I am going to try to answer in an article format the most commonly asked questions I come across when it comes to food and nutrition. These are simple guidelines for average people with average lives who eat the average diet. Please note–when I use the word “diet” it refers to what is eaten on a daily basis, the good, bad and the ugly. “Diet” has become synonymous with calorie restricted trends that generally cause a cycle of yo yo weight loss/gain and nutrient deficiencies.
There is a TON of conflicting information out there when it comes to food and nutrition. Contrary to some people’s popular belief, carbs are not the enemy and are very misunderstood and too much protein is NOT good for the body.
This article will offer some basic guidelines, but if you are seriously contemplating severe dietary changes, seek the help of a professional. Nutrition is chemistry and a very complex thing. Improper nutrition can lead to serious damage at a cellular level that is sometimes, irreversible. So, my suggestion to anyone who intends to drastically make changes or follow some random trendy “meal plan/diet” is to avoid it until they seek qualified professionals.
Q-What is a healthy, well balanced diet ?
The daily dietary requirements Protein, Carbohydrates & Healthy Fats.
I also consider hydration a daily dietary requirement so WATER goes on the list too!
Protein– Although it is quite difficult to discuss the full function of proteins within a simple blog article- the basic outline- protein is needed by the body for muscle/tissue repair & growth.
Protein may been found in plant and animal form. Most people automatically think protein comes only from meat/animals……That is incorrect. Plants offer fantastic sources of protein as well!
Protein = 4 calories per gram
Carbohydrates– Energy! I can’t stress this enough! Carbohydrates provide the energy we need for our daily activities. It is the body’s preferred energy source and some cells (like our brain cells) can ONLY use carbs for energy. When most people hear “carbohydrate” they instantly think of potatoes, rice, breads and pasta. However, fruits and veggies fall into the carbohydrate category as well. Would you consider vegetables bad for you? Certainly not. Carbohydrates buzz words–simple and complex, low and high density, glycemic index etc are all topics for another article entirely. With all the misconceptions out there about carbs- I avoid labeling them into good and bad. I prefer to look at them as offering varying levels of nutrients. White processed pasta has very little nutrition left in it, where as a whole wheat or a vegetable pasta is more nutrient dense.
Servings of vegetables are preferable over servings of fruit etc
Carbohydrates = 4 calories per gram
Dietary Fats– Fat is not the enemy! Fat has gotten a bad wrap over the past few decades and many people misunderstand the difference between healthy fats and horrid fats.
Healthy fats– Avocado, Coconut oil, Olive oil, Almonds, Flax Seeds, Fish, Chicken…..and much more.
Horrid fats– Margarine, Butter, Lard/Cooking oil, Dressings, Sauces/Gravies etc..
Avoid FAT FREE products. Fat is an emulsifier/thickener and adds flavor and it occurs naturally and if they remove the natural form- they have to have something in there to emulsify/thicken it back up and add flavor back in. What gets put back in–chemical forms thickeners etc….and a load of refined sugars.
Look at it this way-optimally, you want to eat as naturally and nutrient dense as possible. The more processed something becomes, the further away from natural it is.
To clarify- I am not talking about eating fat free cookies, deserts, and other unhealthy foods. They should be avoided anyway. I am talking about yogurts, cheese, milk etc.. Healthy dietary fats are needed by the body to absorb particular food nutrients, keep the cholesterol levels in check, make our skin and hair shine and improve overall health.
Fats= 9 calories per gram
Water– Hydration! Water is needed by the body to transport nutrients and oxygen to the cells, help with metabolism and regulate the body temperature. It also lubricates the joints and detoxify the body.
Do you suffer from frequent headaches? It could be your body’s way of telling you that you are dehydrated.
Are you always hungry even right after you have eaten?
Dehydration signals can manifest themselves as a “hunger” pain, strange heart beats, acid reflux, headaches…the list goes on.
Its important to make sure you get enough water into your body throughout the day.
Water= 0 Calories
Notice that I have placed the calorie cost under each section. I have listed that to show you that healthier food habits costs less in calories.
Have a look at these comparison’s
2 pounds of carrots(that’s a lot of carrots) = 372 calories
1/2 cup of Rocky Road Ice Cream = 300 calories
Bag of Ruffles Plain Potato Chips(235g)= 1316 calories
1 large baked potato(235g) = 245 calories
Here is food for thought—
Notice the weight of the potato is equivalent to the size of the bag of potato chips? So not only are you paying a ridiculous amount for 1 potato, it will cost you a ton of calories with very little return on any healthy nutritional value and they are loaded in sodium.
Q-What are serving sizes and what do they look like?
Portion/serving sizes is another problematic area I come across all the time. We tend to over eat………..period.
When you look at the serving sizes, it can be very misleading. I suggest everyone Google search visual serving sizes to find many resources that you can use to compare against what the recommended serving size should be.
An example-A serving of protein should be about the size of a deck of cards. Seriously….that is what the visual guideline is. So, when you pull that steak out to put it onto the bbq- there is likely enough servings in there to feed your family of four.
A serving of bread is 1 slice or 1/2 a bagel.
Q- How many meals should I be eating in a day?
My preference, along with most health professionals, is 3 meals and 2 snacks. The body needs fuel to run and to maintain blood sugar levels consistently, you should be eating something every few hours to maintain a happy level of energy all day.
Breakfast, Snack (2-3hours later) Lunch, Snack( 2-3 hours later) Dinner.
If you are extremely active, an evening snack may be needed to get you through until the morning.
Q- What is a snack?
A snack is a small amount of food to carry you over until your next meal. Remember, our brain can only fuel off carbs, so you need to “top it up” Snacks should be a combination of carbohydrate, protein and a bit of healthy fat.
Examples of healthy snacks
Vegetables & Cheese cubes
A small handful of nuts & carrot or celery sticks
1/2 Bagel & 1/2 cup of Greek yogurt
1/2 apple and a slice of cheese
Q- How can I make sure I drink enough water?
Drink an 8 ounce glass before and after every meal and at least one glass with your snacks. This routine will enable you to polish off 8-10 glasses of water every day and you won’t have to think about it.
Q- Is keeping a food diary a good idea?
YES!!! Yes!!! Yes!!! Writing everything in a food journal is an excellent tool to utilize and they even have apps for phones now! It deters you from grabbing a handful of Oreo’s if you have to write it down. I also have my clients track what kind of mood/emotion they were experiencing at the time of each journal entry.
Tracking everything that goes into your mouth, gives you an invaluable resource to reflect back on. You will see patterns emerging as you progress through the first few weeks. You may have stopped drinking wine with dinner every day, but are you replacing it with other sweet foods?
How much does your mood affect what you were eating at the time?
It is also an excellent way to track if you are getting the recommended servings your approximate caloric intake, food habits etc……
Q- How do I shop?
- Stay out of the aisles as much as possible. Shop on the outside perimeter of the store.
- Avoid the bakery even though it is on the outer perimeter of the store. I actually had someone justify a bakery trip to me by stating it was on the perimeter. LOL– Nice try~~
- Avoid purchasing items that come in bags or boxes(packages) or items that have more than 5 ingredients listed and you can’t understand a word of it.
- If you must go into the aisles– only go into the ones you need. Don’t trek into the ones you don’t need anything from- this will lead to impulse buys.
- Meal plan for the week and create a shopping list from that. STICK to it.
- Don’t go shopping when you are hungry, that is a recipe for disaster. It also costs you more money.
© Noreen Marie (Reenie) and Mysfit Fitness, January 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Noreen Marie (Reenie) and Mysfit Fitness with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.