Three Simple Nutrition Tips for Healthy Living
- March 02, 2021
- by Diane Duvall
Three Simple Nutrition Tips for Healthy Living
In our fast-paced lives, it can be easy to lose sight of our healthy eating goals. A healthy diet will nourish and energize us and pave the way for a strong immune system, healthy heart, strong bones and muscles, a sharp mind, and so much more. The quality of our diet affects our mental and physical health now and into our future. By following a few simple foundations for eating, we will be able to make simpler, more nutritious choices at the grocery store or when eating out.
1. Focus on Whole Foods - A diet rich in whole, fresh foods will have a positive impact on our overall mental and physical health. We are only as good as the foods we provide to our body as raw materials. Focus on eating real food that comes from nature rather than from industrial sources. Whole foods are nutrient dense and provide a multitude of fiber and phytonutrients while heavily processed foods can supply excess calories, sugar, fat, sodium and toxic chemical additives. Our bodies can become toxic when we regularly ingest unnatural chemicals. Always choose foods as close to nature as possible. Not all calories are created equal. The nutrients and calories we get from eating a baked potato are different from the ones we get from a bag of potato chips.
Whole foods are basically characterized as foods that have not been processed, refined or had ingredients added to them. Whole foods include vegetables, fruit, whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, meat, fish and eggs. Look for whole food ingredients when choosing any packaged foods. Avoid buying foods with long ingredient lists or that contain names of ingredients you do not recognize. For example, a jar of peanut butter should contain one ingredient: peanuts. Processing the peanuts with ingredients such as hydrogenated vegetable oils, high-fructose corn syrup and emulsifiers will alter the real food. Whole food cooking can mean choosing a skinless chicken breast baked with natural spices instead of chicken nuggets processed with added fats, flavorings and preservatives. Keep your diet simple by including plenty of foods easily recognized as they exist in nature: Apples, fish, almonds, fresh salads, sweet potatoes, etc.
2. Eat Colorful Foods – Antioxidants are a group of compounds which are found in many foods. They may help protect us from cell damage leading to inflammation, chronic disease, and aging. Oxidation, a normal chemical process that takes place in the body every day can produce molecules called free radicals. Free radicals are produced from normal metabolic processes such as breaking down food or being exposed to tobacco smoke, radiation and stress. Oxidative damage occurs when there are too many free radicals being created over the antioxidant defenses. It’s similar to the chemical reaction that creates rust on a bicycle or turns the surface of a cut apple brown. Antioxidants can interact with free radicals and hinder the “rusting” being done to our bodies.
We need a variety of antioxidants provided by different foods to protect our cells on a daily basis. Antioxidants include vitamins C and E, selenium, and carotenoids such as beta-carotene, lycopene, lutein, and zeaxanthin. Plant-based foods are the best sources. These include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, lentils, nuts and seeds, and herbs and spices. Coffee, tea and dark chocolate also supply antioxidants. One of the best ways to assure consuming adequate antioxidants is to eat five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables that include all the colors of the rainbow daily. Replace refined foods with whole grains, add nuts and seeds as snacks and enjoy fruit for dessert. Antioxidant rich foods are generally good sources of fiber, vitamins and minerals.
3. Balance Macronutrients – The main components for a healthy balanced meal are macronutrients. They are the energy giving components of our foods and help our bodies to function properly. Proteins, fats and carbohydrates are the main types of macronutrients. If our meals are not macronutrient-balanced it can affect the way our bodies function. Unbalanced meals can lead to undesirable weight gain or loss, lack of energy, blood sugar swings, etc. Let’s look at these three components and how we can ensure our meals are balanced.
Protein is an essential component and building block of our muscles, skin, hair, and bones, and is found in nearly every tissue and body part. Protein is essential for proper muscle development and function, bone health, tissue repair and basic cell activity. Protein is found in many different foods and must be taken in daily.
Protein sources: Animal proteins include meat, poultry, eggs, fish and shellfish. Dairy products include milk, yogurt, and cheese. Plant proteins include legumes (such as beans, lentils, and soy), quinoa, nuts and seeds. Protein powders can be made from either animal or plant proteins and can be added to smoothies and other blended foods for an extra protein boost. A serving of protein for a meal is best understood by using the human hand. The palm of your hand is about the serving size (3-4 ounces) for meat and fish.
Fats help our body to absorb some nutrients and produce necessary hormones. They support our brain, give our body energy and support cell growth. Fat can be stored in the body and helps to protect our organs and keep our body warm. Fat is an important part of a balanced diet. The type of fat consumed is very important. Replace bad sources of fat with good sources of fat. When we choose a diet of mostly whole foods it is easier to decrease the unhealthy fats such as trans fats and saturated fats which are often added to processed foods and fast food. It will also be easier to add the good fats found in fish, nuts and seeds, avocados and olive oil. A bad source of fat can include margarine or fried chicken.
Types of healthy fats: monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats: olives, olive oil, avocados, nuts and seeds, nut butters, fatty fish. Omega-3 fats: fish, algae, flaxseeds, chia seeds. Saturated fat – consume in moderation: red meat, chicken skin, whole fat dairy, butter, ice cream, lard, coconut or palm oil. One fat serving is 45 calories, 5 grams of fat. Some examples of a serving include: One teaspoon of butter, mayonnaise, or olive oil. Four pecans or walnut halves, 10 peanuts or 1 ½ teaspoon nut butter. Two tablespoons of avocado, half and half or ground flax seed.
Carbohydrates are the body’s main source of energy. When we eat carbohydrates, our body uses some of them for energy immediately and some are stored in muscle or fat cells for later use. Some carbohydrate rich foods are more nutrient dense than others and the source and quality of this macronutrient is very important. Good sources of carbohydrates include vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes (beans, peas, lentils), and dairy products. Complex carbohydrates are beneficial because they take longer for the body to break down and are found in vegetables, whole grains and legumes. Limit or avoid carbohydrate foods made with refined grains and sugars. This includes soda, white bread, pastas, cakes, pastries, cookies, chips, candy, ice cream and many other convenience foods.
One carbohydrate serving is measured as 15 grams of carbohydrates. Examples of a serving include: one slice of bread, 1/3 cup rice, 1/2 medium potato, one small piece of fruit, 1/2 medium banana, or 1/2 cup beans.
Meals and snacks should contain all three macronutrients. This is true regardless of the type of nutritional plan, from Keto/Paleo to Vegetarian/Vegan, or when incorporating intermittent fasting. It is also possible to eat this way regardless of your culture, from Asian cuisine to Mediterranean to Scandinavian.
An example of a balanced meal plate: one-half of the plate would contain vegetables, the other side of the plate would contain a serving of protein, and one serving of either a starch (ex: 1/2 sweet potato), or one serving of a whole grain (ex: 1/3 cup brown rice). Some of the fat in a macronutrient balanced meal might be found in the meat if you are having a piece of salmon or grass-fed steak. Otherwise you could incorporate some nuts, seeds, olive oil, avocado, etc. An example of a balanced snack would be an apple (carbohydrate) with walnuts (protein and fat). Including protein and healthy fat in snacks will help to keep blood sugar levels stable and aid in avoiding unhealthy cravings.
How you cook your food can transform it from good to bad. Example of a bad plate vs a good plate:
Bad choice: processed meat, heavily processed white refined bread, fried potatoes:
Good choice: baked natural fish, oven-baked potatoes, high fiber salad:
Making dietary and lifestyle changes can be challenging. We invite you to call us today to learn more about how our 12-Week Lifestyle Program or our Balanced Living Program can help you create a fresh start and reclaim your health.
-Diane Duvall, Life Coach and Certified Health Coach for the Lifestyle Medicine Practice of Dr. Geni Abraham, Board Certified, American Board of Internal Medicine. Our Internal Medicine Practice is an integrated medical practice with a focus on Lifestyle Medicine. We offer health coaching sessions to help you reach your personal goals. Dr. Geni Abraham, Medical Specialists of the Palm Beaches, Inc., 205 JFK Drive, Atlantis FL 33462. Phone: (561) 432-8935, Visit DrGeniAbraham.com and Follow us on Facebook: Dr. Geni Abraham