Striving for an A-minus in Healthy Eating 101

I always got A's in high school, really without trying very hard. I don't know whether I was all that smart, or whether I just figured out what my teachers wanted and delivered it on a regular basis.

I had to work harder in college. I remember, in particular, one women's history class my last semester as a senior. I got a C on my first paper and I was outraged! Was this professor crazy? What was she thinking?

I went to talk to her about it, though. I worked harder on the next paper, and I got a B. So I worked really hard on the third paper - research, rewrites, footnotes, the whole thing. I got an A, and I promptly dropped the class. I guess that was enough for me.

So when my good friend, personal trainer and holistic nutritionist Sheila Avery told me about the 90-10 concept, I thought, "Sounds like an A-minus. I'm in."

The idea is that 90 percent of the time, you eat for fuel for your body. You eat primarily vegetables and whole grains and non-meat protein. The remaining 10 percent of the time, you eat for pleasure.

Sheila says, this way, you don't feel deprived because you don't cross any favorite foods permanently off your list. It's not a diet, she says. It's a lifestyle.

So, I did the math: 6.3 days a week – three meals on six days plus one meal on the seventh – you eat like it's business. Then, 0.7 days – two meals a week – you relax. You take your shoes off, you loosen your tie, and if you want a slice of pizza, or a grill cheese sandwich, you have it. You enjoy it. No guilt.

Sheila stresses the no guilt part. She says, shame on you if you eat the potato chips, and you don't enjoy them.

This sounded great to me. It sounded possible. It sounded like something I could do.

Now, perhaps a year or so in, I think I'm right around 50-50 on average. Maybe 60-40. Maybe a good, solid D.

But that's OK. I can work harder. The good thing is, my weight is mostly stable from week to week, and over the long term, it's on a downward trend. Better yet, what this 90-10 thing has really changed for me is portion size. Vegetables and whole grains are really filling, so eating less has become habit.

Sheila also says that it really helps to keep a journal, a list of everything you eat each day. I can attest to that. It really, really helps. I have lost weight consistently every time I've kept one. There even have been times when I haven't eaten something because I've thought, "Oh no, I'm not writing that down. Forget about it."

But the thing is, I hate keeping a food journal. I hate thinking about what I eat. I hate writing down every Hershey kiss and every cup of coffee with cream. I think, "For goodness sakes, I just want to live my life, not constantly analyze everything I'm putting into my mouth."

But I'm going to get over it. I'm going to work harder.

In the past, I've tried all kinds of journals. I've tried notebooks. I've tried fancy blank books. I've tried using the appointment book I use for work, but I hate it when I realize that the person sitting next to me at a meeting is reading what I had for lunch.


My solution is this pdf, above, right, which I've called "Spilling the Beans: Food Journal." I just print it out and I can fold it up and stick in my purse, because you have to take it with you everywhere you go, otherwise you'll forget what you've eaten.

So now I've got my eye on 70-30. C-minus, here I come.

Here's a link about holistic nutrition.

Here's where you can find Sheila.

Reader Comments


A crunchy, spicy salad that's better than a bunny in your living room

When you're having one of those days, you really appreciate something delicious to help realign your universe.

Farro is king in this salad in a jar

The addition of tender yet chewy, nutty and robust farro really transforms a regular old salad into something special.

Rotisserie chicken: Living — and eating — the legacy

The widespread availability and the inherent frugality of the perfectly roasted chicken has revolutionized our ability to prepare healthy meals at home. You heard it here first.

Slow-cooker pulled pork: Why not cook in for your cookout?

This recipe results is a giant pile of tender, subtly smoky, juicy meat and sauce that will leave your guests licking their fingers and their plates.

Move over mac. Meet my friends, cauliflower and cheese

The sauce bubbles and the crumbs crisp. Serve it as a main dish or a side.

Fish cakes from freezer perfect when you're too hungry to cook

After working like a rented mule in the garden all day, cooking dinner is the last thing on my mind.

Thai Quinoa Salad a cure for the cold weather blues

My summer clothes linger in the cedar closet and I'm wearing socks as I write. But never mind all that. It's time for salad!

Even a hard-boiled cook can find inspiration in an egg

In the bleakest of emotional food deserts, a egg can help point the way.

Golden raisins meet oatmeal in a muffin for the ages

They satisfy my sweet tooth — the plump golden raisins offset the buttermilk tang — but with the oatmeal and wheat germ, they feel substantial, more like a meal than dessert.