Amanda Gordillo is a registered dietitian specializing in gut health with a virtual practice out of South Bend, IN. She helps people suffering from chronic digestive issues caused by things like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel diseases, and imbalanced gut microbiomes, achieve freedom from their symptoms with her 1:1 coaching program "GUT BACK ON TRACK!". We invited Amanda on as a guest blogger after coming across her Instagram page happygut.rd and being intrigued by her refreshing approach to a healthy diet:
The philosophy that drove me to become a registered dietitian is simple: for most of us, the way we nourish our bodies is the biggest influence determining our health. Like many dietitians, I am not a fan of dieting, restrictions, or excessive/obsessive exercise. Studies show us more and more that these methods aren’t sustainable, and they don’t teach us to honor our bodies’ needs or messages. There are a few basic principles that shape my approach to health:
- there is a remedy in nature for truly, almost everything
- your gut plays a massive role in your overall health and wellbeing, and
- your small, everyday habits are the ones that set the whole stage.
So what is a more sustainable approach to better health? I say, that is to slowly create new habits and mindset that you can maintain as part of your routine for the rest of your life. We know that short-term goals yield short-term results, so it really is true that the habits need to stay in place if you want the benefits to last! Some of my top recommendations as a dietitian revolve around adding more fruits and vegetables, including more healthy fats, and using hearty, full-fiber grains. My objective is not to take anything out, but to add an abundance of different nutrient-dense foods in.
One way of eating- and living- that I have long stood behind is the Mediterranean lifestyle. U.S. News & World Report recently ranked the Mediterranean diet as the best overall diet for the fourth year in a row, and I believe for good reasons! The climate and geography of the Mediterranean basin make the “diet” come naturally to those who live there, but the principles are pretty easy to apply anywhere. The pyramid of foods eaten in this style would show large consumption of fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, beans, seeds, and olive oil. These are the hearty, nutrient-rich pieces that make up the bulk of most meals. Fish and seafood are used as protein more regularly than dairy, eggs, or poultry. Foods that are definitely still included but not generally given as much attention, are meats and sweets. Sweets are often fruit, or a fruit-heavy dessert. Other carbs are plentiful and complex, the way our guts and brains like them. Some staples are oats, barley, brown rice, beans, and whole-grain breads and pastas. Olive oil, fish, and seafood provide a variety of fats with mostly anti-inflammatory profiles, like omega-3 fatty acids and other mono- and polyunsaturated fats. These fats help in the short-term to help you feel full and fed, and in the long-run by helping prevent cardiovascular diseases. Notice how nothing is “off-limits”?
I’ll take it a step further, though, and also give a nod to some other Mediterranean habits that positively impact health outcomes. The notoriously good health seen in the Mediterranean comes not only from the foods that are eaten, but also the way people move their bodies, the amount of fresh air they breathe in, and the value given to time spent with friends and family. The culture embraces joyful movement like sports and dancing, and meals are traditionally eaten as families and groups. These habits can’t be overlooked as major contributors to good health!
Some describe the Mediterranean style as an intermediate between a standard western diet and plant-based diets, and the pattern can pretty easily become just a routine way of eating. The basic principle is: more from plants, less from animals. Some easy and sustainable habits I often recommend for people who are looking to nourish themselves better are:
- Add fruit to whatever you can. It’s good on yogurt, in hot or cold cereal, baked into breads, mixed in salads, blended in smoothies, and eaten fresh.
- Add vegetables wherever you can. Good options for quick steaming are broccoli, zucchini, carrots, green beans, and asparagus. Add extra vegetables to soups, blend carrots into pasta sauces, or use onions, peppers, and mushrooms to top your protein.
- Use fish or seafood 2-3 days per week. Aside from the protein and preferred fats that it provides, another perk is that fish tends to cook very quickly! This makes it a good option for busy weeknights and quick lunches.
- Focus on fiber when choosing your grains. The less refined, the better. Look for the “whole grain stamp” on breads and pastas if you’re not sure by looking at the ingredients. Also, try new grains like barley and farro!
- Swap out your vegetable oil for olive, canola, sunflower, or avocado. Vegetable oil is versatile, but it’s full of pro-inflammatory fats. Each of these alternatives has its own uses. For instance; olive oil lends a stronger flavor which can play nicely with other savory ingredients, but it burns pretty easily so it doesn't fry well. Canola oil can tolerate high heats, and doesn’t have much flavor so it mixes well into things like baked goods.
If you’re trying to create some new habits this year, I encourage you to look towards our neighbors in the basin for some ideas. Start small, and only add a new habit once the last one is established. If a new habit or routine doesn’t feel good, ditch it and move on! So goes my motto for most things work and life, always trust your gut.
Until next time,
Amanda Gordillo MA, RD, LD