HEALTHY EATING IS MORE BASIC THAN YOU THINK

As a society, we are constantly bombarded with the latest diet trends touting themselves as the true ‘healthy’. Here’s a reminder that it isn’t all that complicated when you go back to the basics.


BY: STACI GULBIN, MS, MEd, RD, LDN

Everywhere you turn, there is a new diet plan that promises rapid weight loss in little time for little work.  In a world that craves instant results, these types of diets easily become the next big thing.  Some fad diets may resemble a healthy eating plan at first. However, a closer look reveals the true state of such fad diets and rests the fact that a simple, balanced diet is a more practical long-term approach to health.

WHAT IS A FAD DIET?

A fad diet is one that usually promises quick and rapid weight loss by following an unhealthy and unbalanced eating regimen.  They usually have little to no research backing up their claims, and most likely the company sponsoring the diet has related products that they hope to sell.

Fad diets usually cut out a certain food or food group in order to provide such miraculous weight loss in a short period of time.  What most fad diets have in common is that they typically focus on one food or food group as being the “magic pill” that is going to keep you full, burn fat, or flush out the toxins in your body that are supposedly at the root of your weight issue.  They are usually very restrictive and are very difficult for many to follow for the long term.

For example, one of the most popular fad diets right now is the high-protein diet, disguised as various meal regimens such as low-carb or Paleo. Many of these types of meal plans focus less about counting calories, and focus on cutting out starches and whole grains as well as dairy products.  While protein is a very important macronutrient needed for many processes in the body, such as tissue growth and repair as well as hormone production, it is not the only important nutrient.  

Fiber from whole grains, fruits, and veggies are important for proper digestion and stabilizing blood glucose levels, while dairy products provide a rich source of calcium for bone strength. Those on a high protein diet that do not consume enough fiber can experience symptoms such as constipation and fatigue. Also, consuming too much protein without regard to caloric intake can also lead to overconsumption, which in turn result in weight gain over time.  

WHAT IS A BALANCED DIET?

A balanced diet contains a large variety of nutrients that are needed for the body to work properly. It does not follow rigid rules; rather, it focuses on being mindful of putting into your body what nourishes it, and limiting (not eliminating) what may impair it.   The following tips will help you to build a healthy, balanced diet you can maintain for life.

Consume fruits and vegetables at every meal time.  

An apple with breakfast, a side salad for lunch, and a cup of leafy green vegetables for dinner are just an example of how you can include extra servings of fruits and vegetables in your diet.  You can also use fruits and veggies such as grapes, bananas, carrot sticks, and celery as fiber-rich portable snacks you can fit in your busy day.

Consume healthy proteins at every meal time.  

The recommended daily intake of protein is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram, or about 46 grams daily for the average sedentary woman and 56 grams daily for the average sedentary man.  Healthy proteins are those which contain unsaturated fats, such as plant-based oils, nuts, seeds, low-fat dairy, and legumes or lean trimmed meats and seafood.

Consume plenty of fluids every day.  

An easy rule of thumb to figure out your suggested daily intake of fluids is half of your body weight in ounces.  For example, if you weigh 200lbs, then you should drink about 100 ounces of fluid each day, or 12.5 cups a day.   Healthy fluid sources include water, low-calorie juices and flavored water, and unsweetened teas.  Coffee should be limited to 2 to 4 cups a day, and juices and sugary drinks should be limited.  

Limit alcohol intake.

Alcohol is not only calorie-dense, but can also impair fat metabolism, which can affect weight management efforts.  Therefore, alcoholic beverages should be limited to one standard drink a day for women and 2 standard drinks a day for men.  One standard drink is equal to 12 ounces beer, 5 ounces wine, or 1.5 ounces hard liquor.  

Limit processed food intake.

Processed foods can be high in sugar, sodium, and trans fats, which do not contribute much to a  nutritionally-dense diet.  In addition, such foods can contain preservatives and additives that may affect digestion in some people.

Instead of relying on fad diets for temporary weight loss, keep it simple. Balancing your diet, along with staying active and getting plenty of sleep every day is the true “magic pill” to long term weight management and overall health.

HEADER IMAGE: JONATHAN PIELMAYER

Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD, LDN is a Portland-based Registered Dietitian with a licensed private practice in Oregon and Maryland. Staci focuses on helping others be confident in the choices they make and to value themselves enough to make healthier decisions, even in moments where family and work life can be overwhelming. 

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