All of us generally have one of three goals: lose weight (body fat), get stronger (build muscle), or just feel better (live healthier and pain free). No matter which goal you have, a healthy diet & exercise is the formula to achieving success. It’s Back to School week here in New York, so in honor of getting back to normal life routines, education, and personal growth, behold the Back to Fitness Fundamentals series! Let’s start with nutrition as nutrition is paramount. Read on for the Back to Fitness Fundamentals, Nutrition Edition.
1- Eat for real by enjoying nutrient-dense foods! Nutrient-dense food and beverages provide you with the carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats your body needs to build, support, and maintain life while also providing vitamins, minerals, and other health-promoting components for a healthy life. They have little added sugars, sodium, and saturated fats. Translation: if it’s naturally grown, then enjoy! Vegetables of all kinds, whole fruits, whole grains, beans, peas, lentils, unsalted nuts and seeds, lean meats, poultry, fish, low-fat and fat-free dairy products are all examples of nutrient-dense foods. If you can grow it, you can eat it. If it comes with added sugars, salts, processed flavors, best to stay away.
2- Protein power! Protein is your body’s structural building block for just about everything – muscles, bone, even cellular membranes. Protein is not just about building muscle. If you’re on a diet, protein will help you maintain muscle mass while shedding body fat. This helps keep you strong with a lean physique. Protein also helps you feel fuller longer, thereby reducing overeating.
3- Try new things! Variety ensures your diet contains all the necessary nutrients for a healthy lifestyle and makes meals more enjoyable. Kids at school are taught to “eat the rainbow”, which helps them visualize filling up their plate with a variety of fruits and vegetables of all colors. Adults should be eating the same way! If you only eat one type of food, pick one meal a week where you step out of your box and try something new!
4- Seek balance! Regardless of age, everyone’s least favorite lesson to learn is “moderation.” I don’t just want one potato chip, I want all of the potato chips. However, eating in moderation truly is critical to a healthy diet. There are two points to moderation:
A- Pay attention to serving sizes to keep calories under control. A good basic guideline I coach my clients with is to use your hand when determining portion sizes. The size and width of your palm is good for your protein serving size. Cupping your hand is a good measure for your serving size of grains. Another good tool is thinking of your plate in sections. Half the plate load up on fruits or vegetables. The other half of the plate should be split equally in two where one section is your protein, and the other the grains. What about pasta? Add protein and vegetables to your pasta instead of just sauce and cheese. It will certainly help you eat less of the box of pasta!
B- There will be times where you want a piece of cake, hamburger and fries, or a nice tasty adult beverage on a Friday night. That’s OK. But balance your day’s eating with that in mind. Eat healthier options for the other meals of your day or make sure to exercise to help burn off the excess calories you put in. Again, balance.
5- The best diet is…the one YOU can stick to. Good health and fat loss can be achieved by any number of diets! There is no one particular diet that is more beneficial than the others. Whether you choose a low carb diet, or low fat, or keto, paleo, south beach, mediterranean or intermittent fasting; the best diet plan to use is the one that YOU can stick with. Personal preferences, personal response, and individual goals should guide which diet would be most beneficial. Stop worrying about all the nuances of dieting and instead focus on what drives your appetite and how you can consistently manage it.
There you have it, the five fundamentals of nutrition. If you follow these five principles, then you can live a healthier life. You will also have a greater chance of achieving your overall fitness goals without having to make drastic changes to your lifestyle, food budget, or schedule.
If you want a detailed plan for yourself or have any particular questions about food and nutrition, then contact me below!