Nutrition 101: Back to the Basics Part I
It’s the beginning of a new year which is the perfect time to get back to the basics. Making health related changes, whether its nutrition, exercise, stress or some other area of your life, can be confusing and overwhelming if you don’t know where to start. For nutrition, we often hear “count calories and macronutrients” or “stay away from bananas and potatoes” or “don’t eat after six o’clock.” The nutrition noise we hear around us can leave us confused and frustrated. This is where the basics come in. Whether you are an avid health enthusiast or have never made nutrition changes – we can all be reminded of the basics and focus on those to reach our goals.
Quality over quantity
Yes, portion sizes matter when we are talking about nutrition. But, do not get so hyper focused on counting calories and nutrients that you lose sight of quality foods. Quality foods are whole foods – fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy and lean meats. These foods are minimally processed and provide a wealth of nutrients. For example, you could eat 62 baby carrots for the same amount of calories in a Snickers chocolate bar. Plus, the carrots have Vitamin A which is good for your hair, skin and nails.
Eat a variety
You may have heard the phrase “eat the rainbow.” This is encouraged because eating a variety of foods and colors will give you a variety of nutrients. Try doing this by purchasing different produce each week. You can choose what is on sale for the week or make it a point to try at least one new item.
This is another important reminder. If you are on the go a lot, it may not be realistic to cook every single meal. That is okay. Instead, maybe your goal is to pack healthy foods with you and make healthier choices while on the road. Choose grilled over fried foods, choose side salads and fruit cups over starchy sides and choose water over sugary beverages. Switching from a medium sweet tea to water will save you over 100 calories!
Similar to being realistic with nutrition goals, it is also important to start small. Begin by writing down everything you eat and drink for a few days (or use a phone app to track intake). Review your log; are there any areas you think you could improve? Keeping a log of our intake and reviewing it can help us be accountable and see ways we could improve to reach our goals.
If you are still unsure, here are some simple nutrition goals to get you started:
- Replace whole or 2% milk with skim milk
- Replace fried foods with grilled or baked foods
- Drink water instead of sodas, teas, juices and sugary coffees
- Eat fruit for a snack instead of candy
- Choose whole grain bread and cereals instead of refined, processed grains
- Choose leaner meats such as chicken, turkey or fish instead of beef and pork
- Use olive oil or canola oil instead of butter
Remember to go back to the basics instead of getting lost in the noise. You know what changes you can realistically make for your health and now is a great time to start!