Eat Chic Chicago’s Nutrition Philosophy –
Balanced, Real and Consistent
Nothing is more powerful than good nutrition. Not only can optimal nutrition help you maintain a healthy weight and reduce your risk for chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease and cancer, good food can also give you energy and make you feel great! The world of nutrition is constantly changing as experts conduct innovative studies and publish breakthrough research. We are bombarded with new and trendy nutrition information every day via the internet, TV, fad diet books, magazines and more. So what does good nutrition mean to me? I believe that good nutrition is balanced, real, and consistent. Here is my nutrition philosophy in a nut shell.
We are all very familiar with our three dietary friends – the macronutrients – better known as carbohydrate, protein and fat. But why are they always listed in that order? Starting with carbohydrate as if that’s the most important of the three? I’d like to propose an alternative order – protein, fat, and carbohydrate. Change approved. Now let’s talk about balance. Each meal or snack you consume during the day should be a balance of protein, fat and carbohydrate (in short, P/F/C) to allow your body to function optimally. Now that you know the formula, let’s dig deeper into what each of these macronutrients do for the body and the best choices you can make in each nutrient category.
PROTEIN: Protein is essential to the functioning of your muscles and organs, especially during periods of exercise. When you exercise, you put small tears in your muscles and your body requires protein to help build those muscles back up and make them stronger.
- BEST: eggs, fish, meat and poultry. Animal sources of protein contain all of the essential amino acids your body needs in a highly absorbable form.
- BETTER: beans, legumes, nuts and seeds. Vegetarian sources of protein are also healthy choices. Keep in mind that the bioavailability (or absorbability into the body for use) of these foods may be less than animal sources.
- GOOD: dairy such as yogurt, milk and cheese as well as high-protein whole grains like oats and quinoa. These food choices can still be part of a healthy diet if you tolerate them. However, some people may experience digestive distress or allergic responses to these particular foods.
FAT: Don’t let the word fool you into thinking that all fat will make you fat. Fat is just as important to a healthy diet as protein and carbohydrates, so don’t ignore it! Our body requires fat to produce hormones, repair cell membranes, and help our brain and nervous system function optimally.
- BEST: salmon, tuna, halibut, herring and sardines. The body is designed to run efficiently on high quality fats. Choosing fats that occur naturally in real food will give your body and brain exactly what they need. These foods are great sources of the omega-3 fats EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexanoic acid).
- BETTER: avocados, nuts, seeds, coconut, olives, flax seed and chia seed. Vegetarian sources of healthy fat are also excellent choices. However, these foods are dietary sources of ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) which the body then has to convert into the desired EPA and DHA forms.
- GOOD: grass-fed butter, olive oil and coconut oil. Healthy oils like olive oil and coconut oil can certainly be part of a healthy diet. While these oils are better choices than canola oil, vegetable oil and soybean oil, the processing of a food into an oil strips it of fiber and other important nutrients. Remember that when it comes to food, whole is better.
CARBOHYDRATE: Carbohydrates are your body’s main fuel source. They provide the body with energy and are therefore also a key component of a healthy diet.
- BEST: non-starchy vegetables including, but not limited to broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, green beans, asparagus, mushrooms and all leafy greens. These carbohydrate sources are the most nutrient dense – meaning they offer the greatest amount of nutrients for the least amount of calories.
- BETTER: fruit, starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes, yams and winter squash, beans and legumes. While these options are great sources of vitamins and minerals, they contain more naturally occurring sugar and calories than those listed above.
- GOOD: dairy, whole grains, white potatoes and corn. These food choices can still be part of a healthy diet if you tolerate them. However, some people may experience digestive distress or allergic responses to these particular carbohydrates. Keep in mind that these carbohydrate choices are less nutrient dense than those in the better and best categories.
Eat Real Food –
It doesn’t’ get any simpler than this. To quote Michael Pollan, “Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.” Basically, the less processed the better. Focus on eating foods that don’t require packaging (fresh fruits and vegetables, eggs, meat and fish, nuts and seeds, etc.). If a food does come in a package, read the label. Look for short lists of ingredients including words you can identify and pronounce.
Listen to Your Body –
Years of fad diets and calorie counting have left us lost and confused. Let’s get back to the basic concept of listening to our body. Many time we are so consumed with counting calories and logging our meals that we forget to listen to our body – Am I truly hungry? Did that meal keep me satisfied? Does that food make me feel bloated? Did that snack choice give me energy? Eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full. Keep note of any abnormalities (low blood sugar, decreased energy, bloating, etc.) and troubleshoot from there.
Portion Control –
You should fuel your body with food every 2-3 hours (4 hours max) with a balanced combination of protein, fat and carbohydrate. You should feel hungry (not starved, famished or ravenous) at meal time. If you are overly hungry at meal time, plan to adjust your portion size at the previous meal to hold you over longer. If you aren’t hungry for your afternoon snack, reassess the portion of food you ate at lunch and so on.
Planning Ahead –
In order to successfully fuel your body with healthy and energizing food every 2-3 hours, you have to have a plan and you have to be prepared. Plan your meals and snacks ahead of time. Choose the same breakfast to enjoy every day of the week to make it simple (for example, a smoothie to drink on your ride into work, an egg bake that you can make on the weekend and grab a slice in the morning, or overnight oatmeal that you can assemble the night before). Plan to eat dinner leftovers for lunch and use the weekends to plan what you will eat for dinner meals throughout the week. What about snacks? Keep a granola bar or trail mix in your purse or glove box. How about a can of tuna or turkey jerky in your desk drawer? Make it a point to fit healthy meals into your busy schedule to keep you energized.
If you’re struggling with your current nutrition habits or are having a hard time overcoming obstacles to reach a health-related goal, please contact Amari for information regarding nutrition coaching services.