THE BLOG
06/20/2016 09:22 am ET Updated Jun 18, 2017

How This Simple Food Experiment Can Help You Thrive

Running simple food experiments on yourself is a smart way to gain evidence about what does and doesn't work well for you. But it can be overwhelming knowing where to start. Would you do well as a vegan? You might believe in Paleo principles, but will that type of a diet make you feel like you are thriving? Different combinations of foods can make you feel amazing, horrible, or anywhere in between.

Are you more energized or practically flatlining when you don't include protein with your meal? Do white beans turn your gut into a putrid, festering cauldron of foulness? The only way to really know is to experiment with your food. Experiments can help you understand how food makes you function and feel, so you can fine-tune your choices to better suit your body's needs.

Here's how I recommend going about conducting successful food experiments:
  • Start with breakfast. If you can figure out which breakfast foods make your body thrive, you will not only get your day off on the right foot, you'll also avoid the blood sugar rollercoaster ride so many people find themselves stuck on.
  • Decide which variables you will test. You can try eating low-carb, high-carb, low-fat, non-fat, meat-centric, vegetarian, or vegan. The point is to try a multitude of combinations so you can see how they impact your mind and body.
  • Identify your metrics. Examine how your food impacts your energy levels, your digestion, and your mood. Also decide on the frequency in which you will be checking in with yourself. Are you just testing how you feel immediately after eating, or do you want to consider how you feel a couple of hours later, too? I recommend doing both.
  • Document your findings. Notice how you feel. Do you feel famished an hour after eating if you don't have any healthy fat? Do you feel sluggish if you consume too many complex carbs. Pay attention and you will learn a lot about yourself and your body.

There are a couple of other points you should consider when conducting food experiments:

  • An apples-to-apples comparison matters! To get accurate data, you want to keep as many other variables as possible constant. For instance, if you don't typically drink coffee, you shouldn't have any during the week you are conducting your breakfast experiment. You may end up writing down "super duper energized!" and attribute this to your bowl of Frosted Flakes when, in fact, it's really the result of introducing caffeine into your diet. Similarly, if you pull an all-nighter to binge on that latest Amazon Prime series, you won't know if your energy is flat because you didn't sleep or if breakfast has anything to do with it. To get the cleanest results, change one variable at a time.
  • Apply your findings! Learn from your findings and apply them to your future breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snack choices. Now that you know raw garlic doesn't do you right, you can stop putting it in your famous pesto recipe. Or if you find that your morning oatmeal leaves your stomach growling an hour later, try topping it with some natural almond butter and banana slices to see if that makes you feel full longer.

How to Conduct the Breakfast Experiment
Explore eating a different breakfast every day for a week. Maybe it's greek yogurt with berries and flaxseed one morning, followed by a smoothie the next morning.

Then write down how you feel, both right after eating and again two hours later. Take a minute to sit quietly after you eat so you can tune into how you feel. Remember to make notes about your energy level, your mood, and any physical symptoms.

Once you finish with breakfast, you can conduct a similar exercise for lunch or dinner if you feel like you need more data.

Happy experimenting!