One of the most common questions I get asked is “I want to lose weight; what should I be eating?”. Some people think they are eating healthy, but aren’t losing any weight. This could be due to portion sizes or not getting enough of a variety of foods. Eating a variety of nutrient-dense foods is the groundwork to good nutrition, health, and weight management. Since your body can’t make most substances it needs to properly function, repair itself, produce energy, or grow, you need to nourish your body with nutrient-dense foods. These can be organized into six groups: carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals, and water.
Carbohydrates, or carbs for short, tend to get a bad reputation, but they should represent the majority of your caloric intake, because they provide vitamins, minerals, and the fuel glucose that are required by the brain, nervous system, muscles, and red blood cells. They are your body’s main source of energy!!!
Good carbohydrate sources include whole grains and whole-grain products. Here are some examples:
- Brown rice
- Wild rice
- Oats and oat products
- 100% whole-wheat bread and pasta
- Bran and bran cereals
Protein is the major structural component for all of your body cells, and it functions as enzymes and hormones. Essentially, protein builds, repairs, and maintains body tissue. It contains vitamins B and E, iron, zinc, and magnesium. Seafood, particularly fatty fish like salmon, contains omega-3 fats, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) that are important in preventing heart disease, lowering blood pressure, and brain health, among other benefits.
Good sources of protein include:
- Lean meats
- Low-fat milk
- Soy products
Dietary, or healthy, fat supplies energy and helps with the absorption of the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. These vitamins are essential for proper growth and function. Dietary fats also play a role in your cholesterol levels. Plant source dietary fats are healthier than animal sources. Remember, not all fats are the same, so stick with unsaturated fats.
Good dietary fats include:
- Soybean oil
- Sunflower oil
- Olive oil
- Canola oil
Vitamins and minerals are just as important for you! Vitamins trigger chemical reactions in body cells. Depending on the vitamin, it regulates different body processes. Because vitamins have specific roles, one cannot replace another.
Minerals are very similar to vitamins. They help regulate different body processes, like regulating fluid balance, muscle contractions, and nerve impulses. Some examples of minerals include calcium, magnesium, and potassium.
Lastly, water! You properly learned in school that your body is mostly made up of water, and this is true! Your body can be made up of anywhere between 45 and 75 percent of water. It helps regulates body processes, helps regulate your body temperature, carries nutrients to your cells, and carries waste products away.
So how can I use this information?
Understanding healthy portion control plays an important part of weight loss. It’s super easy to remember because all you need is your hand!
A serving of protein = 1 palm
A serving of vegetables = 1 fist
A serving of carbs = 1 cupped hand
A serving of fats = 1 thumb
Here’s how you use this method to build a plate
Protein = two palm-size portions (~ 40-60 g protein)
Vegetables = two fist-sized portions
Carbs = two cupped-hand sized portions (~40-60 g carbs)
Fats = two thumb-sized portions (~ 15-25 g fat)
Protein = one palm-sized portion (~20-30 g protein)
Vegetables = one fist-sized portion
Carbs = one cupped-hand sized portion (~20-30 g carbs)
Fats = one thumb-sized portion (~7-12 g fat)
If possible, aim to eat three balanced meals and two snacks throughout the day. Men who eat about 3-4 meals as described above would get around 2,300 – 3000 calories each day while women would get around 1,200 – 1,500 calories each day. Active men and women perform better with slightly higher calories.
Remember, this is a GENERAL guideline, but it will get you on track to eating healthier. Depending on your goals, the percentage of your macronutrients will fluctuate. If you’re interested in a more customized meal plan tailored to you, message me and we will get you started!