In theory, we all know that when we sit down to dinner our plate should be a balance between protein, carbohydrates, vegetables and fruit. But knowing it and doing it are two different things, right? Not only is the proper proportion of the different food groups important but, the quality of the food you choose can have a huge affect on how your body processes it, and therefore how you feel after you eat it, and more importantly how much of it turns into fuel verses fat.
The typical American Diet* is:
*according to “Standard American Diet (SAD).” family nutrition, Dr. Sears
Many of us want to change these habits but it seems so hard. “Just tell me what to eat.” I promise, almost every trainer has heard that request!
But the answer is not that simple. Nutrition is not one size fits all. I have attached a link at the bottom of the page to Choose My Plate which is a website operated by the United States Department of Agriculture to try and make this info easy to find and understand.
But have no fear- I’m going to try and do the same thing for you right now.
There are tons of fad diets out there telling us to cut carbohydrates completely or increase our fat intake, squeeze all your meals into 7 hours a day or try to see how long you can exist on lemon water and cabbage soup. I am not a member of any of these camps. There is science behind some of them and I know that individuals have had success losing weight using some of these different plans but in theory, I reject anything that is called a diet or that is so restrictive and difficult to follow that I can’t imagine myself doing it forever. Healthy eating and nutrition is not a temporary step to attain a goal but should be a lifestyle change that we keep forever so that we continuously reap the benefits of it. Think about replacing the term diet with discipline and see how your mindset about what you eat starts to shift.
I know some of you just thought to yourself “She is crazy, that diet worked awesome for me last time” or “last time I did that one, I lost 15 pounds”. My answer to you would be great job, and I am so happy for your success but have you been able to keep it off? Are you still following that plan? Because many people who see fast success on a stringent or restrictive diet see those pounds come back slowly as they start to revert back to their previous eating habits and unfortunately many times its muscle that was lost originally which is then replaced by fat tissue when you rebound. Let’s break the cycle.
No More Diets!!!!
Just eat the right amount of good food. Does that sound too simple? I hope it does because that really is the trick. Rather than talking about how many calories you should be getting from each food group, think about it as breaking up your meals into parts. Since caloric needs vary depending on age, sex, weight, and activity levels they will vary from person to person. Rather than a one size fits all low calorie plan, lets shift the focus to the proportions of different foods in your diet or on your plate instead of the number of calories you are consuming.
Your plate should be about ½ Fruits and Vegetables, ¼ Proteins and ¼ Carbohydrates if you are looking for weight loss or 1/3 of each, for healthy maintenance.
50% Fruits and Vegetables:
Try to pick Fruit and Vegetables that are rich in colors as this usually means they have a higher concentration of vitamins and minerals. Variety keeps your diet and meals exciting and remember- due to high starch content and the negative effect on blood sugar, potatoes do NOT count as a vegetable here.
Fish, Chicken and other Lean meats are great choices for adding protein, but you can also count beans and nuts as proteins. Red meats are obviously full of protein also but try to limit them as they tend to have higher fat content and avoid any processed meats like sausage and bacon.
Here is where the majority of us slip up. It’s very easy to over eat carbs. A good portion of carbs is far smaller than popular restaurants would lead you to believe. If you feel like you need more to satiate your hunger add more greens instead. Aside from being careful about your portion size, remember that the quality of the carb you choose is just as important if not more so than the amount of it you eat. You want to pick grains that are easy for your body to digest and use because the ones that remain in your system eventually turn into adipose tissue (that is a fancy name for fat tissue). The key is to choose simple whole grains like oats, barley, quinoa, whole wheat, and brown rice and breads or pastas made with these grains verses white or refined grains. A quick rule of thumb is to pick grains that have gone through the least amount of processing or refinement so they are closer to the form that they grow naturally. The simpler the grain, the easier for your digestive system to turn it into fuel.
Don’t forget the Fat!
Your body needs some fat to work properly, just like an engine needs oil. Again choose wisely and look for healthy vegetable oils like olive, sunflower, peanut etc. and try to avoid ANYTHING with trans fats.
Drink water, tea, coffee and milk:
Hydration is a super important component in a healthy lifestyle. Sticking to water and water-based drinks without added sweeteners and artificial ingredients allows that water to go right to work for you.
Keep moving! Don’t forget to stay active and use that fuel to keep your body in motion.
Here is an idea of what that looks like:
Stay tuned for future posts on how to incorporate these ideas into your daily food plans, including lunches and snacks!