If the meals we eat are not balanced, it can affect the way our bodies function. If you’re eating unbalanced meals, you’ll possibly gain or lose weight in an undesirable way, and you may not feel as well or energetic as you can. Poor, unbalanced nutrition, can also negatively affect concentration and sleep.
Here we cover the essentials of constructing meals that optimize weight and help you feel your best!
The Three Building Blocks of a Healthy Meal or Snack
1. Choose the Right Carbohydrates
Thanks to low-carb fad diets, carbohydrates have gotten a bad rap. But carbohydrates are your body’s main source of energy and source of many essential nutrients. According to the Mayo Clinic, about 45 to 65 percent of your total daily calories should come from carbohydrates. This is especially true if you exercise.
WHILE ALL OF THE PRINCIPLES ON THIS PAGE ARE IMPORTANT, I CANNOT EMPHASIZE THIS ENOUGH:
EATING THE RIGHT TYPES OF CARBOHYDRATES IS CRITICAL.
The bad carbs. Too many people rely on the nutrient deficient “simple,” refined carbs found in sweets, sodas, processed foods and white flour in their diets.
The good carbs. Instead, you should focus on eating the unprocessed “complex” carbs found in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and beans. These have more staying power than processed, simple carbs because you digest them more slowly due to their fiber content. Good carbs:
- help you feel full for longer and fuel your body throughout the day
- help stabilize your blood sugar levels, reducing fat storage, cravings and energy crashes
- contain the vitamins and minerals you need to keep your body running its best
2. Pack Protein into Your Snacks and Meals
Protein is required to help keep your body growing, maintained, and repaired. Protein is also essential for building and repairing muscles, helping you enjoy the benefits of a workout.
Adults need to eat at least 0.35 grams of protein for every pound of body weight. Exercisers and older people may need even more. That protein can come from:
- poultry, such as chicken and turkey
- red meat, such as beef and lamb
- fish, such as salmon and tuna
- dairy, such as milk and yogurt
- legumes, such as beans and lentils
For the healthiest options, choose lean proteins that are low in saturated and trans fats and limit the amount of red meat and processed meats (such as hot dogs, salami, etc.) that you eat. Protein powder such as whey isolate is also a fine source of protein.
3. Choose Healthy Fats
Unsaturated fats help reduce inflammation, absorb vitamins, and provide energy. Getting healthy unsaturated fats helps to provide essential fatty acids and calories to keep you moving. Healthy options include:
- oils, such as olive oil
A note on (white) potatoes, bananas and white rice
These common foods are all carbohydrates that should be eaten sparingly. Generally avoid white rice like you would simple carbs such as white flour. Treat potatoes and bananas (and most tropical fruit such as pineapple and mango) as “starchy carbs,” which we discuss next…