No industry is influenced by trends quite like health and wellness. We live in a world where one food group can be outlawed for an entire decade, a new wellness brand comes out every other day, and a single ingredient is declared "healthy" one minute and "unhealthy" the next. The sheer amount of advice, literature, and opinion permeating the health and wellness industry is enough to give anyone decision fatigue.
That's why we tapped clinical nutritionist Samantha Franceschini of Nutrition by Sam for her professional opinion on healthy eating methods. "Healthy eating can be very intimidating for people who are just starting out," she told THE/THIRTY. "From working in clinical practice, I have found that different techniques work for different people, and the most successful clients are those who create a lifestyle rather than a diet." Below, read up on what she believes to be the five most effective healthy eating methods for anyone looking to cut through the health trends and improve their lifestyle.
Method One: The Mediterranean Diet
Like countless other medical professionals, Franceschini is a fan of the Mediterranean diet. "Although I try to stray away from the word 'diet' and focus more on lifestyle, I always recommend [that] my clients start with a form of the Mediterranean diet, simply because it's the most beneficial in creating a lifestyle change," she says.
As a refresher, the Mediterranean diet is built around plenty of vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes, whole grains, bread, seafood, and extra-virgin olive oil. Mediterranean diet devotees eat dairy and poultry in moderation, rarely eat red meat, and pass on sugar-sweetened beverages, added sugars, processed meats, refined grains, refined oils, and other processed foods.
"Not only is the Mediterranean diet a tasty way to eat, but it's also an extremely realistic way to create a lifestyle and reduce inflammation," she adds. "Inflammation is the leading cause of all disease, making the Mediterranean diet an extremely effective healthy eating method."
Method Two: Count Your Colors
This method refers to "eating the rainbow" instead of filling up on beige-colored foods, like processed carbohydrates. "I am a big fan of using food first before sending clients to the store to purchase supplements," explains Franceschini. "Different-colored fruits and vegetables are loaded with vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients—all of which we look for in a 'healthy diet.' Maximizing the number of colors in your diet will maximize the number of micronutrients, making this an extremely effective healthy eating method."
"Eating seasonally is one of my favorite tips and tricks to [share with] clients because it's so effective," explains Franceschini. "First, seasonal produce is going to have the highest amount of nutrients locked into the fruits and veggies. When something is out of season, it can sit on the shelf for weeks before you buy it." When that happens, you lose a lot of the valuable nutrients that contribute to optimal health. "Secondly, seasonal produce is cheaper and can help you save money when you're on a budget. When you buy seasonal, you introduce a wide range of vegetables into your diet throughout the year."
Method Four: Learn to Love Smoothies
No matter what your approach to diet and lifestyle, Franceschini always recommends incorporating a smoothie first thing in the morning. "Smoothies are a great way to load up on fruits and vegetables first thing in the morning to ensure you are getting the number of servings you need throughout the day," she explains. "Studies also show that starting your morning with a smoothie rich in fruits and vegetables influences your taste buds, [making you] crave them throughout the day."
Method Five: Meal-Prep
This somewhat divisive healthy eating method is a favorite of Franceschini's. "If you don't have time to meal-prep on Sundays, that's okay. But try to plan what you will be making throughout the week [ahead of time]," Sam explains. It can be as simple as planning to make salads for lunch and Instant Pot meals for dinner for the week. "Always make a little extra for dinner so that you can use your leftovers for lunch the next day," she specifies. "At the end of the day, preparation is key."