Often, Sometimes, Rarely

Topics surrounding healthy eating are often hotly contested. It’s easy to get intimidated or confused by the overwhelming amount of conflicting information and opinions out there. That’s why I like to start with deliberately simplified systems of thought when it comes to food.

In my daily eating I like to break different meals and portions into three categories: Often, Sometimes, and Rarely.


These are things I eat as a part of most meals on most days. These foods are the foundation of my diet. They tend to be lower in calories and higher in nutritional value, therefore they are more difficult to overeat than other foods.

For me this includes things like:

Fruits – apples, pears, strawberries, blueberries, bananas

Vegetables – spinach, broccoli, kale, carrots, string beans, snap peas, asparagus, bell peppers

Lean Protein Sources – chicken, turkey, low fat dairy

Low Calorie Drinks – water, unsweetend tea, diet iced tea, diet soda


These are things I eat as a part of some meals on most days. These foods fill in the nutritional gaps left by my “Often” foods. They tend to be higher in caloric content or nutrients that are associated with health risks when consumed in excess, but they are very beneficial in moderation.

For me this includes things like:

Grains and Starches – rice, bread, potatoes, pasta, oatmeal, cereals

Fatty Protein Sources – beef, salmon, tuna, eggs, full fat dairy

Nuts and Legumes – almonds, walnuts, cashews, nut butters, peanuts, beans

Oils – olive oil, canola oil


These are things I eat as a part of some meals on some days. These foods may or may not serve a nutritional purpose, but they often taste good and are sometimes used in social events or celebrations. It is easy to overeat these foods, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t get to enjoy myself.

For me this includes things like:

Processed Meats – bacon, sausage, salami, pepperoni

Dessert Foods – pie, ice cream, cake, cookies, brownies

Snack Foods – chips, crackers

High Calorie Drinks – soda, alcoholic drinks, sweetened tea

Oversized Portions – while not an item of food, large portions of any kind can be fun for me on special occasions


The examples listed are not rules for everyone; they’re not even rules for me. All I’ve done is given a framework for how I eat to reach my goals in a way that facilitates a lifestyle that makes me happy. I hope this might have given you some ideas on how to simplify your own eating to keep on track for achieving your personal health and fitness goals while still enjoying food.

If you’re not making or maintaining progress toward your goals, check if you’re eating your “Rarely” foods too often. If you’ve been suffering to make every meal perfect, cut yourself some slack and realize that a little bit of indulgence won’t ruin a consistently healthy diet. The way you eat can have an equal impact on your health and your happiness, and at the end of the day both are important.

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