I think each person needs to figure out what works best for herself individually. A predetermined plan like Whole30 might make a good starting point if you’ve never worked out how food affects you, but your own long-term solution is going to have to be a customized, personalized lifestyle plan.
My General Principles
- With rare exceptions, eat whole, real food – that is, foods that do not require unpronounceable ingredients or industrial manufacturing. Meats, plants, and dairy, and anything I can mix up in my kitchen with those building blocks, is a whole, real food. Some foods might be factory made, but it is a real food if it could be made at home, like sour cream, yogurt, flour (I do grind my own), sugar, coffee, tortillas, etc.
- If Ma Ingalls or Mrs. Wilder or Jane Austen or anyone else who lived before marketing was an industry made and ate a food item, then in my book it counts as a “traditional” food that is not strictly forbidden: this means doughnuts and ice cream and bread are not evil (only rare), eggs and meat and dairy products are essential, fermented beverages are a norm, and garden produce is standard fare. It also means that artificial sweeteners (including herbs processed to white powders or weird liquids), protein powders, juicing and eating coconut oil straight are bizarre modern fads.
- Read the fiction of any time period and you will find people saying they don’t eat this or that because of how it affects them. Everyone should have enough personal awareness to determine what affects them for good and for ill and make food choices accordingly. Experimenting with elimination diets can aid in this process, but shouldn’t be a way of life if it can be helped.
- If eating well, food should give you the energy and stamina and pleasure you need to face life boldly and bravely, not drag you down and wear you out. If you are pulled down by the food you eat, you need to change. Food should carry you through, not weigh you down. Remember that carrying around extra weight is just as fatiguing as carrying around that extra weight in a backpack. Losing excess weight will make you feel so much better: lighter, more energetic, and happier.
- I’m not terribly interested in any food that isn’t good and worth eating in its own right and not as an “almost as good” substitution. If a person who had no food restrictions would never choose to eat it, neither am I. This means I don’t care for artificial sweeteners (they don’t taste as good as the sugar they replace), bread-like concoctions that no one who eats wheat would ever consider eating (that’s all of them), or fake “healthy” desserts (or fake healthy “desserts”).
- If God calls it good in Scripture, I will not call it bad. This means God gave us bread, wine, milk, animals, honey, fruit and produce, and oils to “taste and see that the Lord, He is good.” He made these things delicious because He intended them to be eaten and enjoyed.
My Plan for Protein
Protein is essential.
Protein is made up of amino acids, and the hormones that govern our energy, mood, and overall health are made with amino acids. Every meal should contain plenty of protein (15-25g) for stamina and general wellbeing. It is very difficult to get the essential amino acids and adequate protein in a vegetarian diet. For me, personally, I respond to beans the same as starches, so they do not count as a protein in my diet. I require eggs, meat, and cheese: concentrated, fatty, animal proteins. The more of these I eat, the better I feel.
My Plan for Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and Vegetables are mandatory.
Vegetables contain a variety of essential nutrients that cannot be found in any other source. They add variety, crunch, and natural sweetness (even many vegetables) to every meal (except breakfast for me, because I just have not been able to enjoy them at breakfast).
My Plan for Starches
Starch should only be consumed in proportion to energy expended and the strength of one’s individual metabolism.
Starches are for quick energy. The only people who should eat generous portions of starches are people expending a lot of energy, performing very physical labor. That is not me. I should particularly avoid starches at the end of the day (during dinner), since I expend hardly any energy afterwards – that means dinner starches will be stored, not used. If I indulge in a starch, it should be in the early afternoon to help me overcome my natural late afternoon energy lull.
I also need to include exercise to keep up my metabolism and allow me to sometimes eat a roll when they are fresh out of the oven or some other worth-it baked good.
My Plan for Sugar
Sugar is an addictive but delicious substance like coffee and wine and tobacco, and should be consumed in careful moderation like coffee and wine.
I do not have a metabolism that allows me to eat sugar without effect. Therefore, I do not take sugar in my coffee or tea, add sugar or honey or syrup to any food. Sugar after dinner keeps me awake and overindulging in sugar makes my face break out.
I do, however, love a glass of wine in the evening, which is another form of concentrated sugars. Therefore, I must regularly exercise if I am to indulge in wine a couple times a week.
My Plan for Fats
Healthy fats are required and unhealthy fats should be eliminated.
Butter, olive oil, coconut oil, and animal fats (bacon, tallow, etc.) are a positive thing to cook with. Margarine, vegetable oil, and Crisco are unhealthy and should be avoided.
What This Looks Like
- Breakfast: I eat 3 eggs fried or scrambled in butter or bacon fat. I drink coffee with half and half.
- Lunch: I have a large salad with protein (leftover meat or cheese).
- Snack: Greek yogurt with frozen berries.
- Dinner: I skip the starch at dinner. I try to make both a salad and a vegetable to accompany the main dish.
- Evenings: I do not eat after dinner. I might have a glass of wine up to twice a week.
- Other: Sundays are the only days I have dessert.