The word “diet” has so many different interpretations, so, I prefer to use the term “eating pattern.” A nutritious eating pattern means that the foods you are eating regularly should contain the following 5 components discussed below. I love this term because the word “pattern” suggests that you habitually do something without really thinking about it. I want you to be able to make more nutritious decisions without having to really think about them! And the good thing about an “eating pattern” compared to a “diet” is that there are no foods that are restricted. An “eating pattern” means that overall you are making good choices, not that every single thing you eat has to be the healthiest choice. Remember, all foods can fit! You should be able to enjoy food!
Here are the 5 traits of a Healthy “Eating Pattern”
Adequacy – The foods you eat should provide the adequate amount of nutrients that your body needs to grow, maintain itself, and recover. This concept is pretty simple, if you aren’t getting enough of a certain nutrient, your body will suffer. So, your “eating pattern” should incorporate all of the nutrients, and in order to get all those nutrients, you need to be eating lots of different kinds of foods!
Balance – Your food choices should come from different food groups. If you eat from different food groups you will nourish your body with different nutrients. For example, eating a steak for dinner isn’t very balanced. However, if you add a green salad, a vegetable side, and a glass of milk to that meal you are going to get different food groups containing different nutrients, so your meal would be more balanced. A balanced meal has multiple food groups represented on your plate.
Calorie Control – A good eating pattern supplies you with the right amount of calories your body needs a day. The amount of calories you eat should be pretty close to how many calories your body needs a day. For some it is hard to consume enough calories a day, for others, it is hard to stay within their calorie range. There is no such thing as “negative calorie foods”. How many calories you put into your body is important and is related to weight gain and weight loss. But, just because calories are important does not mean becoming fixated on counting your calories is a good idea. Choose Myplate helps you focus on learning how to get enough calories by breaking things down into how many servings of different food groups you should get a day. This technique is very effective for becoming more healthy and balanced and much more healthy and simple than dieting and calorie counting.
*****If you are able to, I highly recommend visiting a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) who has the highest level of knowledge on making sure you are getting your nutrition needs met. Extreme weight loss goals in shorts periods of time are harmful and most of the time overall are totally ineffective.
Moderation – Here is the good news, and possibly the bad news as well. All foods – including saturated fat, added sugar, and salt – can be included in a healthy “eating pattern” if they are eaten in moderation. Now, the good news is that you can enjoy a slice of birthday cake and not feel guilty about doing it. The bad news is, for some of us, we need to learn how to apply this moderation principle. Enjoy a Sunday dinner brownie or some Doritos at lunch every once in a while. The key is learning how to be okay with only eating those things every once in awhile and learning to be okay with the appropriate serving size. You can still enjoy a piece of cake, but, it may be a smaller piece that what you are used to eating. You can still enjoy some Doritos with your sandwich at lunch, but you may need to work on becoming okay with eating half the single serving bag instead of the whole thing. In some cases, you may need to learn to be okay with choosing healthier options more often than unhealthier ones. With practice and the right teaching, it is possible! A good technique to learn when helping with moderation is something called “portion control.” Which is eating the appropriate amounts of food, which is not always what we feel like eating or how much we are served. I have a blog post coming dedicated to portion control!
Variety – Last but certainly not least, eating lots of different kinds of foods is very important. Let me give you an example. Someone may be eating fruit everyday (which is a good thing) but only be eating bananas (not a great thing). Why? Because different kinds of foods have different amounts of nutrients in them. All fruits and vegetables are good to eat, but a banana is going to have different amounts of nutrients from Spinach. If you only eat bananas for fruit, you are missing out on all the other nutrients other fruits and vegetables have to offer. If you eat a large variety of foods regularly, you are more likely to be getting an adequate amount of all the 40 nutrients your body needs. Eat lots of different sources of fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, protein, and carbohydrates! There are so many different delicious foods out there to enjoy, don’t sell yourself short by passing them by!
In your opinion, which of the 5 components listed above is the hardest for you?