After ringing in the 2020s, have you already caught yourself thinking: New Year, new decade, new diet? When reflecting on eating patterns and overall health, it’s easy to fall into dichotomous thinking, considering only polar opposites without accepting the possibilities that lie between two extremes.

Here’s the thing: Nutrition is not black or white, all or none, good or bad, right or wrong, clean or dirty. This way of thinking easily lends itself to rigidity and robs you of satisfaction and flexibility with eating, exercise, and other self-care behaviors. Do you identify with any of the following black and white thoughts?

Here are got some strategies to help you see 2020 in full color.

Food is fun. Foods described as junk may also be our favorite foods, yet junk is synonymous with trash or something that has no place in our lives. Try reframing this! We need fun foods balanced with those that meet our nutrient needs. We eat about 95,000 meals in our lifetime. What matters is our overall relationship with food, not the nutritional content of every meal. This year, practice combining fun and functionality, striking a balance that tastes good and feels even better. Food is functional.
100% whole grains…

100% of the time!

Carbohydrates are a preferred source of fuel for the body and brain. Grains contain carbohydrates. The amount of processing it goes through before it’s in our pantry makes a difference in its nutrition content. A whole grain contains the endosperm, germ, and bran (translation: higher fiber), whereas a refined grain usually just contains endosperm, leading to lower fiber content and quicker digestion. There’s no question that whole grains contain more nutrients and fiber than refined grains, but both have a place in our diet. Aim to half and half whole grains and other in your daily intake (depending on your activity level). I’m keeping it low carb or no carb.
Keto is the way to go. Bring on all the fats! Our bodies benefit from balancing the 3 macronutrients: carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. When it comes to fat, remember: Fat imparts flavor and helps with fullness at meals. Furthermore, it allows the body to regulate hormones, absorb certain nutrients, maintain healthy hair and skin, and more.

Dietary fat is essential, and we thrive with the consumption of multiple kinds of fat: saturated, polyunsaturated, and monounsaturated fats. Vary the sources! Cook with olive oil at times and butter at others. Enjoy fatty fish, nuts, seeds, and avocado for a variety of flavors and nutrients.

Low fat or fat free is the only way for me.
After being “good” all day, all bets are off in the evening! At night, our hearts beat, brains dream, and digestive system…digests. Our ability to process food does not shut down at sunset.

Be sure to fuel adequately when awake when the body needs most of its energy. In the evenings, be mindful of emotions and wanting to unwind or manage stress. Stay hydrated and practice good sleep hygiene to mediate the urge to overeat at night. With these strategies in place, we’re better able to discern physical hunger vs. emotional hunger vs. the need to go to bed.

Rule: Never eat past ____PM.
No movement for me! We are made to move, but our bodies require food with or without exercise. Be careful about falling into a mindset of exercising to eat, exercising as punishment, or exercising with the sole purpose of changing weight or appearance.

When it comes to the optimal amount or type of exercise, there’s no gold standard. Exercise is best and most sustainable when it’s used to rejuvenate the body, enhance the mind-body connection and coordination, alleviate stress, and provide genuine enjoyment and pleasure. Perhaps it’s time to try a new group class, go for a hike, dance around the living room, or simply take a day off!

I exercise…

  • To earn food
  • To burn off food
  • To change my body
  • All out, every day

Caroline Pruente, MS, RDN is a nutrition therapist and Registered Dietitian at Memphis Nutrition Group. Memphis Nutrition Group believes in a non-diet approach that promotes overall health and optimal performance without compromising the enjoyment of food. For more information call Memphis Nutrition Group at 901.343.6146 or visit