This article is general nutritional advice for the average adult. Discuss your health goals with your doctor, and then see a Dietician, a Wellness Coach and /or a Personal Trainer.
WHAT and HOW MUCH you eat is crucial. The amount of protein you need depends on gender, weight, goals and level of activity. Lean meats are better than red. Vegetarian sources of protein are plentiful, delicious, and don’t contain cholesterol. Try tofu, tempeh or seitan, which are versatile, nutritious and take on the flavors of seasonings. Nut butters, dairy, lentils, beans, soy, and protein powders are some examples of meatless, high quality proteins. Berries are high in fiber and have a low GI (glycemic index, meaning the sugars are absorbed more slowly.) Eat LOTS of veggies (potatoes don’t count.) They are varied and versatile and should fill half your plate. Eat less “white” bread, rice, pasta and potatoes and opt for 100% whole wheat, brown rice, sweet potatoes, and creative pastas, made with lentils and other beans. Try different grains like farro, quinoa or bulger. Cauliflower pizza dough and rice are terrific substitutes.
Think about HOW and WHEN you eat. It’s true that breakfast is the most important meal. It fuels your body and kicks off your metabolism. Breakfast, lunch, snack and dinner should include lean protein, complex carbs and mono/poly unsaturated fats. ) Refuel about every 4 hours. “Grazing” leads to mindless eating, sometimes ending up in extra calorie intake, and can interfere with proper metabolism. Eat your meals slowly and mindfully, and chew completely. Savor each bite. Try not to eat after 7 pm. Eating too late can negatively affect blood sugar fluctuations while you sleep, which can lead to less restorative sleep.
We need GOOD FATS for hormone health, certain vitamin absorption, overall body functions, and protection from trauma. Olive oil, avocados, nuts, seeds, fatty fish – in moderation – are good sources. Reducing inflammation is a need for many of us, so experiment with HERBS and SPICES. Garlic, ginger, cinnamon, turmeric, oregano and many others have wonderful health benefits. SUGAR: The average American consumes 60-100 pounds of added sugar a year! Manufacturers sneak simple sugars in with other names so read labels carefully. Beware of unhealthy food disguised as health-food (many beverages, snacks and cereals, for example.) Many artificial sweeteners are carcinogenic. The jury is (always) out on the latest ones. Some researchers believe sugar is the main culprit (indirectly, via weight gain and insulin response) in diseases attributed to other things. Processed food manufacturers and chain restaurant R&D and Marketing budgets are astronomical, and meant to get us to eat poor quality food in large quantities. Mainly shop the perimeter of the grocery store. Most of your cart should be foods that are edible within a week (exception: fresh frozen foods or some dairy products.)
Portion size is critical. Eat slowly, and until you’re about 80% full. It takes about 20 minutes for the stomach to signal our brain that we’re full. Finish your meal in one sitting. Just a small change daily accumulates over a week, month, a year. For those of us wanting to lose pounds or clothing size, put a little bit less food on your plate than you are used to. Your brain and stomach will adjust. You can still have your daily treat. If it’s (high quality) ice cream, have a small amount (the first and last bites taste the best) and have it right after dinner, to avoid a sugar spike late at night. There’s a wide range of quality in dessert foods. Try to stick with the fresher desserts with better ingredients, as opposed to those with mostly white flour, sugars, saturated fats, artificial ingredients and preservatives. Savor just a few bites instead of the whole thing. Try a small cup of low-fat Greek yogurt with berries and a spoonful of granola.
FIBER/GUT HEALTH (vegetables, fruits, whole grains) is crucial to digestion and eliminating toxins, and help keep blood sugar in check. Add some fermented foods to your diet (pickles, yogurt, sauerkraut, kefir drinks, and apple cider vinegar.) The probiotics aid digestion and nutrient/vitamin absorption. They are key to keeping a healthy balance in the gastrointestinal tract. WATER: Most of us should drink about 64 ounces of water daily. If you need flavor, add a fresh slice of lemon or lime. Space it out, but stay hydrated during exercise. One of the worst habits is sugary drinks. “Diet” drinks are just as bad with their artificial ingredients and propensity to make people eat even more. Eliminate them or limit them drastically. They have no redeeming value, even fruit juices or exercise drinks. Eat a banana instead of having a “sports drink”. MICRONUTRIENTS: vitamins and minerals boost the immune system, support normal growth and development, and help cells and organs do their jobs. Most of us need to supplement with a multi-vitamin, fish/omega 3 oil, magnesium and Vitamin D. (Enjoy the sun for 15-20 minutes of natural Vitamin D during May to mid-October, but of course be mindful of any restrictions you may have.) Talk to your doctor about which specific supplements would help you.
Start with just a few changes, for example, smaller portions of some foods, lean protein at every meal, and more salads/vegetables. You will feel better soon, which will provide a positive feedback loop. Talk to us! We are here to offer information, advice, a personalized plan, and support.
Remember Michael Pollan’s 7 Words for Eating:
Not too much.
*food = whole, unprocessed, natural food
Resources: Food Rules / Michael Pollan, The End of Overeating / David Kessler, The Case Against Sugar / Gary Taubes, The Blood Sugar Solution / Mark Hyman, Fast Food Nation/Eric Schlosser, Nutrition Action Newsletter
Submitted by: Sangeeta Prasad Benbow, Program Director Adult Health & Wellness