So, what is the real secret to eating healthier you may ask? The secret is that there really is no secret *gasp*! But that’s what the magazine headliners, celebrity endorsements, and enticing TV segments don’t want you to know. I’m going to share with you 5 easy steps you can take TODAY to start eating in a way that is not only good for you, but enjoyable too!
Nutrition is a topic that is confusing for many and you’re not to blame when you are constantly fed chatter of “don’t eat this”, “eat that”, “but don’t eat after 8pm”… It’s exhausting to even think about food after you’ve sorted through all the rules. No wonder why the world thinks eating healthy is just too hard!
…*pssst* I’m going to let you in on another secret… there are no rules to eating! You are unique and your diet should be too! Cookie cutter approaches simply don’t work because your food choices reflect what you like, what you don’t like, your mood, your culture, your upbringing, your ethics, your health status, and what you have access to. There is a 10/10 chance that 30 day detox plan does not take these factors into consideration, which is why the quick results don’t last. Your diet should be sustainable. Eating your family’s homemade recipe of spaghetti and meatballs or your best friend’s flaming burger recipe shouldn’t feel like a crime! Allow me to show you how you can start eating healthier and enjoy foods you love too.
When you think about eating your next meal, I want you to keep a mental checklist of 5 things: does my meal have a protein source, a carbohydrate source, color, some fats, and is it satisfying? By using this checklist, you can start eating healthier and feeling more fulfilled!
First on the checklist is protein. Protein is essential for not only maintaining the integrity of every cell in your body and building new tissues such as muscle, but also for feeling full after a meal. You can think of protein as tiny little building blocks that maintain your body and all of its processes. Lots of Americans do not consume enough protein in the diet which is why it is commonly recommended to prioritize! A good starting point is aim for ¼ of your plate to have lean protein.1
Here are some examples of lean proteins:
· Chicken Breast
· Egg Whites
· Eggs (includes fat from the yolk, but is still healthy)
· Turkey Breast
· 90-95% Lean Beef
· Low Fat Dairy
Second on the checklist is carbohydrates or commonly referred to as “carbs.” Carbs often receive a bad rap and are unnecessarily labeled as a food that should be eliminated. However, carbs are the body’s preferred fuel source! This means that if you want to feel energized and satisfied from our meals, we should include them using healthful portions. Whole grains and starchy vegetables are great examples of nutritious carbs that provide fiber to keep you full and stabilize your energy throughout the day. A general recommendation for portion sizing is to include carbohydrates on ¼ of your plate.1
Examples of carbohydrates:
· Whole Wheat Bread/Tortillas
· Whole Grain Pasta
· White Potato and Sweet Potato
Third on the checklist is color. This doesn’t mean to throw some fruit loops on your plate and call it day, but to incorporate vegetables and/or fruit into your meals! Adding a variety of colors throughout the day helps to increase the number of vitamins and minerals your body can use to function efficiently and help prevent disease. A great goal to have is to aim for ½ of your plate containing vegetables. When this goal isn’t attainable, aiming to incorporate a color from either a vegetable or fruit to meals is an easy way to check off the box.
The fourth component on your checklist is fats. The whole “fats make you fat” saying is demonizing and simply not true. Fats are a macronutrient that are highest in calories per gram; however, they are vital for health and should never be eliminated entirely. Adding healthy fats to your meal is not only health promoting but adds to the element of satisfaction and satiation. Along with protein and fibrous carbs, fats help keep you full, so your hangry side doesn’t have to make an appearance shortly after you eat. Fats are calorie-dense which means a little goes a long way! They are easily incorporated by using oils to cook meats and add flavor to any dish. This means that you don’t have to focus on them as much as some of the other nutrients that are more difficult to include. A sprinkle of cheese, nuts, or olive oil is sometimes the perfect addition to creating a balanced meal!
· Olive Oil
· Seeds such as Chia and Hemp
· Low Fat Cheese
· Fats from fish such as Salmon and Tuna
Last on the checklist but certainly not least is satisfaction. You know when you eat a meal and you feel complete after? You get the that, “hit the spot” kind of sensation… I think we all have experienced it. Yet, strict diets seem to remove that crucial piece to the experience of eating! Have you ever eaten a bland meal and feel full after yet empty at the same time? Like you wanted more food but couldn’t pinpoint what? That’s exactly what adding satisfying elements can help you with. Asking yourself if you want something sweet/savory, crunchy/chewy, or a combination of it all can help you add that missing piece to your meals!
Here are some ways you can add satisfaction to your next meal:
· Add dried fruit and seeds to your salads for a sweet/salty, chewy/crunchy combo
· Add a side of carrot sticks and celery w/ hummus for some savory/creamy crunch
· Add some pickles to your sandwich or salad for a zesty finish
· Add kimchi or sauerkraut for their crunchy and flavor packed profiles
· Add a side of fruit and dark chocolate to end your meal on a sweet note
So how do you apply all of this? Well, Press and Grind’s Chicken Club Sandwich *chef’s kiss* is a great example of incorporating these 5 steps. Your protein source is from the grilled chicken, your carbohydrate is from the multi-grain bread, your color is from the tomato and mixed greens, your fats are from the parm pesto spread with bacon, and your satisfaction is from the density of flavors and textures you get in every bite! The Press and Grind menu is packed with nutritious options that can easily apply this checklist. Remember that healthy eating doesn’t have to be boring or exclude certain foods!
By taking a balanced approach to your diet you can help your body receive the nutrients it needs to function its best while supporting your goals. If you need help with planning your diet and eating the appropriate amount of food, working with a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist can help transform not only your eating habits, but the way you feel, your energy levels, stress, regularity of digestion, and overall how your body functions!
Follow me on Instagram @denvyr for all things nutrition, fitness, and mental health!
1. MyPlate. Myplate.gov. Accessed March 23, 2021. https://www.myplate.gov/