We’ve all heard the saying “you are what you eat.” Well, for the most part it’s true. The substances we eat and drink have a huge impact, some good and some bad, on our health. There are many thoughts on what “health food” is and sometimes it’s difficult to decipher what’s a fact and what’s a myth.
Here are a few basic tips to think about to eat your way to health. One way to think about meal composition is dividing your plate into quarters. At any given meal, two quarters of your plate should be vegetables (for breakfast this could be antioxidant rich berries), another quarter of your plate should contain a lean, healthy protein, and the last quarter of your plate could be some sort of starch or whole grain if you tolerate grains. By dividing up your plate this way gives you a visual, making it easy to determine whether you are getting enough of the necessary “healthy” foods or too much of “unhealthy” foods.
As for what foods to include (or not include) on your plate, here are a few guidelines to keep in mind.
- Eat whole, real, natural foods. Avoid processed foods. The more people or machines who have touched your food, the less healthy it is for you. Also, only eat foods that will spoil. If the food has an extended expiration date, it’s considered a processed food with additional ingredients that aren’t good for you.
- Eat adequate healthy protein. Adults should consume between 45-55 grams of protein every day. This range can vary from person to person depending on their height and activity level. I recommend that you take a few days to tally up how much you’re eating. Another thing to think about is the source and quality of your protein. If you choose to eat meat, select naturally-raised hormone-free meat including fish, seafood, poultry, beef, lamb, game, organ meats and eggs.
- Reduce or eliminate sugar and simple carbohydrates. Overall, Americans eat way too much sugar and refined flour products. Although the bread, tortilla, roll, pasta, chips, cereal and crackers are tasty, they do a number on our blood sugar, energy, weight and overall health. Many people note health improvements when they eliminate all grains from their diet.
- Eat healthy fats daily. Don’t be afraid to eat fat. We need to consume healthy fats for many functions such as balancing hormone and cholesterol levels, warding off cardiovascular diseases, and managing inflammatory conditions to name a few. Use only traditional fats and oils including butter, extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, ghee, avocado, and nuts & seeds. Avoid hydrogenated and partially-hydrogenated oils. Again, the more the fat has been tampered with prior to making an appearance on your plate, the less healthy it is for you.
- Eat the rainbow. We aren’t meant to eat the same foods every day. Try to make your plate colorful and you’ll ensure that you’re meeting all your daily nutrient requirements.
- Drink water. Use only filtered water for cooking and drinking. Between 55-70% of your body is made up of water. If you have trouble staying hydrated, try herbal teas, or water infused with lemon, lime, or cucumber.
- Use natural sweeteners in moderation. Natural sweeteners include raw honey, maple syrup, coconut sugar, organic cane sugar and stevia. Avoid all artificial sweeteners such as NutraSweet and Splenda.
- Eat Organic. We are living in an age of food technology. With that comes an abundance of food that out-lives pests and problematic weather conditions. Although food is plentiful, food quality is at an all-time low. To protect your body from the unknown long-term effects of genetically modified foods and pesticides/herbicides, the only safe option is to choose organic.
Simply put, strive to eat unadulterated foods similar to what our ancestors ate with plenty of organic vegetables, lean meats and healthy fats. Keep consumption of simple carbohydrates and sugar to a minimum and stay hydrated!
Dr. Mercer specializes in medical nutrition so if you have a health condition which requires a more individualized diet, she can help you achieve your health goals! Call today!