Dietitians Dish: How to keep nutrition simple
Every time you turn around, it seems you hear new advice regarding nutrition and health.
One day, we're telling you to eat one thing, and tomorrow, it's something else.
It can often get frustrating to know the right - or wrong - things to eat.
As with any science, nutrition is an ever-changing field as new studies are conducted and technology improves, and thus, new information become available.
In addition to the evolving nature of nutrition, it is also difficult to decipher reliable sources from unreliable sources.
When it gets overwhelming, the best advice I can give to you is to keep it simple.
Below are some of the tried and true basics for the average person that will help you stay on track without getting stressed.
- Keep it natural: Eating naturally refers to eating whole foods that are minimally processed and are able to be eaten in their natural form. By eating mostly whole foods, you are limiting many of the potentially harmful additives or altered ingredients found in many processed foods such as salt, sugar, trans fats and other chemicals.
For example, eating eggs or lean meats that you prepare without a lot of extra ingredients would be natural sources of protein. Fruits and vegetables are also examples of natural foods. Healthy starches that can be considered minimally processed include beans, sweet potatoes, brown rice and quinoa.
For a great natural snack, try nuts or hummus and, of course, fruits and vegetables.
Try to choose dairy products with few additives (i.e. sugar) and don't forget to keep your beverages natural, too.
Water is always your best and simplest choice, and tea and coffee (without cream and sugar) are other minimally processed drinks. Steer clear of high-sugar beverages such as sodas and energy drinks.
- Keep it balanced: Your body works like a machine. To work most efficiently, it takes a little bit of each of the three macronutrients - protein, carbohydrates, and fat.
To achieve this balance without being swamped measuring portion sizes or calorie/gram counting, remember the plate method: fill half of your plate with non-starchy vegetables, one-fourth with lean protein and one-fourth with a serving of healthy starch. You may also add a small piece of fruit (or one-half of a cup chopped) and a serving of low-fat dairy on the side. Eating in this way at each meal helps to ensure that you get a little bit of each nutrient without overloading on any particular one.
- Vary your foods: We are creatures of habit but try to switch up your eating pattern with different types of protein, fruits and vegetables. Each food contains different vitamins and minerals, so consuming a variety of foods will help you consume a variety of nutrients.
In general, vitamins and minerals are better absorbed from food sources compared to supplements, so eating in this manner will be the most effective and cost-efficient multivitamin you can get.
- Exercise: Unless you have a medical condition which limits your ability to perform physical activity, you simply must exercise. Exercise is an essential component of living a healthy lifestyle, and the benefits of exercising are well proven.
Among many other benefits, physical activity helps promote weight management, mental health and bone and muscle strength.
It also lowers risk for many diseases such as diabetes, some types of cancer and cardiovascular disease. In general, a good goal is to exercise for 30-40 minutes three to four times per week. It's even OK to separate your exercise in increments throughout the day, such as 10-minute brisk walk three times per day. Whatever you choose to do, don't let exercise be the activity that gets pushed aside - make it happen.
By following these simple steps, you will eliminate a lot of stress in your life and many unnecessary additives and ingredients in your diet.
As always, certain medical conditions such as diabetes or renal disease, may require other dietary considerations, so apply modifications as needed.
Lindsay Adams is a registered dietitian with DeTar Healthcare System. Send questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.