I get this question a lot. People assume that healthy eating and intuitive eating are mutually exclusive and cannot co-occur. What this tells me is that you still distrust your body. If you trusted that your body would intuitively tell you what it needs and what type of eating makes your body feel it's best, you wouldn't be worried about this.
I get it though, and I understand the challenges of this, because until you see evidence that your body is naturally wanting the entire spectrum of food and that it really does all balance out in the big picture, it can feel like intuitive eating leaves you short nutritionally.
Here are some "gentle nutrition" guidelines to fuse with your intuitive eating practice:
- Eat when you are hungry – however, try to eat at least every 3-4 hours to keep your blood sugar stable and metabolism high. This may mean eating smaller meals so that you are hungry again in 3-4 hours.
- Combine carb, protein and fat when you eat. This strategy will help you get in a variety of foods that will in turn supply you with a variety of nutrients.
- Within the carb, protein, fat combo choose foods that are satisfying (i.e. choose the type of foods intuitively). There may be times that you have to force one of the components in order to achieve the balance, and that's ok. Sometimes I'd rather just eat carbs and no protein too, but I know that the protein will help my body feel better because it keeps my blood sugar more stable.
- Add in foods that match your health profile. For example, if you have high blood pressure try to include fruits and vegetables every day because they are high in potassium. Or if you struggle with constipation try foods with soluble fiber (e.g. whole grains) or probiotics (e.g. yogurt). Or perhaps you struggle with inflammation – some cherries or tuna will help combat the inflammation. It can be fun to use food this way!
Always remember that there is no such thing as perfect eating, and that healthy eating includes all types of food. It's completely normal to struggle with integrating nutrition concepts into intuitive eating, and it takes time to wrap your mind around it. As always, be gentle with yourself along the way.