Hi there and welcome!
…Um, can we just talk about the diet madness that is out there in the world right now? Just for a second?
Oh good, let’s just let the elephant out of the room: We can’t be strict this/that/or the other thing, 100% of the time.
Sometimes you just want a big plate of spaghetti – not some ripoff a Whole30 blogger came up with involving endless zoodles, nightshade-free tomato sauce (because, lectins) and ground tofu.
Sometimes your kids are screaming for pizza or burgers or mac and cheese – not another day of mom’s crazy diet dinner.
This is where your real, messy life intersects with all these rules books where authors get to sit in their nice pretty offices and think up arbitrary rules on how to be and act and eat perfectly as though you were a robot who subsists on kale chips.
And the resulting conflict ain’t pretty.
In fact, it sets us up to feel like failures. It sets us up to be at war with food. It sets us up to hate our own bodies. Our own bodies! Our bodies are heroes!
expert entrepreneur out there selling their book or supplement line has a different set of rules for how you should eat.
They’ve called for high protein/high fat guidelines.
They’ve called for high protein/low carb guidelines.
They’ve called for strict vegan guidelines, or even “all raw” guidelines.
We even have one so-called medical expert – Dr. Gundry of The Plant Paradox – suggesting we not eat about half of the vegetable kingdom.
Honestly, its enough to cause us nutrition-whiplash. How are you supposed to know who to believe?
We are firm believers that the best diet is the one that makes you happy and healthy. It’s the one you can sustain indefinitely without a lot of effort. It’s the one you don’t have to think about every minute of the day. It’s one that nourishes your body, mind and spirit. It’s one that fits in well with your personal values and your lifestyle.
You deserve to eat in peace.
When you can eat in a world that is *still* screaming but you’ve found the Mute button…
…when you can have a happy, joyful and thankful relationship with your food…
….when you can view your body as your hero and your best friend, not your enemy….
Then you have found the perfect diet.
I don’t care what Dr. Gundry says. Or Don from down the street who seems to have it all figured out.
You wanna be vegetarian because you love eating legumes, veggies and fruits with some occasional cheese or eggs? Cool!
You wanna do mostly-Paleo because you really enjoy meat and veggies? But once a week you double-down with alfredo? Cool!
You want to eat high carb because you’re a bread-and-pizza lover and you know how to eyeball portions without stressing about it? Cool!
What do all these diets have in common?
No sane diet or nutrition advice will tell you to eat MORE processed junk.
Thousands of years of wisdom tell us that the healthiest diets are simple, sustainable, and seasonal.
They don’t chase after fads and advertisements, or the latest “tech food”. They don’t suffer from “shiny new object” syndrome.
Most of what they eat doesn’t even have a brand, much less a nutrition label.
It’s not required to be packaged and labeled by corporations because….it wasn’t made by them. It was made by Mother Nature. And she’s just all fresh outta plastic wrap and printer paper. 🙂
In general, what “balanced eating” means, we can simply take from our ancestors: subsisting on inexpensive, seasonal and local ingredients – literally any ingredients we like to eat that are natural foods.
What’s the other side of that coin? Learning to tune out fake factory foods – along with their ubiquitous presence and their aggressive advertising.
Like the billions of traditional eaters before us, we make the most of flavor combinations with fresh herbs, fats, salts, and savory garnishes. And with the help of modern technology and a whole host of creative food bloggers, recipe developers and chefs – our possibilities are endless for cooking, and eating, real and natural food – even in today’s modern age.
The truth is that throughout history and even in the world today, there equally healthy people who eat vastly different diets.
There are some people who eat loads of saturated fats – but they eat superb quality local animals who are well bred and well raised.
There are people who eat loads of simple carbs – but those grains and beans are grown simply and locally without chemicals or processing.
There are people who eat lots of cheese, drink wine, have tons of bread. They are happy and live long.
The one thing these eaters all have in common is that they don’t eat much or any processed corporate food or factory farmed meats – either because that food is not present in their cultures, or because they reject it in favor of tradition.
The other thing they all have in common is that food doesn’t stress them out. And in general, they live a pretty low-stress lifestyle by choice.
All evidence points to the same outcome: Corporate fake “food” is making us sick and diseased.
By eating primarily homemade meals, and consuming food that was sustainably raised, we will eliminate up to 95% of all food-related illnesses and diseases: from bacterial outbreaks to chemical poisoning to heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
It’s really as simple as that.
This type of eating is how our species has thrived for tens of thousands of years, more or less, depending on what was available to us. It is still how much of the world eats, including parts of Europe, the Mediterranean, India, Japan, Mexico and everywhere else “industrialized corporate food” hasn’t gotten its foothold in the door.
The “Blue Zone” diets – studies of populations that are significantly longer-lived and healthier than the world at large – are based off of this traditional eating lifestyle.
Why is eating simply and sustainably, healthy for us? Because this style of eating looks after our functioning needs, our microbiome needs, our anti-inflammatory needs, our immune system needs, our muscle and bone retention needs, our stress needs and even our social needs.
It’s pretty tough to make a profit on something our planet makes for FREE.
Profits come from complicated food inventions, like “bread” with 30 ingredients/ chemicals/ additives in it. Traditionally, only 2 ingredients are necessary for bread: flour and water. Maybe a little salt if you like.
Traditional, whole eating is the simple key to dramatically better health.
So don’t let any crazy book or supplement company tell you that beans are unhealthier than Doritos.
Stop listening to the processed food and drink ads – turn them off or mute them.
It’s your personal decision what you put in your mouth, and no one can change that.
If given the chance, those companies will advertise you quite literally to death.
Eat In Peace Pyramid
Remember that people seeking to live healthier, lose weight, gain lean mass or address health concerns can see transformational success on a WIDE RANGE of protein, carbohydrate and fat ratios & sources.
However, if you’re a total beginner and don’t know where to start – start here.
Use this super-basic pyramid as your guideline and adjust from there.
Remember that diet is not black and white, and no one is an expert on your life like you are. This is a starting point only, which balances your macronutrients out pretty equally.
…And also allows for hydration, and fun. Two things often missing from diet plans. 🙂
Layer 1: 50% Hydration
Almost all of us are chronically dehydrated, whether we feel it or not. The very first thing you should think about as you clean up your nutrition and detox your body is to provide it with adequate hydration.
Specifically, you should drink 50% of your body weight in ounces of water/clear fluids, daily. Most people completely forget hydration but it is foundational to all you eat, think and do.
Nothing is as singularly important to your health as getting plenty of fresh, simple hydration.
When you ignore your body’s daily water intake needs, you can count on being depressed, anxious, and chronically fatigued. You’ll also have a tougher time digesting your food, absorbing crucial nutrients, and performing in just about every area of your life.
- You can count not just plain water but any nourishing, non-sugary liquid.
- Your AM cup of coffee, fresh pressed juice, the broth in your soup lunch, the water bottle you added a Nuun tablet to for flavoring, and the La Croix you had with dinner all count. It does not have to be only plain water.
- If you’re an athlete/working out heavily: Increase this by 16 oz for every 30 minutes of moderate to high intensity exercise you do. (Anything that makes you sweat.)
Layer 2: 40% Whole Carbohydrates
The second layer in the pyramid is the foundation for life: energy. Eat 40% of your calories in plant carbohydrates from high quality, local/sustainable sources.
Carbohydrates all break down into sugar (energy) in the body. There are several types of digestible sugars, but the most relevant to us are Glucose, Sucrose, Fructose, and Lactose.
Aim primarily for Glucose. Glucose is the fuel of life, it always has been.
Plants produce glucose.
Keep in mind that Sucrose (table sugar, honey, maple syrup) is one part Glucose (not sweet) and one part Fructose (extremely sweet). The more whole Glucose you can get (non sweet carbs), the better your body will perform. Minimize your Fructose content except in whole fruits.
You have a huge world to choose from here – literally tens of thousands of options. Whole vegetables, starchy root veggies, whole grains and whole legumes all fit in this category.
Serving sizes of carbs are typically are smaller than you are conditioned for – so it’s easy to get 2 servings per meal.
- 4 servings per day of vegetables (1/2 cup for dense veggies like broccoli or potatoes, 1 cup for leafy greens)
- 1-2 servings a day of whole fruit, not juice (1/2 cup of berries, grapes or chopped fruit, or 1 whole medium sized fruit like apple, banana, or tomato)
- 1-2 servings a day of legumes (1/2 cup cooked which is 1/4 cup dry)
- 1-2 servings a day of grains (1 slice of bread, 1/2 cup al dente pasta or other cooked grain like rice, barley, faro, quinoa, bulgur, polenta, oatmeal)
Read more in our How to Eat Carbs Right article.
Layer 3: 30% Healing, Protecting Fats
Eat 30% of your calories from healthy, natural and unprocessed fats.
Unsaturated and saturated fats serve different purposes in our body. Plant and clean animal sources are both healthy. (By clean, we mean without stored toxin buildup from factory farming food and environment.)
Aim for 4 servings a day in each of the following categories, and mix it up.
- 1-2 servings a day of nut or seed (1/4 cup is an official serving size, but even 2 tablespoons daily will be very beneficial)
- 1-2 servings a day of fermented pastured dairy (kefir, unsweetened yogurt, parmesan) or pastured butter and ghee
- 1-2 servings a day from natural fats from whole foods like avocados, or unrefined oils (olive, avocado, coconut)
- 1-2 servings a day from wild or pastured animal fat (salmon/fish, grass-fed animals, pastured eggs)
Read more in our How to Eat Fat Right article.
Layer 4: 20% Clean, Rebuilding Protein
Protein might be the only macronutrient not under attack at the present moment, so eat it without guilt! 🙂 (Just kidding – you should eat all your real food without guilt.)
We have less options in the protein world than we do the carbohydrate world, which makes sense – our bodies need less of it.
Keep in mind that each gram of both protein and carbs equates to 4 calories. The primary role of protein is to Rebuild, while the primary role of carbs is to Move. Because we typically do more moving than rebuilding with our bodies, it stands to reason we should be taking in more energy.
However, in a typical corporate sedentary lifestyle, it is very easy to overeat carbs. A lot of people find it difficult to overeat protein, due to its density and richness.
Even at the 20% suggestion (which some weight trainers would pronounce “low”), almost all Americans are protein-deficient at even that percentage.
They might take in 30-40g of protein a day when they should be taking in 80-120g a day.
Protein is involved not only in rebuilding and repairing all cells, but acts as carriers for many nutrients and hormones in our body. Protein is crucial to functioning in every cell of our body.
You should eat 20% of your diet from quality, sustainably produced protein, like 100% pastured animals grown on smaller farms, and high-protein plants like legumes.
On a 2000 calorie diet, this will equate to about 100 grams. We have found it easiest to stack our protein, aiming for 20 grams at breakfast, 30 grams at lunch and 40 grams at dinner – with another 10 grams in snacks. But do whatever works for you.
Remember that protein quality matters. When we talk about eating “clean”, we aren’t talking about eating white meat versus dark meat versus red meat. We should focus on clean animals – which involves their bodies, their food, their environment, and their slaughter/package conditions.
You are not going to get clean protein in the mass produced meat packing producers. So to truly eat clean protein, focus on local and small farms with healthy, clean animals.
Never or very rarely eat Factory Farmed protein for best results. Not farmed beef, not farmed pork, not farmed poultry, and not farmed fish. If you must eat mass produced protein on occasion, stick to the leanest cuts possible. And avoid Fast Food protein.
Read more in our How to Eat Meat Right article.
Also, consider 20% your starting point. As you balance out your diet, if you want to go higher, you can safely go into the 30% range or even up to 40% without much consequence. Just be sure you are also getting plenty of fiber.
The Top 10%: Fun (ie Life)
And finally, 10% of your diet should be whatever the hell you want, because our lives aren’t perfectly organized and prepared, and neither are we!
Consider this the “life” aspect – it’s crucial for your happiness. Some notes on the “Whatever” layer:
- A high quality glass of wine, a couple squares of dark chocolate, a good gelato or ice cream, a homemade Grandma-style chocolate chip cookie, all fall into this camp. But a slice of pizza here and there isn’t gonna kill us either. 🙂
- Our total calorie and macro balance throughout a week is more important than day to day. Some people have a little treat every day, and some “save” up these calories for a cheat meal once or twice a week. It doesn’t matter, as long as you are still adhering to 10% of your calories (daily or weekly) and NO more!
- Given that 10% of your daily calories goes down the hatch really easily in our favorite high-calorie foods, its important to be diligent about ONLY having the 10% – if you’re trying to maintain a calorie deficit for weight loss.
The Role of Flexible Nutrition
Remember earlier in the article when we mentioned that people all over the world are capable of being equally healthy, despite significantly different diets?
Different cultures may have different Macro ratios (Protein, Carbs and Fats) but the one thing they all have in common is that they don’t eat processed junk or factory food.
It is really important to remember that overall healthier eating by balancing your energy needs, eating more whole foods, more veggies and fruits, and less refined sugar, fried fast food and snack food, is going to result in 80-90% better health – regardless of the macro ratio that you prefer.
Some people prefer more protein, some people prefer more carbs. Some people prefer to eat animals, some people prefer only plants. This is what flexible dieting is all about.
Don’t stress about exact ratios. Use our 40-30-20 Ratio Guideline as a starting framework and go from there.
We’ve been so trained by corporate advertising that we don’t know what we’re doing, or we’re doing it all wrong.
Give yourself some compassion and self love. Give yourself permission to love food again. REAL, WHOLE food. Not corporate fake food. You can become an intuitive eater again if you start retraining your taste buds, stomach and brain.
Real Life Examples
Let’s get tactical in this last section, so you can start to see this pyramid in real life, and take action.
In a 2000 Calorie Diet this is what the above framework would look like.
2000 calories is what a 35 year old male needs daily who is 5’10”, weighs 160 pounds, has average body fat/muscle tone, and has a sedentary day job, not counting any workouts:
* 50%: Drink 80 oz of water/fluid a day
* 40%: 800 calories in nutrient and fiber-laden plant carbohydrates (about 200 grams)
* 30%: 600 calories in healthy and nourishing fats (about 66 grams)
* 20%: 400 calories in building/repairing proteins (about 100 grams)
* 10%: 200 calories of enjoyable, relaxing food or drink to keep him happy and sane
In a 1600 Calorie Diet this is what it looks like.
1600 calories is what a 35 year old female needs daily who is 5’6”, weighs 135 pounds, has average body fat/muscle tone, and has a sedentary day job, not counting any workouts:
* 50%: Drink ~65 oz of water/fluid a day
* 40%: 640 calories in nutrient and fiber-laden carbohydrates (about 160 grams)
* 30%: 480 calories in healthy and nourishing fats (about 53 grams)
* 20%: 400 calories in building/repairing proteins (about 80 grams)
* 10%: 160 calories of enjoyable, relaxing food or drink to keep her happy and sane
These are just two average examples but can be completely customized to your body, lifestyle, and health goals.
This is a really well-rounded, basic, and flexible diet that is going to keep your body operating efficiently, give you the energy to exercise, the mental acuity to crush it in your career, and the emotional health to care for yourself and your family.
Beware Diet Shortcuts
The above nutrition ratio not going to over-work your internal organs, which is really important. Many of the fad diets have focused on outward appearance ie “bikini ready” or “flatter stomach”, while completely ignoring what we medically know about how our organs work.
For example, the Keto diet encourages us to stop eating our source of energy and force our liver to produce our energy for us. This seems like it would utilize fat stores for energy at an accelerated rate.
The problem with this is that it can imbalance our hormones and put our bodies into starvation mode. It also over-strains our livers and our kidneys by trying to filter the ketones (which are toxic to the body).
“Shortcut” diets like these may have dramatic short term effects as we shed mostly water weight related to low carb eating. But in the long run they wreak havoc on the body.
Don’t trust heavily-marketed, fad diets.
Go to the areas in the grocery store that are the quietest. Like the bulk bin aisle – hardly anybody is ever there buying whole beans and grains. Everybody’s over in the highly-processed, “gluten free” aisle, the soda aisle, the chips and crackers aisle.
Because organs are out of view and can’t easily be seen like our stomach can, its awfully tempting to ignore them. But this is where we get into trouble over the long haul.
We know for a fact that the following things are good for our brain, heart, liver, kidneys, stomach and intestines.
- Plenty of water to keep things moving (liquids/toxins)
- Plenty of fiber to keep things moving (solids/food)
- Balanced Vitamins and minerals (all functions in the body, immune system, balancing hormones)
- Plant antioxidants (protect us on the inside from environmental and food toxins and carcinogens)
- Healthy fats – needed for all organ, brain, and skeletal function. Healing to the gut.
- Protein – needed for energy, bone and muscle density, repairing and recycling cells, hormonal and digestive function
- Carbs – needed for physical energy and mental acuity. The brain uses about 130g of glucose a day.
Standard Western Diet
Interestingly, the typical American Diet is almost exactly an inverted pyramid of the Eat In Peace Pyramid:
- 50% of calories come from “whatever the heck we want” – usually processed sugar, unhealthy/unfermented grains, hydrogenated oils, deep fried food, sick and dirty, pathogen-infested meat, sugary alcohol drinks, etc.
- 40% of our calories come from fat and most of it is super unhealthy, corporate/industrial fat that is making us really sick, or animal fats holding massive amounts of toxins, chemicals, and heavy metals in it.
- 30% of our calories come from protein and most of it is fast food, fried and factory farmed
- We actually drink more like 20% of our body weight in ounces of water a day.
- 10% of our calories might come from “health food”, if we’re lucky, because we are trying to eat better, so we may have a salad or two per week (which may or may not be at a fast food chain), or we eat a couple baby carrots and a tomato slice on our sandwich, and declare our vegetable quota is met for the week. 😂
In summary, our advice is to keep your diet simple and stop panicking about the latest demonized ingredient.
Cheers! And May you Eat In Peace.