What is Intuitive Eating?

January 08, 2018 | Human Sciences Extension and Outreach

baskets of tomatoes and egglplants

I am sure you have heard that all foods fit… but can all foods really fit into a healthy diet? That is the million-dollar question.

Intuitive eating is about eating healthfully while still enjoying your favorite treat foods too! Eating this way will not jeopardize your weight or health and you can eat without feeling guilty. It takes the guesswork out of eating, making it a pleasant experience.

So what should I eat? How do I decide? Choosing a food based on taste, body function, and nutrient value causes a shift in how you decide what to eat and goes beyond what you may be craving.


Taste:  Are your taste buds satisfied?  Or are you feeling deprived? Slowing down and savoring each bite will help you decide how much you like something and is instrumental in choosing what to eat.

Body function: How is this food going to feel in your body? Will it energize you or will you crash later because it does not have enough protein, fiber and fat to sustain you? Do you feel nauseous? Choosing food that makes your body feel good is key!

Nutrient value: Is this food good for your body? Does it provide the nutrients that you need to exercise in an efficient manner; or give you enough brainpower to do well at school or work?

Choosing  a majority of your food based on taste, body function, and nutrient value honors your health and contributes to your overall well-being and a healthy relationship with food!

What about pizza, chips, sweets, or candy? How does this fit in?  “Junk food” (which I prefer to call treat food to take away the guilty complex associated with junk food) is important because it tastes good and it is everywhere. Therefore, it is unrealistic to believe it can be avoided long term. Being too restrictive with treat foods can end in a binge where it takes more of that food to satisfy a craving. All foods are on the same plane emotionally—there are no “good or bad foods” and foods should not make you feel guilty.  However, there are foods that are more nutrient dense than others and that is different.  Therefore, planning treat foods into your eating plan is important to give balance. If you are very rigid and only eat “healthy” foods, it is difficult to follow long-term.

In summary, the answer is Yes—all foods can fit. Remember, you do not have to eat a “perfect” diet to be healthy. It’s what you eat consistently over time that matters. Becoming an intuitive eater takes time, don’t expect to perfect this overnight or in a month or two, otherwise this would be called a diet! This process may take longer than a fad diet (which doesn’t work in the end anyway) but is well worth the time to make peace with food and your body and as a bonus your body and mind will be healthier too!


For more information about intuitive eating, consider reading Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program That Works by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch.

Written by Alison St. Germain, a Registered Dietitian with an MS in Nutrition and works with the Dietetic Internship Program at Iowa State University and is a certified Intuitive Eating Counselor.

Human Sciences Extension and Outreach

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