Be a “Qualitarian” and Eat Your Way to Amazing Health

In the latest episode on 30 DAYS OF INTENT, Natalie and Iman are joined by YouTube star HeyKayli for a meeting with renowned dietician, Ashley Koff. Ashley leads them in a workshop on meal planning and juicing. We interviewed Ashley on what is means to be a “qualitarian” and how to make simple changes in our diets to improve our overall health.

The Chopra Well: Hi, Ashley! Thanks for taking the time to talk with us. You call yourself a “qualitarian”? Can you tell us more about that?

Ashley Koff: When it comes to what’s best for our bodies, I used to say “there isn’t a label, any one -ian, that sums up what people should do” but then I came up with Qualitarian – which means “making the better quality choice each time we put something into our body (food, beverage, supplements).”  This breaks down into a few things – the act of making a choice means you are involved and taking responsibility for what goes into your body. It also means you need to learn enough to know what the better quality choice is; better quality means the one that the body will recognize easily as fuel, it’s as close to Mother Nature’s whole foods as possible, no chemistry projects here. And finally, making the better quality choice means that every food is an option so you can respect your cultural influences, your personal preferences, and you can enjoy variety of food choice.

CW: What’s your advice for staying healthy on a tight budget?

AK: I advise people to look at their overall lifestyle budget versus just their food budget. Are there places that you can add money to your food budget to support your health? That said, looking at items like organic frozen fruits and vegetables will definitely save money versus buying in-store ready to eat. Also, buying plain ingredients and assembling your eating occasions yourself will save lots compared to buying the ready-made, especially the single-serve options.

CW: If someone were to give up or change one aspect of their diet, what should it be?

AK: By far, THE WORST thing one can put in their body are things that we don’t know what it does to the body or that is shown to alter internal function. The good news – these are NOT food…they are chemicals derived from chemistry projects, GMOs, and toxins used in chemical farming. So the best thing someone can do is to exchange any of these for better quality choices which include anything from Mother Nature’s whole foods pantry.

CW: There are so many popular diets around these days – primal, vegan, macrobiotic, raw…What’s your two cents?

AK: As a dietitian, I work with patients to develop their plan – the one personalized to them, so I would say that the best thing that you can learn to do, regardless of any of these that you may choose to follow for short or long term, is stick the word “my” in front of it and make sure it is tailored to your body, your needs and preferences. So choose from my paleo, my vegan, my gluten-free and always make these diets Qualitarian ones, as no food program based on lesser quality options is a good one for anyone.

Ashley teases Natalie about her Oreo ice cream habit.

CW: Do you have a guilty indulgence? Is there room in a healthy lifestyle for the occasional indulgence?

AK: So here’s the thing – I indulge, yes, but I rarely feel guilty about it. My choices – even the indulgent ones – are mine, so I respect them as such. I had mint chip ice cream with my niece and nephew yesterday because they took me to the shop for my birthday. I don’t know if it was organic, I don’t normally consume dairy at all, but I had a few bites (okay, half a scoop but I ate out all the chocolate chunks and left most of the ice cream) but I won’t feel guilty about it. I went to yoga, did a few hours of gardening, and was on the elliptical yesterday so I am not worried about the calories, and if it’s another year or six months before I have non-organic dairy again or ice cream, I am okay with that.

I am still a Qualitarian. When I do feel guilty is when I allow myself to be talked into something I don’t want to have, or consume something “just because it’s there” that doesn’t even taste that great. I know better, and I try to do better, but I have weak moments just like everyone else. I refuse to attempt to be perfect as I would never ask that of any patient either.

Have you tried any yummy (or not so yummy) nutrition plans? Let us know!

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