Dieting and exercise can be complicated, confusing, and nearly impossible to get any results from in the long-term. Why is it so hard? It shouldn’t be. Nutrition should be SIMPLE, right? Start with just the basics of nutrition.
The ABCs of Nutrition
When deciding what to eat, follow these 6 principles and simplify your eating. As much as possible, buy foods without boxes or labels at the grocery store (hint: fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean meats and low-fat dairy), and with ingredient lists as short as possible, on items with labels. When choosing foods each day, consider these simple principles:
1. Adequacy: the food we eat each day should provide enough energy, vitamins/minerals, protein, fat, and carbohydrate, fiber, and water to sustain us for that day. The same is true for the foods we eat in a week, and so on.
2. Balance: foods we eat in a week should complement the foods we eat during the rest of the week, so if we are short in one vitamin here or there, we will have enough of it during a different day – it’s a no-brainer. Eat enough of everything, and not too much of any particular thing. Balance a plate with half fruits and vegetables, a quarter of starch or grains (preferably whole grains), and a quarter of protein (beans, legumes, lean meats and seafood).
3. Calorie Control: manage intake of energy from food. Keep it simple – count servings, not individual calories and grams. If you like counting calories and it works for you, do it.
4. (Nutrient) Density: choose more from foods that have more vitamins and minerals and less weight. For example, fruits and vegetables generally have high proportions of nutrients per weight. Lean meats are also good choices. Choose less from foods with low nutrient density. Baked goods, high-sugar beverages, and fast food typically are low in nutrient value, and high in calories.
5. Moderation: don’t get crazy. There’s no need to swear off certain foods. Just like you wouldn’t go and eat a gallon of ice cream and expect to stay healthy, you’re not going to be happy and healthy by eating a bucket of spinach every day. Avoid nothing. Overdo nothing. Eat a scoop of ice cream when you want a scoop of ice cream. Don’t eat a whole box of cookies or a whole bag of chips. Use less salt, especially at the table. Simple.
6. Variety: choose more than one food, combine raw ingredients, eat foods from all the food groups, and try different spices. Add color and texture to your plates. Make it interesting, try new things, and have fun with it!
Be well. Simple.
Certified Yoga Instructor – Saint Paul College, Saint Paul, Minnesota
Undergraduate Studies in Nutrition Science and Psychology – University of Minnesota, Twin Cities
Thomas Masanz is available for private consultations in Nutrition and Mindful Eating practices. Call 651-323-8866, or e-mail at tmasanz(at)me.com to schedule an appointment.