Heart health, strong bones, better mood, increased energy levels, improved brain health and weight management are some key motivators in striving for a nutritious lifestyle. The foods you eat are the basis of long-term health. And the way to eat healthy for life is to emphasize plants and nutrient-dense proteins, fats and carbohydrates.
A balanced diet requires that you consume nutritional foods that feed your body and mind. The USDA recommends that meals should consist largely of fruits and vegetables. The other half should be dedicated to grains and protein. Diversifying your plate with appropriate amounts of each food group will help you acquire the necessary macronutrients for day-to-day energy, muscle growth and recovery, and overall health.
A person’s body cannot produce everything that it needs to function – which is why additional nutrients need to be consumed through dietary sources to maintain optimal health. There are six essential nutrients: vitamins, minerals, protein, fats, carbohydrates and water. And these six are divided into two categories: micronutrients and macronutrients.
Micronutrients are the nutrients you need in smaller doses (vitamins and minerals). Although the body only needs small amounts of them, a deficiency can have serious repercussions. Macronutrients are the nutrients that a person needs in larger amounts, like protein, fats, carbohydrates and water. An imbalance in macronutrients will be visible in a more obvious and immediate way.
Dietary guidelines have changed over the years as research becomes more accurate in determining what we should eat to attain optimal health and weight. Current evidence shows that while calories do matter, focusing on food quality is an equally important part of preventing weight gain and promoting weight loss. You’ve heard it said, “not all calories are equal.” Focus on eating high-quality foods in appropriately sized portions.
Whether losing, maintaining, or gaining weight is your goal, if you aren’t seeing the results you’re aiming for, slowly adjust the amounts of each macronutrient or your overall calorie consumption in small amounts until you find a healthy, positive result. But be cautious, cutting any nutrient too drastically will have long-term, damaging effects on your body.
TIP: Use an app to track calories as well as micro and macronutrients for a period of time to assess where your strengths and weaknesses are. Depending on your nutrition goals, adjust this data to better serve your body and goals.
AIM: Adhere to your personal nutrition plan. Aim for 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day. Increase your overall protein intake by ensuring that each meal has sufficient protein or supplementing with protein-rich snacks.