Gentle Nutrition or Diet Mentality: What is your Fruit and Vegetable Perception?
Updated: Aug 31
I am pleased to announce that this is another guest blog post by my lovely and talented intern: Lauren Tinkey is about to graduate from Georgia State University’s Coordinated Program in Nutrition. As a RD-to-be and personal trainer, Lauren is passionate about helping people live their best lives through nutrition and exercise.
Gentle Nutrition is an approach to eating that comes from a mindset of trust and peace with your food choices. Food choices are made based on the desire to nourish your body with nutrient-dense foods in combination with fun foods that satisfy your cravings without self-judgment.
In a diet mindset, fruits and vegetables lose their thrill and vibrancy because they become associated with weight loss and are often “substitutes” to fun foods. However, fruits and vegetables are full of vitamins and minerals and have the power to fuel your body optimally when eaten in balance with carbohydrates, protein, and fat sources.
Diet Myth 1: Fruits and vegetables are the most important because they are low in calories.
Intuitive Eating Thought: Fruits and vegetables are not important because they are low in calories.
It is important to eat fruits and vegetables not because they are low in calories but because they are packed full of micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) that nourish our bodies.
Diet Myth 2: Salad has to be eaten for lunch versus a sandwich because it is lower in calories, and bread is not allowed in the diet.
Intuitive Eating Thought: A sandwich sounds good right now and carbohydrates are my bodies preferred energy source.
A salad and a sandwich are both great lunch options if they contain a carbohydrate, protein, and fat source.
Diet Myth 3: Pasta can only be eaten if made with zoodles because grain noodles will make me gain weight.
Intuitive Eating Thought: Real pasta is a source of carbohydrates, a macronutrient that we need at every meal. Plus, pasta is delicious!
There is nothing wrong with eating pasta made with zoodles as long as we are getting an additional source of carbohydrate. It is important to eat a carbohydrate, protein, and fat source at each meal because all three macronutrients are needed to properly fuel our bodies.
While the diet mindset puts too much emphasis on eating fruits and vegetables for the wrong reasons, one of the biggest misconceptions about Intuitive Eating is that eating fruits and veggies (or other nutrient-dense foods) is not that important.
But, actually, that’s not true, and I’m here to explain why.
The 10th principle of Intuitive Eating is Honor Your Health with Gentle Nutrition: “Make food choices that honor your health and taste buds while making you feel well. Remember that you do not have to eat perfectly to be healthy. You will not suddenly get a nutrient deficiency or gain weight from one snack, one meal, or one day of eating. It’s what you eat consistently over time that matters – progress not perfection is what counts.”1
Remember, Intuitive Eating is a non-diet approach that promotes a healthy attitude toward food and body image. The focus is on how overall food patterns versus single food choices impact your health. AND what really matters is your relationship and thoughts around food.
Gentle Nutrition is a non-diet approach to nutrition. Emphasis is put on eating foods that make you feel good and that taste good. There is no judgement on choosing foods that hold lesser nutritional value, and you are aware of how your body reacts to the amount of these foods you eat.
Practicing Gentle Nutrition challenges, you to:
Enjoy nutritious food because of its taste.
Appreciate foods’ value in your good health.
Eat fun food when you crave it as long as it doesn’t make you physically uncomfortable afterward.
Incorporate variety into your food choices. Individual foods offer unique nutrients that our bodies need. We have to eat a variety of foods to nourish our bodies with all of the nutrients we need.
Think and eat in color. Colorful foods contain distinct and unique nutrients
What makes fruits and vegetables colorful?
Phytochemicals occur naturally in plants and contribute to their color, taste, and smell.2
Why is it important to eat in color?
Colorful fruits and vegetables contain phytochemicals, vitamins, and antioxidants. Bottom Line: Each color supports various health benefits and no one color is superior than the other-which is why a balance of colors is important. Eating more colors leads to better overall health.
Thanks for reading Lauren’s post, and if you are struggling with your relationship to food, body and self, please visit my Nutrition Counseling page — I’d love to work with you.
10 Principles of Intuitive Eating. Intuitive Eating. https://www.intuitiveeating.org/10-principles-of-intuitive-eating/. Accessed October 2, 2019.
Fill up on phytochemicals. Harvard Health Letter. Published 2019 Feb.
Khoo HE, Azlan A, Tang ST, Lim SM. Anthocyanidins and anthocyanins: colored pigments as food, pharmaceutical ingredients, and the potential health benefits. Food Nutr Res. 2017;61(1):1361779. Published 2017 Aug 13. doi:10.1080/16546628.2017.1361779
Buscemi S, Corleo D, Di Pace F, Petroni ML, Satriano A, Marchesini G. The Effect of Lutein on Eye and Extra-Eye Health. Nutrients. 2018;10(9):1321. Published 2018 Sep 18. doi:10.3390/nu10091321
Nutrients and health benefits.ChooseMyPlate. https://www.choosemyplate.gov/eathealthy/vegetables/vegetables-nutrients-health. Accessed October 2, 2019.