Nutrition has recently been a topic of conversation at our house. And the more people you talk to, the more it seems that everyone has a different idea of what constitutes a healthy diet.
One person says that all carbs are bad; others say to avoid fat and sugar, while others still say that meat (especially red varieties) should be avoided.
The only thing that seems consistent across the board is that vegetables are good for you—but even at that, there are discrepancies as to which vegetables are the best.
The gist is simple: Eat predominately whole foods, eat a variety of foods, and eat enough to fuel your body. Two weeks ago, one of our triathlon coaches gave a talk on nutrition. And I just have to say, it was a breath of fresh air! Her words of wisdom were very reminiscent of Michael Pollan’s “Food Rules.”
Eat Predominately whole foods
If you can grow it or raise it, then you’re good to go. If your great-great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize it, think twice. The fact of the matter is that as American’s we have created a highly-processed diet, and consume foods that are high in flavor, but also high in sugar, salt, calories, fat—basically high in most everything but nutritional value. If you read the label and don’t recognize or can’t pronounce the first three ingredients, that should tell you something.
Eat a variety of foods
According to the FDA, a properly balanced diet should consist of 60% carbohydrates, 20% protein and 20% fats. I’m not one that believes that any food group should be excluded from a diet. The key here is picking the good kinds of carbohydrates, the good kinds of protein and the good kinds of fats (yes! There are good kinds of fats….).
- Choose carbs that are full of whole grains and fiber, such as brown or wild rice, multi-grain or whole wheat bread. If it’s white, most of the nutritional value has been stripped down, so it’s best to substitute it with another option.
- Lean protein, such as chicken and fish, are important to eat. But don’t forget protein from beans or soy as other good options. This isn’t to say that red meat doesn’t have a place in your diet, just that it should be eaten in moderation. For those who are very active, protein becomes a super important part of your diet, because it helps rebuild your muscle and tissue after a long, hard workout.
- When it comes to fat, avoid foods that have significant fat added. But there are a lot of whole foods that have good fats that your body needs: avocado, olive oil, cheeses, etc.
Also good to note is that the more colors that are on your plate, the more your body is receiving all the minerals and vitamins that it needs. Each color of food supplies your body with a different health benefit. So include yellows, reds, greens, and purples! Your plate will look good and be good for you. And everyone deserves the indulgence of a guilty pleasure—so don’t cut sweets and snacks out completely. Just choose smaller portions and eat these treats on an occasional basis.
Eat enough to fuel your body
Check out the FDA guidelines to see what a male or female at your specific age and activity level should be ingesting. It’s isn’t as simple as the average 2000 calories a day that the food labels use. If you are trying to lose weight, stay just under that number, but don’t drop so low that you aren’t giving your active body the fuel that it needs to optimally perform in a healthy way.
There isn’t necessarily a magic formula to follow here—everybody’s body and energy level will respond differently. Keeping a food journal, that tracks activities and energy levels, will help you be in tune with your body and find patterns in your diet and energy levels.
Trust me, this is not a food-haters guide to healthy living. I LOVE food! If you give yourself an extra hour or so before the week starts to plan your meals, go grocery shopping and do some of the prep, you’ll find that eating healthier can be easier than you think.