5 Steps to a Healthy Lifestyle! Week #2: Nutrition and Well-Balanced Meals!

June 14, 2012

5 Steps to a Healthy Lifestyle
Week #2: Nutrition and Well-Balanced Meals!

Welcome to the second week of the 5 Steps to a Healthy Lifestyle! Previously, I shared with you Step #1: Get Your Mind Right! I also told you about my weight loss and lifestyle changes. This week I wanted to discuss with you the importance of eating well-balanced meals that provide your body with the proper nutrition it needs to be “healthy.” I truly believe that 50% of our weight battle can be solved right in the kitchen!

I couldn’t think of a better way to provide the most accurate information on nutrition then through my very own friend, registered dietitian, certified diabetes educator (working in the field for the last 7 years), website owner of Simply Fit Fuel, and author of her own healthy recipe book, “Morgan’s Simple and Smart Meals.” Candace Morgan has a passion for helping people get healthy with reliable and easy to understand information on nutrition! She has loves to motivate others to eat healthy foods while keeping meals simple and doable for any family! Here is what Candace has to say about nutrition.

Basic Principals of Eating Healthy!

Healthy eating is simple. Think of food as a fuel, it is important to provide your body with optimal fuel. Unhealthy fuel causes dysfunction and disease. There is more to nutrition than the number on the scale.

Your body relies on three main components; Carbohydrates, protein and fat.

These three components provide the body with energy, vitamins, minerals, fiber and so many other essentials for optimal health.

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#1: Carbohydrates! 

  • These are the main source of energy for your body. 50-60% of your caloric intake should be high fiber, whole grain carbohydrates. Carbohydrates fuel the body and the metabolism. Eating “healthy” carbs fuel the metabolism and help accelerate fat burn.
  • Carbohydrates are a great source of fiber (soluble and insoluble), B vitamins; including niacin, riboflavin, thiamin and folate and important minerals such as iron, magnesium and selenium.
  • Most people need approximately 130-200 grams of carbohydrates per day. All meals should include whole grain carbohydrates. The carbohydrates should be equally distributed throughout your meals.

What are Healthy Carbohydrates?

  • Whole wheat breads, brown rice, whole-wheat pasta, whole-wheat English muffins, quinoa, barley, beans, sweet potatoes/potatoes, corn, whole oats, corn tortillas, fruits, non-fat yogurt and low-fat or nonfat milk.
  • Fruit and vegetables are also sources of carbohydrates. Nonstarchy vegetables such as; carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, Italian squash, onions, radishes, lettuce, beets, cucumbers and several others are high in fiber and very low in carbohydrates. Most people will not be able to over eat non-starchy vegetables, so enjoy! One half of your plate at lunch and dinner should be vegetables.
  • Fruit has natural sweetness that the body craves and needs. Most people crave sugar rich foods, so enjoy the fruit instead of empty calories. Fruit provides several important vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Limit fruit to 3 servings (size of a small fist) per day. Eat your fruit with your meals or with a protein to help slow down sugar absorption. All fruit is nutritious. Limit juice, it is best to eat the fruit.

*Avoid packaged food and choose foods with fewer ingredients. Limit: white bread, white rice, white pasta, quick oats, cookies, pastries, cakes, pies, chips, crackers, and etc.  These foods quickly turn into sugar. The faster a food turns into sugar the more insulin your body releases, quickly converted it into fats.

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#2: Proteins! 

  • Proteins are amino acids, the body’s building blocks. They help repair and build tissues, make antibodies, are important for production of RNA and DNA, assist in muscle activity, and help slow down the absorption of carbohydrates. There are 9 essential amino acids for adults that need to be obtained from the diet. All animal proteins are complete proteins.
  • 15-20% of the diet should be protein, 50-120 grams per day depending on the person and body size. It is important that each meal you eat contains lean protein. Lean protein slows sugar down and helps with satiety.
  • One ounce of protein is 7 grams of protein. Most people need at least 7-14 grams of protein at breakfast, 14-21 grams protein at lunch and 21-28 grams protein at dinner.
What are Healthy Proteins?
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  • It is best to choose lean proteins, such as: skinless chicken/turkey, lean ground turkey and beef, low-f at cheese, pork tenderloin, string cheese, cottage cheese, fish, shellfish and eggs.
  • Vegetarian/plant sources contain amino acids, but in differing amounts. It is important to choose a variety of grains if you are incorporating a vegetarian diet. Complimentary protein examples include: beans and rice, milk and wheat, corn and beans. However, for better blood sugar balance it is best to consume vegetarian sources such as; eggs, low-fat cheese, beans, quinoa, nuts, Natural peanut butter or nut butters, Greek yogurt, and tofu.

*Excess protein converts to fat and may affect your kidneys. It is important to know that too much of any nutrient may cause weight gain.

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#3: Healthy Fats!

  • Fats are an important part of a being healthy. Fats provide the body with important fatty acids. Fat helps the body produce some hormones and helps with the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins such as; Vitamins A,D,E, and K.
  • Use fats in moderation. Choose healthy fats and use fats as a condiment.
  • Not all fats are created equal. Fats will not necessary make you fat, excess calories from the foods you eat creates fat.
  • Too much “bad” fat, will put you at risk for cardiovascular disease and many other diseases.
  • All fat has 9 calories per gram. Most people need 50-65 grams fat per day.
  • Monounsaturated fats: Healthy fats that should be added to your meals in moderation. Found in foods and healthy oils. Consuming monounsaturated fats (MUFA’s) can help decrease your risk of heart disease.

What are Healthy Fats? 

  • Nuts, olive oil, canola oil, peanut oil, and avocado. Avoid excess use of oil and eating nuts as a snack since their calories add up very quickly. Limit nut consumption to ¼ cup per day.
  • Polyunsaturated Fats:Fats that are found in oils and plant based foods. Composed of Omega 3 fatty acids and Omega 6 fatty acids. Omega 3 fatty acids are part of a healthy diet. However, eating too many omega 6 fatty acids may lower HDL (good) cholesterol. Use polyunsaturated fats in moderation. Avoid excess consumption.
    • Examples of polyunsaturated fats: corn, soy, safflower and cottonseed oils, some nuts and seeds. Walnuts, salmon and soy are high in Omega 3 fatty acids.
  • Saturated Fats:come from animal products. Saturated fat is considered “bad” fat. It will raise LDL (bad) cholesterol if eaten in excess.
    • Examples of saturated fats: include; butter, meat fat, sour cream, cream cheese, bacon, and several others.
  • Trans Fats:Also known as hydrogenated fats. These fats generally are processed fats and are “bad” fats. They are found in most processed or packaged foods. Trans fats increase LDL (bad) cholesterol and lower HDL (good) cholesterol. It is best to avoid ALL trans (hydrogenated) fats.
    • Examples of trans fats: stick margarine, shortening, packaged crackers, cookies, whipped topping and any fried food.

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Important Meal Planning Principles:

  1. Always balance your meals with whole grain, high fiber carbohydrates, and lean protein and use healthy fats as a condiment.  Half of your lunch and dinner plate should be filled with vegetables.
  2. Jump-start your metabolism by eating breakfast within one hour of waking.
  3. Avoid excess snacking. Snacks may be necessary with excessive exercise (more than 90 minutes) or if a meal is going to be delayed by more than hours. Avoid snacking 2 hours before bedtime. Late night snacks can cause weight gain because the body is not burning much energy while you sleep. Excess calories are converted into fat.
  4. Drink plenty of water. Many people think they are hungry when they are dehydrated. Water helps to energize cells and remove toxins from the body. Aim for 64 ounces per day.
  5. Avoid diets and avoid eliminating food groups. Diets will decrease your metabolic rate. It is best to keep you meals simple and healthy.

Tips to Remember:

  1. Keep your meals simple. Purchase fresh foods around the perimeter of the store.
  2. Plan ahead. Buy foods when they are on sale and utilize the freezer to keep them fresh longer. Meal planning on the weekend or your day off will make preparing meals simple.
  3. Avoid excess consumption of fruits. Limit fruit to 3 fist size servings per day. Eat your fruit with your meal or with a low-fat protein.
  4. Avoid over eating healthy fats. Use fats in moderation and in small amounts. Avoid excess use of oils, nuts and avocados.
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 An Example of a Healthy Day of Meals:

  • Breakfast
    • 2 Slices whole wheat bread
    • 2 Boiled Eggs (or 3 egg whites)
    • 1 Small Peach
    • Coffee with nonfat or low-fat milk (optional)
  • Lunch
    • Whole-wheat tortilla chicken wrap: 1 whole wheat tortilla with a wedge of laughing cow light cheese spread, mustard, spinach leaves, tomato slices, with 2oz grilled chicken breast cut into strips. Roll up and enjoy.
    •  12-15 Grapes
    • 1-cup Carrots
  •  Snack
    • 1 oz. String Cheese
    • 1 Small Pear
  • Dinner
    • 3-4 ounce Mahi Mahi Fish (grilled): Top onto a salad (fresh greens, asparagus, tomato slices, Italian squash and any other vegetable) with a low-fat vinegar based dressing.
    • Black Beans
    • 2 Slices Avocado
    • 1 Small Sweet Potato: top with 1-teaspoon trans fat free margarine and sprinkle with cinnamon.

Eating a healthy diet is important, because you are worth it. The key is to make simple meals and small changes. Incorporate one or two new healthy habits a week. The side affect will be a healthy body, an increase in energy, and a lower number on your scale. Cheers to plate full of fabulous and flavorful fuel!

~Healthy Gal~
Because you owe it to yourself to be healthy!

*Disclaimer: Never start a new exercise/diet regimen without consulting your Dr. first.
*Copyright: This is an original series developed and written by Coupon Gal and can not be shared without express written permission.

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