Rule zero: There are no rules beyond those of physics: If you heat it too much, it will burn. Conversely, if you don’t heat it enough it may crack your teeth. And that would hurt.
1. Eat a robust breakfast: Enough protein and fat at breakfast means you won’t be hungry until lunch. You won’t even want to snack. You won’t even think about it.
2. Chew your food. (Warning: Nested TV references!) There’s an old episode of The Odd Couple in which Felix’s character describes his mother’s exhortation on the subject: “Thirty-two times keeps your tummy from danger, and then you can stay up and watch The Lone Ranger.” Your mouth is the first physical step on the digestion road. Chewing helps keep things easy for the rest of the system. You win by getting the most out of your food.
3. Eat a moderate lunch with lots of vegetables. Olive oil is your friend.
4. Relax when you eat. Seriously. The idea of taking a minute before meals to give thanks, pray or just breathe resets your physiology so you can digest your food. Your body can’t tell the difference between nonlethal stress (what’s in your head) and a saber-toothed tiger kind of stress (existential threat). If you’re running from a predator, the body prioritizes survival so you can live to digest food another day.
5. Eat a moderate dinner, ideally 3 hours before bedtime. Veggies should make up half the plate.
6. If you’re going to eat sugary things, do so as close to mealtimes as possible. Yes, this includes both juice and whole fruit.
7. Eat some fermented foods. At least a little. Every day.
8. Drink water and tea away from meals. Water is for cleaning you inside and out. It’s not an excuse to avoid chewing. It also dilutes your digestive juices, meaning food takes longer to break down. What about soup? Good question. Let’s just call soup an exception.
9. Don’t nuke food in plastic. Ever.
10. Avoid anything in cans. There’s BPA.
11. Choose good fats, in as natural a form as possible. That means avocados, not avocado oil. Grass-fed beef, wild fish. Butter, coconut oil and olive oil. Avoid canola, sunflower, safflower, peanut and cottonseed oil. Sesame oil is a condiment, not a cooking ingredient.
12. Your meats should have had happy lives, eating things they evolved to eat. That means pastured cows, wild fish and so on.
13. If you’re going to have sugar, make it count. You know why you have to eat the whole bag of Hershey’s Kisses? Because they taste like wax. With real, high-quality chocolate you’ll eat less and feel more satisfied — and less sick. (My colleague Dr. Melissa Berry ships her chocolates nationwide.)
14. Deli is not cheating. Deli is “research.”