Nutrition is a funny subject – it is very simple and yet very complex at the same time, resulting in a lot of confusion and a lot of people simply giving up ever trying to figure out how to eat properly. However, I think I have a way to look at things that will help clear some of the confusion up.
I call it Primary and Secondary Food Filters. Primary Food Filters are the “rules” that cover general nutrition principles and Secondary Food Filters are “rules” that dig into more specific aspects of what you eat. The problems start to crop up when people hear about and focus on Secondary Food Filters before they have a Primary Food Filter in place.
Here is an example to explain what I mean…
The first Primary Food Filter I teach people is the 123’s of Nutrition:
1) Eat every 2-3 hours
2) Eat a lean protein with each meal
3) Eat fruit and/ or veges at each meal and avoid refined carbs
Those are general rules that are pretty easy to apply and not very confusing. If you ran your current eating habits through that filter you would have a very good idea of the overall effect of what you are eating. If you are not meeting 1 or more of those rules then you need to work on fixing that.
A Secondary Food Filter would be things like eating Gluten Free, Organic Foods, Whole Grain or something else that filters food choices based on a very specific aspect of the foods. The problem is that when you don’t have a Primary Food Filter in place the Secondary Food Filters can actually encourage some bad choices.
For example, a milkshake is “gluten free”, you can make a cake that is “organic” and Fruit Loops are “whole grain” but those foods still are still not good for you. You’d be better off eating a meal that broke all of those rules – a chicken breast with a piece of bread and a salad.
Again, the problems arise when people are sold on and focus on Secondary Food Filters before having a Primary Food Filter in place. Once you have one in place then you can start to add Secondary Food Filters to dial your nutrition program in even more but don’t put the cart before the horse, so to speak. Unfortunately most nutrition programs are promoted and sold on Secondary Filters, which is why it seems every time you turn around there is a “new” nutrition program that you need to follow.
So, when someone asks me if they should eat gluten free (which seems to be the big buzz right now) I ask them how their overall nutrition program looks. Most often I get a blank stare back – they have no idea, they just have heard that they should avoid gluten and start to filter their food choices based on that. Get your primary filter in place first before worrying about the secondary stuff.