Screen Shot 2014-09-05 at 11.04.35 AMIf you’re like me and enjoy browsing the aisles of Whole Foods, Wegman,’s, Trader Joe’s or Sprouts markets in major cities of America, you might well be a “foodie” …or at least someone who enjoys a fine selection of healthy food. Americans spend a lot of time and money grocery shopping, with the average shopper heading to the store about 88 times a year and spending upwards of $6,000. However, purchasing or growing healthy food is only one part of the equation. Knowing how to eat right is equally important, especially when you are devoting yourself to fitness and optimal health.

Here are some simple rules to keep in mind as you prepare your local, organic, natural, artisanal and seasonal bounty. These rules, grounded in the work of Gary Taubes (noted author and obesity expert) will insure you have a #FoodGasm in the healthiest of ways.

  1. Diet has “die” in it. Don’t go ON a diet, rather, change the way you think about food and how you approach it in the long run. Diets, research tell us, predict weight gain.
  2. Smart nutritionists teach us to shop the “periphery of supermarkets.” This will help you avoid BHA, BHT, sodium nitrites—and instead choose whole fruits, organic veggies, real meats (rather than chicken fingers), fresh fish (instead of fish sticks) and healthy dairy products.
  3. Calories don’t make you fat. Simple carbs like sugar, honey and refined white flour do. It’s your glycemic index that you need to watch – so choose peanuts over pretzels, black beans over watermelon and chocolate cake over ‘fruit’ roll-ups.
  4. Think farms, not factories. Especially when it comes to meat. Remember these terms: organic, local, grass-fed, pastured and free-range.
  5. Make your meals colorful. Dip your fork into colors that come from leafy, cruciferous or brightly colored vegetables.
  6. Follow Taube’s weight loss plan that includes low carbs, much meat, plenty of plants, minimal dairy and eat when you’re hungry. Don’t limit fat. Say goodbye to pasta, bread, rice and hidden sugars. Be picky about your veggies due to some of their carb content.
  7. Did I say anything about fruit? Good. Tread lightly, as those pretty little things are filled with sugars.
  8. Don’t worry about dietary saturated fat. The “American Journal of Clinical Nutrition” reported no connection between saturated fats and rates of heart attack. It’s the trans fat that you ought to watch out for if you want to control your LDL cholesterol, heart disease and other chronic illnesses. Adding omega-3’s and monounsaturated fats will help reduce the risk of heart disease, arthritis and even lower the risk of some cancers.

So go ahead, keep shopping in the wonderful American food meccas of healthy food, but be sure you are cooking and eating smart! If you want your body to be a healthy kingdom, make exercise the queen and smart eating the king. Despite what we are told by health “authorities,” science tells us that exercise alone will neither help us maintain our weight if we are lean, nor lose weight if we are fat. You cannot out exercise poor and unhealthy eating habits. But you can’t simply eat your way to optimal health either. With that said, exercise like a queen and eat like a king, and you’ll be living in a healthy kingdom.

Michael R. Mantell, Ph.D. has served as an Assistant Clinical Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego and as the Senior Fitness Consultant for Behavioral Sciences for the American Council on Exercise. He is a behavioral sciences coach and consultant, an Advisor to many fitness and health organizations, a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of the International Council on Active Aging, the Chief Consultant for Behavior Sciences for the Premier Fitness Camp at Omni La Costa, a presenter for Rancho La Puerta, a best-selling author and an international fitness-health speaker. In 2013, named Dr. Mantell as one of “The 100 Most Influential People in Health and Fitness.”