Are you tired of reading everywhere you should start eating healthy but nobody really tells you what healthy eating truly means?
Basically, keeping a healthy- balanced diet means eating foods that contain all the nutrients (macros, micros, prebiotics) that our body needs to function properly.
It really doesn’t need more.
Of course, we need to take into consideration all different medical conditions that force people to change and adjust their diets. But in general terms, for an average healthy (without any serious medical condition) person a healthy diet must include one of each macronutrient in each meal.
I am not going to talk about how good or bad carbs are, or the million different diets that say fats are bad, or any other controversial topic, all I want to share is what a healthy diet should look like.
To understand what a balanced meal is, I have to explain what macronutrients are.
Macronutrients are nutritional compounds that our body needs to function properly. There are three types of macronutrients that play a unique role in our system. However, all of them provide us with high amounts of energy that we need to operate.
The three types of macros are: carbohydrates, proteins and fats.
A balanced, healthy diet means that a person should consume all of the three macronutrients in each meal.
If you have a specific health goal in mind like losing weight or increasing muscle, you can play around with the amounts of each macros in each meal, but in general you must include one of each on your daily meals.
Proteins are considered the building blocks of life. In fact, our skin, bones, muscles, hair, nails, and cartilage are mainly made of proteins. Most enzymes and hormones in our bodies are also proteins. Proteins should make up 20-35% of your diet. All proteins are composed of combinations of twenty different amino acids, which your body consequently breaks apart and combines to form different physical structures. Your system uses amino acids in three main ways: to build new proteins for cellular functioning, as an energy source, and as a building material.
Eggs, chicken breast, lean beef, tuna, turkey breast, fish, shrimp, bison, pork tenderloin, dairy products, such as cheese, milk, and whey.
Quinoa, legumes, seeds, nuts, seitan (gluten), tofu, tempeh, edamame, lentils, nutritional yeast, spelt, teff, hempseed, green peas, spirulina, sprouted grains, oats, chia seeds, nuts, nut butter, artichokes, broccoli, brussels sprouts.
Carbs are the most important source of energy in terms of mental and physical activity. carbs make up approximately 45-65% of your energy needs.
Carbohydrates are often portrayed negatively in the media and many popular diets. The right carbohydrates in our diet give us usable energy, facilitate healthy digestion, and help support a healthy weight.
Most types of carbohydrates are divided into two primary categories: simple and complex.
Simple Carbohydrates are small compounds broken down quickly, providing a quick burst of energy when consumed. Sources of simple carbohydrates include: Glucose Sugar (sucrose) Dairy (lactose) Fruit and honey (fructose) Malt sugar (maltose)
Too many refined carbohydrates, on the other hand, increase our risk for chronic inflammation, obesity, and type 2 diabetes
Complex Carbohydrates are larger compounds that require more time to be broken down, slowing digestion and absorption and preventing extreme changes in our blood glucose levels. Complex carbohydrates include starches and fiber. Sources of complex carbohydrates include: Whole grains (brown rice, oats, whole wheat, barley, etc.) Beans/legumes Vegetables, including starchy vegetables
Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that the body can't digest. Though most carbohydrates are broken down into sugar molecules, fiber cannot be broken down into sugar molecules, and instead it passes through the body undigested. Fiber helps regulate the body's use of sugars, helping to keep hunger and blood sugar in check.
Amaranth, barley, brown rice, buckwheat, bulgur, cornmeal, couscous, kamut, millet, whole oats, quinoa, rye, spelt, wild rice. Whole wheat pastas, breads and flours.
Potatoes, beets, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, green onions, kale, lettuce, spinach, peas, carrots, tomatoes, garlic, bell peppers, seaweed.
Chickpeas, lentils, peas, all types of beans, peanuts
Berries, bananas, apple, pomegranate, guava, papaya, cherries, avocados, watermelon, lemon, mango, pineapple, grapefruit, oranges.
Chestnut, hazelnut, cashew, pistachio, coconut, macadamia, almond, brazil nut, pecan.
Safflower, sunflower, flaxseed, pumpkin, sesame, poppy, chia.
Between 10-35% of your food should consist of this macronutrient. Though fat often gets a bad rap because of its high-calorie levels, the compound is critical for staying healthy. Consuming adequate amounts of fat supports your hormone functioning, insulates the nerves, and promotes healthier skin, and hair.
Fats also act as an energy reserve, as it is your body’s preferred method for storing unused calories.
There are three types of fatty acids:
Saturated fats. Monounsaturated fats. Polyunsaturated fats. Trans fats.
Our body needs to get high quality fats to work smoothly, the main source of “good” fat comes from Monounsaturated fatty acids like vegetable oil, avocados, nuts and seeds. Saturated and trans fats should be avoided as they are associated with obesity and cardiovascular disease.
Vegetable oil, nuts, seeds, avocados, olive oil.
Omega 3, omega 6 (not to consume in excess), salmon, mackerel, tuna, canola oil, flaxseeds, chia seeds, eggs, almonds, cashews, pine nuts, tahini, pistachios, walnuts and hazelnuts.
The following graphics* explain best how to portion each macronutrient for an adult so you know how to measure your food intake.
Knowing exactly what your plate should contain (protein, carbs, fats and vegetables) will make your life so much easier when it comes to planning your daily meals.
If you are looking to change your eating habits and would like to get guidance on the process, book your one-hour free coaching session with me and let me help you.
*graphics adapted from the Precision Nutrition infographic on how to create the perfect meal.