There are a lot of thoughts around diet and nutrition out there. It’s hard to know where to begin and it seems to be changing constantly. Yet, the basics of a healthy diet are relatively simple, easily understood, and fairly consistent.
Let’s start with what you’re eating and what it does. Protein: there is more of it in your body than anything except water. You need it. You need lots of it. It builds healthy tissue and muscle. Without it, your body starts to shut down. You should be eating at least 0.8 grams per 1lb of body weight a day. It should be around 20% of your calories. If you’re trying to lose weight and gain muscle (and you’re working out) you can bring that up to 1 gram of protein per a pound of body weight a day. It should make up at least 30% of your diet.
You need complete proteins that have all of the amino acids essential for muscle building, and other bodily functions. Animal products such as eggs, milk, cheese and well…meat are all complete proteins. If you’re not into animal eating, you can complete the protein you’ll find in vegetables and grains by combining it with eating protein from nuts and beans.
Carbohydrates are not a bad thing. They’re you’re source of energy. You need them to live too, but there are good carbs and bad carbs. Good carbs are complex carbohydrates and bad carbs are simple carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates will make you feel full and burn slowly, giving you energy. They’re great in the morning. Eat some whole grain bread, oatmeal, or healthy cereal for breakfast to keep your energy level up throughout the day.
Complex carbohydrates keep you feeling well and can actually help you lose weight. That hunger you feel isn’t your body just telling you it needs pizza. It’s telling you it needs lots of things, and eating junk won’t give it what it needs. So, you feel full for a bit and then your body wants more food. You give it some junk and repeat the cycle. Break the cycle. Give your body what it needs. Treats are fine in moderation, but if you want to lose weight, feel full and be healthier, give your body what it needs.
Simple carbohydrates are easier to identify. They’re sugar. They give you a quick energy boost, then they wear off, then you eat more to keep your energy up. Same cycle of weight gain. Here’s an easy diet hack. Avoid refined (white breads, pastas) and processed foods (anything that comes in a package or can). You will be shocked at how much weight you lose and how much better you feel when you avoid foods in packages. Stop by the produce section, eat whole grains (pasta too) and treat yourself to foods you love that are not processed.
Fat used to be the enemy. Now it’s our friend. We know that fat keeps us feeling full and provides with an excellent source of energy to supplement our complex carbohydrates. In general, polyunsaturated and monosaturated fats are what you need. These can be found in lean meat, nuts, avocados, coconut milk, olives salmon and tuna. All of these keep you feeling full, give you energy and lower your risk of heart disease etc..by protecting your vital organs. Try to get 15-20% of your calories from healthy fat.
Saturated fat, on the other hand, comes with some problems. It is mostly found in fatty meats and it can increase your risk for heart disease and other ailments. You should be getting no more than 7% of your calories from saturated fats. It’s not something you should go out of your way to eat.
Trans fats occur naturally and artificially. The natural trans fats found in meat and dairy are less of a concern than artificial trans fats. Artificial trans fats are found in fried foods, cake, cookies, microwave popcorn and all kinds of packaged snack foods. Artificial trans fats raise your bad cholesterol and lower your good. Yay one more reason to cut out junk food!
Knowledge is power. Keep these things in mind as you do your grocery shopping or choose from the menu. It’s fine to treat yourself now and then, but nothing tastes as good as healthy feels. I think you’ll find that as you improve your diet, you’ll crave junk less and less. Oh, and one more thing EAT! EAT LOTS! Just eat good food. You can eat well, eat lots and lose weight by making smart choices.
Too long didn’t read.
- Protein makes you feel full, builds muscle and helps your body. You need complete proteins and they should be 20-30% of your diet.
- Complex carbs are good for you and should make up 60% of your diet. They’re in whole grains, oatmeal, fruits, vegetables, potatoes and beans
- Simple carbs are bad. They’re pretty much sugar. Avoid processed and refined food. Soda and sport drinks are not sources of hydration. They’re treats.
- Unsaturated fats are good. They should make up 15 to 20% of your diet. They’re found in avocados, nuts, lean meat, salmon and tuna.
- Trans fats are bad. They’re in junk food. Stop eating so much junk food. It’s fine for a treat, but it won’t make you feel full because it’s not giving you what your body needs. Give your body what it needs then decide what you want for a treat.