Nutrition Guidelines and Tips
Updated: Feb 12, 2020
For many people, “healthy eating” is a term that carries much confusion and frustration. Should you try the Keto diet your coworker is raving about? Is it bad to eat fats or carbs? What is clean eating? Can you have cheat meals? There are many decisions to make when it comes to eating healthily. This article will provide some basic guidelines, healthy eating habits, and practical health supporting tasks to utilize.
General healthy eating guidelines are not overly complicated. For most people, it is central to eat a good balance of protein, carbs, and healthy fats. The most important mechanism for weight gain or loss is calorie intake. Therefore, if you are in a calorie surplus, you will gain weight. Conversely, in a calorie deficit, you will lose weight. Eating at a maintenance level of calories will support weight stability.
Eating mostly whole, unprocessed foods like lean meats, veggies and fruits, whole grains, nuts and seeds, and healthy fats is key. For almost everyone, it is important to include BOTH carbohydrate and fat sources in your diet. Make sure you get enough protein throughout the day. Protein supports muscle building and keeps you feeling full. To ensure you get enough of the right nutrients, it’s a good idea to aim to eat a rainbow of colors with vegetables and fruits. Also hugely important, drink enough water!
Some practical tasks I have found to support successful choices include planning ahead, tracking food, and journaling about food. Planning and prepping meals for the upcoming week makes it easier to choose healthy options when you are pressed for time. Even prepping just one to two meat options, carb sources, or veggies will save time later. A few foods that keep well throughout the week and are easy to throw into many recipes are ground beef/chicken/turkey, chicken breasts (can grill or bake several at once), rice, crock pot or casserole recipes, broccoli, and bell peppers. Taking 5-10 minutes the night before the next day to plan out or prepare your main meals and/or snacks can also be helpful. You are more likely to choose nutritious options when you aren’t hungry or rushed.
While I don’t advocate tracking or weighing food forever, I do believe that everyone should try tracking and measuring/weighing food for 2-3 weeks, to create a better understanding of actual food intake. Most people have no idea of what they are actually consuming. Using a food tracking app like MyFitnessPal to help you track food for a couple of weeks can help you see where you may be undereating, overeating, or eating the wrong types of foods. Measuring or weighing food is a game-changer when it comes to learning about what actual serving sizes look like. There are many online calculators that can help guestimate your necessary calorie needs. Utilizing a calculator to more accurately guess calories is a good place to start tracking. My suggestion would be to get an idea of your needs with an online calculator and use trial and error to figure out your true needs.
When it comes to understanding or correcting food binges or overeating, food journaling can give some insight into personal issues with food. Uncontrolled eating can leave a person feeling totally helpless. Writing about overeating episodes can help a person more objectively examine the problem. Ask yourself, how was I feeling before overeating? What was I doing? Did something specific happen? Over time, you should start to see some patterns. Addressing these related circumstances can set up situations that are more conducive to healthy eating routines.
The importance of your overall food environment cannot be overstated. Don’t bring foods into your house if they trigger overeating. It is much easier to choose something healthy if you have made the healthy choice convenient and made an unhealthy choice inconvenient. You also need to communicate your goals to your family and friends. Even if they won’t outright support your healthier choices, you can at least ask that they don’t say anything negative. If they are willing to support you, it can be helpful to ask others to eat healthier with you or to help hold you accountable with your new habits.
There are many elements to following healthy eating guidelines and implementing healthy food habits. It is a life-long process that involves much trial and error. You WILL screw up sometimes—and that’s okay! I personally like to follow a general 80/20 rule with nutrition. Eighty percent of the time, I make healthier choices, 20% of the time, I make less healthy, “fun”, choices. Sometimes I choose to be more strict and do 90/10 or 95/5. Sometimes I go on vacation and 80/20 goes out the window! Importantly, my overall habits and environment support healthy food choices. Consistently choosing foods which fuel your body is the most important element of healthy eating. Once you create healthy eating structures for yourself, you will understand that a few less healthy choices do not outweigh all the healthy decisions you have built over time.
If you are looking for nutrition information resources or nutrition coaching, please see my article titled “Nutrition Resources” for more great advice.
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