Nutrition – Master the Basics First

Within the health and fitness industry there are a lot of opinions about nutrition. What you should eat, what you shouldn’t, when you should eat and so on. For many people all this information can become really overwhelming and the end result is that they often don’t make the changes needed to eat in a healthier way. 
In my opinion I think that to eat better you need to master the basics first before you start exploring more complicated eating plans. I use the term eating plan instead of diet because the word diet often conjures up thoughts of a short term way of eating. If you want permanent changes you need to make permanent changes. You need to have a healthy eating plan that you can follow for the rest of your life. So, what do I think is the simplest way to eat healthy? Canada’s Food Guide. As a starting place for developing healthy eating habits I think it is the perfect place to start.  You need to master the basics. Once you have mastered the Food Guide, if you want something more specific, talk to a registered Dietician. 
One of the biggest issues I think that people have is not knowing how big a serving is when they look at the recommendations of the Food Guide. I suggest that you measure all your food for the first week or so in order to get a feel for what a serving actually is. Most people have serving sizes that are way too large. Food experts call this “portion distortion”. Once you actually start measuring your food you will probably be really surprised about how much you are actually eating.
The guidelines are broken up into different ages and genders. So, let’s look at what is suggested for a female between the ages of 19-50. Fruits and vegetables are 7-8 servings per day.  One of the criticisms that often come up is that fruits and vegetables can be really expensive. If you look at the Guide you will see that these servings can come from fresh, frozen or canned options. In the winter months frozen and canned options are a much more cost effective way of meeting the serving suggestions. 
Grain products are suggested to be 6-7 servings per day.  Here are some examples of what make up a single serving:
  • One piece of bread
  • ½ cup cooked rice, bulgur or quinoa
  • ½ a bagel
If you think about a typical day, most of us are eating more grains that what is suggested in the Guide. When choosing your grains stay away from the whites, white bread, white rice, white pasta etc. It has less nutritional value than the whole grain options.
Dairy comes in at 2 servings per day. A single serving can be 1 cup or milk or fortified soy beverage, ¾ cup yogurt or kefir or 1.5 ounces of cheese. Again, you only need 2 servings for the whole day.
Meats and Alternatives are also 2 servings per day. A single serving can be ½ cup of chicken, fish or lean meat, ¾ cup legumes or tofu, 2 eggs or 2 tablespoons of peanut butter. It doesn’t take much to reach your 2 servings for the day.
Is the Canada Food Guide the best eating plan for everyone? Probably not. But, it is a great place to start developing your healthy eating habits. Once you have the basics mastered then you can start exploring other eating plans that may meet your needs better. I highly recommend that when you get to that point you work with a registered dietician. To find one in your area go to www.dieticians.ca. To download your free copy of the Canada Food Guide click here.


This posting was written for KP Athletic Wear (reprinted with permission from www.kpathleticwear.com)

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