Let food be your medicine and medicine be your food.
The beauty of Chinese nutrition is that nutritional guidelines are customized to each individual, depending upon his/her constitution and lifestyle. This customization makes dietary changes much more painless to introduce into one's lifestyle, and also more effective, as opposed to the the shotgun approach of diet fads. This being said, keep in mind that the guidelines below are general and some may not be appropriate for certain conditions. In order for precise nutritional guidelines to be created for an individual, a full evaluation is required. However, the guide below serves as a useful starting point for making dietary changes.
Nine Useful Tips
1.) Take 3 breaths before eating anything. It slows you down, and gives you a chance to reconsider whether you really want to eat what you are about to put into your mouth! Relax your posture so as not to compress your digestive organs.
2.) Enjoy your food. If we are happy when we eat and in our relationship with food, the body will more effectively accept the food into our system and be nourished by it. Often it is more important to heal our relationship with food than to change what we are eating.
3.) Chew each bite of food 30-40 times (count for first 5 bites of each meal). As the Chinese say, “the stomach has no teeth!” Chewing helps in a number of ways. First, it causes you to eat slowly enough that by the time you are approaching the end of your first serving, the food is already partially digested, thus you feel satiated, as body’s mechanisms for triggering hunger have been deactivated. Also, chewing makes you more aware of the food you are eating, so you focus on enjoying what you are eating, rather than worrying about stressors from the day that would encourage you to eat more.
4.) Eat in a relaxing environment when you do not feel rushed. Put down the paper or work. Turn off the TV. The ayurvedic physicians of India state that all but poisonous food is sattvic (pure, enlightening) when eaten in a peaceful frame of mind.
5.) Try not to eat after 7 p.m. Energy demands decrease in the evening, metabolism slows, and the energy from the food then is just stored in the body as fat. Also, the body cannot rest and revitalize during sleep if it is working to digest food. Thus, eating late at night creates sluggishness in the short term, and can lead to chronic illness in the long term.
6.) Eating meals at the same time everyday allows the body to acclimate to a routine, enabling it to process food optimally.
7.) Stop eating before you are full. Overtaxing your digestive system by overfilling it leads to stagnation, sluggishness, and mucus forming conditions.
8.) Choose foods with strong life force. Fresh, locally grown organic food is ideal. Microwave cooking, excessive processing and chemical preservation, and irradiation all damage life force.
9.) Having a friend to support you in times of dietary transition is helpful. So, ask friends to be supportive, rather than trying to tempt you, so that when your will power is running thin you can call on them for moral support.
1.) Be sure to include protein. (scrambled eggs or tofu with turmeric, cumin, coriander, soy sauce, green onions, spinach or other green, and whatever else you want to throw in is a favorite of mine. Limit eggs to only once a week or you may develop sinus problems and mucus) Getting ample protein in the morning is key in preventing the afternoon slump.
2.) For oatmeal, try plain rolled oats. You can get quick oats in the bulk section of whole foods. It’s cheaper, and better for you than the quaker instant stuff, which has tons of sugar. To sweeten it add dried fruit and cook together.
Sweet Cravings and Snacks
Baby carrots, although not quite as tasty as chocolate ice cream, are good to have around as an alternative to sugary snacks when you need an energy boost. Take a walk when a craving comes on. It will increase endorphins (move your qi as us acupuncturists like to say) and make you feel better. Plus, the fresh air is energizing. 5 minutes is enough.
1.) Add more veggies to your diet. Especially greens. Your body will thank you for it! Any vegetable is good (potatoes and yams sparingly if trying to lose weight or if candida overgrowth issue)
2.) Whole Grains: brown rice, millet, oats, wheat bran, quinoa, amaranth, fresh corn
3.) Fish, poultry and beans
4.) Let me reiterate: ALL VEGETABLES, especially greens: collards, broccoli, chard, kale, spinach, bok choy, celery, cabbage, sprouts.
Foods to Avoid or Eat Sparingly
1.) All fatty foods, including:
- eggs, beef, bacon, sausage, cheese
- Fried foods: refried beans, French fries, potato chips, etcetera (when sautéing, use water instead of oil to prevent foods from overheating and breaking down.
- Fatty condiments: mayonnaise, butter, salad dressing, lard, oils. Extra virgin olive and coconut oil and flax oil are an exception and may be used in moderate amounts.
2.) Refined grains: white bread, toast, pasta, macaroni, white wheat tortillas.
3.) Sweets: donuts, cake, cookies.
4.) Excess salt
1.) Avoid frying. Upon frying, food reaches temperatures at which it breaks down, becomes very difficult to digest, and harmful to the body.
2.) Steaming is best, but water sautéing is also good. Boiling is fine for soups because you are eating the broth which has most of the vitamins. Baking is good too.
A Few Final Notes
We often confuse emotional and nutritional needs, eating when we may in fact need comfort or perhaps using foods to suppress feelings of frustration or desire. During times of dietary transition, unpleasant emotions often surface that have been suppressed by our consumption of “comfort foods.” Allow yourself to feel these emotions that arise without placing judgment on them. Often times, our feelings will seem inappropriate or out of proportion during times of dietary transition. Know that this is a part of the healing, and that you are purging unhealthy build-up from your body. Although these feelings can be challenging and perhaps cause you to feel out of control, the process will ultimately lead you to a more vibrant and alive state of being. Often times these dietary shifts act to catalyze a profound life change that may have previously seemed unattainable.
Remember that the changes you are making to your diet are because you are being kind to yourself and your body. It is easy to forget this when developing these new habits of healthy eating, and to rationalize eating unhealthy foods by saying “why should I deprive myself of enjoying this?” As you become more accustomed to eating healthier foods, you become more attuned to how good these foods make you feel, reaping the benefits of increased stamina and alertness and decreased susceptibility to illness. Upon experiencing this, you realize you were not depriving yourself by not eating the unhealthy foods, but it was in fact those unhealthy foods that were depriving you of experiencing radiant health!