If you’re reading this, you most likely enjoy food. In fact, if you’re like me, you LOVE food! I love chocolate cake with chocolate frosting, the more frosting the better! I also love a great hamburger or pizza. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention wine. Wine pairs well with cheese. Yes, I love cheese too! By now you’re either getting really hungry or you’re wondering what all these things have to do with overall health and wellness.
I’m here to tell you that I’m not a fan of eliminating food groups or specific foods.
When we deprive ourselves of the foods and beverages we love, we want them more. We may be able to eliminate them for a period of time, but, after a while, we lose our resolve and cave. Oftentimes, after a long deprivation, we not only cave, but we dive in head first. What could have been a managed indulgence, now becomes an out of control gorge fest. We leave, feeling defeated, and often go back to our bad habits. When it comes to food, I am not a proponent of elimination or starvation. Everything in moderation is my belief, unless, you have an underlying health condition, food sensitivity, or allergy. In any of these cases, I defer to your healthcare professional. So, let’s talk food and what you should be eating most often.
Consider an average size plate, not a charger or platter, like most of today’s dinner plates. If your plates are super-sized, the salad plate will be more in line with an average size plate. Imagine that your plate is divided into 4 quadrants. 2 of those quadrants, or half your plate, should consist of fruits and veggies. 1 quadrant should consist of lean protein (animal or plant based, depending on your preference). The 4th quadrant should consist of whole grains (brown rice, quinoa, barley, spelt, etc.). Assuming you have 3 meals per day, that would equate to 6 servings of fruits and veggies, 3 servings of lean protein, and 3 servings of whole grains per day. If you’re a snack eater, a combination of fruits, veggies, and lean protein is best. Assuming you have 2 snacks per day, that would mean a total of 8 servings of fruits and veggies, 5 servings of lean protein, and 3 servings of whole grains. How do you measure up?
Let’s take a minute to discuss dairy. Dairy has gotten a bad rap over the past 10-15 years. As I stated before, I am not a proponent of eliminating certain types of food. However, there are particular categories of foods that are more inclined to cause inflammation and sensitivities. Dairy is one of those categories. If you suffer from chronic respiratory congestion, stomach issues, or inflammation, reducing or eliminating dairy may make a world of difference. Discuss your symptoms with your primary doctor or allergist. If you do not have a sensitivity or allergy to dairy, there are great low fat options (fat free milk, low fat string cheese, Greek yogurt, etc.). Dairy is an excellent source of calcium and protein.
When starting a healthy diet, become accustomed to reading food labels. Many foods, especially processed foods, are high in saturated fat and added sugar. Foods marketed as healthy (ex: health bars, yogurt, creamers, etc.) are loaded with sugar, some as high as a candy bar. Saturated fat is found in processed chips, meat, dairy products, and seafood. The Dietary Guidelines recommend no more than 10% of total calories come from saturated fat. Polyunsaturated fats, on the other hand, are healthy fats that can help lower cholesterol. Polyunsaturated fats are found in nuts, seeds, vegetable oils, avocado, and fatty fish, such as salmon. Your body needs healthy fats to run efficiently.
To wrap up, as I mentioned in last week’s blog post, listen to your body. Pay attention to how foods make you feel. Your body is smart. It will tell you when you’re feeding it well. You’ll have more energy. Your workouts will be better. Your skin will glow. Your immune system will strengthen. You’ll sleep better. You may reduce allergies. Did you know that most allergies come from food versus the environment? Crazy, right?! Not to mention, if you’re trying to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight, diet is essential.