are most compatible for our body chemistry.
It is the combination of all of these factors that creates the healthy diet plan. If you don’t attend to all these components, then you have an incomplete plan that does not address all issues that impact your health.
Listen to Your Body
Creating a healthy diet plan that is right for you is really about learning to listen to your body. Your body knows what it needs and when you are able to hear the messages that it has for you, it will guide you to the diet that is best for you.
This is done by paying attention to mind states and physical symptoms before, during and after eating. For example, if you are tired, spacey, exhausted, dizzy, depressed, breathing impaired, arthritic, anxious etc. hours or days after eating a particular food, then your body is telling you this is not a food you should be eating.
However, in learning how to listen to your body, you must also be able to decipher when addictions are talking and when your body is talking. What you want to eat and what you should eat may be two very different things. For example, years ago I’d like nothing more than to eat of bunch of complex carbohydrates every day, but that was food addiction speaking, not my body. If I eat complex carbohydrates like grains or legumes I get severe hypoglycemia, anxiety, irritable bowel, depression, weight gain, cravings for sugar, extremely irritable, migraines and many more. What my body tells me is that it needs meat protein, fat and vegetables.
I tried to be a vegetarian once, but it was impossible. My body has taught me that I must eat a diet high in meat protein or I can’t function. It must be meat. I tried replacing the meat protein with nuts, soy, seeds, yogurt cheese, egg etc., but it doesn’t work, my body must have a high meat diet. If I don’t eat meat, and it must be at least 6 ounces of meat that contains some fat, for each meal, I will have severe hypoglycemia, my head will spin, I’ll be dizzy, shake uncontrollable, won’t be able to concentrate, get irritable, want to cry, fuzzy headed, so weak I can’t stand up, feel like I’ll pass out and then I get a migraine and I’ll be in bed for a day.
For years I resisted this truth about my body and would continually challenge it, but every time the result was the same. I simply cannot maintain my blood sugar unless I eat meat three times a day.
Your addictions may tell you to eat sugar and lots of carbohydrates, which will make you feel good initially, but later you crash and feel terrible. The message in this scenario is that you should avoid these foods.
Listen to your body. What does it tell you? How does it respond and feel after a meal or the day after a meal? If you’re experiencing digestive complaints, irritable bowel, headaches etc. when you eat grains, beans and dairy, then you shouldn’t be eating these foods. If you get depression, anxious, hyper or moody when you eat too many carbohydrates, then you shouldn’t be eating many carbohydrates.
It’s also important to keep in mind that needs change over the years, as you age, as you heal, if you have a setback, in response to a supplement you may be taking etc. so you must also pay attention and listen for when changes occur. You may get away with eating some things when you’re younger and develop reactions to it when you get older.
Why do you see so much conflicting information out there on diets and healthy eating? Because it depends on the biochemistry of the person eating the food. One theory or healthy diet approach is not completely true and the others are all false. They all have some truth in them for the people that have the right biochemistry for that method.
You must find the diet that is best for your body. Use diet theories and approaches as guides and then listen to your body. If your body tells you something else, then follow that. Designing a healthy diet plan that is right for you is about understanding your unique biochemical needs. It usually involves piecing together little bits of truth from a variety of different theories or approaches as I presented above.
Regardless of how true a particular theory or approach may be or how great the diet is, you can’t shove unique human beings into a nice neat little compartment. We just don’t fit. There are many factors that will contribute to what healthy diet plan fits us best.
For example, I follow the Paleolithic diet for the most part on daily basis, however I have found that I do okay with butter, so I allow that in my diet even though they are not part of the standard Paleolithic diet.
Additionally, we must also take other things into account like what’s realistic and doable. If eating a healthy diet causes so much stress you’re pulling your hair out, that’s not healthy either. Making changes in the diet is a process and we must be kind and patient with the process we go through. It takes time to adjust and there may be periods of grieving and resistance as we give up the foods we are accustomed to eating. Each of us goes through our process in a unique manner as well. It usually doesn’t happen overnight, it evolves over time.
However, we don’t want to use challenges as an excuse to abandon following a healthy diet plan. Making choices that are good for us is often hard. We must make a commitment to do the best we can. This may require packing our lunch, going to the health food store instead of a fast food restaurant at lunchtime, making different choices from the menu when we eat out. etc. A healthier diet can always be accomplished if its important to you. You must make it a priority. You want to be flexible, but still disciplined.