Tag Archives: nutrition

10 Tips for Building Healthy Meals

Do you struggle with making a healthy meal plan?  I know I do!  I look at the day ahead and try to plan balanced meals for me and my family.  What exactly is a “healthy meal”?  This could mean different things to different people depending on their lifestyle and food preferences.

Basically, a healthy meal helps meet nutrient needs by containing a balance of food groups.  Building a healthy meal isn’t difficult once you have a basic understanding of nutrition.

10 Tips for Building a Healthy Meal

  • Try to make half your plate vegetables and fruits.  Veggies and fruits are very nutrient dense and have many health benefits.  Get a variety of colors such as red, orange, and dark green vegetables. (tomatoes, sweet potatoes, and broccoli)
  • Include lean protein.  Choose proteins such as beans, lentils, tofu, turkey, chicken, or lean beef.  If you eat fish, try to include it twice per week as your protein source.
  • Add whole grains.  Try to make all (or at least half) of your grains whole grains.  Compared to refined grains, whole grains supply more nutrients like vitamins, minerals and fiber.  Some good sources are oats, brown or wild rice, millet, and barley to name a few.  Look for 100% whole grain or 100% whole wheat on the label.
  • Get some calcium.  If you drink milk, add a cup with your meal.  You could also choose soymilk or another nut milk with calcium.  Some non-dairy foods high in calcium are:  kale, broccoli, watercress, bok choy, okra, and almonds (source).
  • Steer clear of extra fat.  A little lemon, sprinkle of parmesan cheese, or additional spices add extra flavor without added fat.  It’s easy to turn something healthy such as broccoli or potatoes into a not so healthy option by adding a cheese sauce or heavy gravy.
  • Don’t eat too fast.  Take your time and enjoy your food!  Eat slowly, be mindful, and pay attention how the food you’re eating makes you feel.  If you eat too fast, you’re more likely to overeat.
  • Portion control.  Using smaller plates will help control portion sizes.  Bigger plates tend to make us serve more and eat more food.
  • Take control.  Eat most meals at home (or pack your lunch).  Making your own meals allows you to know exactly what you’re eating.  If you do eat out, most restaurants have their nutritional information online.  You can check and compare beforehand to help pick healthier options.
  • Try something new.  Pick out some new foods to try.  You just might discover a new favorite!  Even cooking a food in a different way will add variety.  Roast your veggies instead of steaming or try baked spaghetti (a family favorite).
  • Have a “healthy” dessert.  Fruit is a perfect naturally sweet dessert.  Fresh, a parfait, or even baked apples.  If you have to satisfy that sweet tooth each night, keep portions in check.
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Getting a balance of nutrients is important for maintaining health.  You can always modify the portions of your meals to get the proper balance of food groups.  And when eating out, don’t forget about Portion Distortion!

I hope these tips will be helpful when planning meals for yourself or for your family!

5 Popular Nutritional Mistakes made by Athletes

It’s probably no surprise that physical activity, athletic performance, and recovery from exercise are enhanced by optimal nutrition (source).  When we select the proper foods and fluids at the right time, it will lead to better health and better exercise performance.

Knowing these benefits, studies have shown that many athletes do not get adequate amounts of many nutrients, including calories, carbohydrates, and several micronutrients.  A lot of athletes find it difficult to get the right nutrients to fuel performance.  Along with optimal fitness, proper nutrition will help us reach ultimate performance.

5 Popular Nutritional Mistakes made by Athletes

  1.  Fixating only on weight instead of lean mass.  In terms of athletic performance, strength-to-weight ratio is what’s important, not total body weight.  A balance of energy intake which supports muscle mass and spares protein can enhance athletic performance, appearance, and even bone health (source).
  2. Not eating on a regular basis.  We can only use a limited amount of “energy” from food we eat and any macronutrients (fat, carbs, protein) that we get too much of are stored mainly as fat (source).  On the other hand, when we don’t eat enough food, our body breaks down lean muscle, the tissue that requires energy.  Apparently, many athletes don’t get the basic nutrients needed, such as proper amounts of calories and carbohydrates.  Eating meals more often, while decreasing the meal size may help improve daily energy balance and body composition.
  3. Unnecessary use of supplements.  Vitamin and mineral supplements are used for a variety of reasons, such as to help with a deficiency or to “fill in the gaps” of a poor diet.  Although athletes tend to require more vitamins and minerals, a minimal amount can be absorbed a one time.  High-dose supplements are generally not used efficiently. For the most part, everyone (not only athletes) should eat a diet that supplies necessary vitamins and minerals from food.  Going beyond the requirements for vitamins and minerals doesn’t improve performance and can potentially have a negative affect on fluid balance and health.
  4. Not maintaining proper hydration.  Most of us realize how important hydration is for exercise.  The balance of fluid has a direct affect on our ability to maintain sufficient blood volume, which is crucial during prolonged physical activity.  Not replenishing both electrolytes and fluid during exercise can cause blood volume to drop, can cause early exhaustion, and can lead to dehydration.  In order to keep proper hydration and blood glucose levels, it’s recommended that athletes have a sip of sports drink that has electrolytes and carbs about every 15 minutes while participating in high-intensity exercise.
  5. Cutting too many calories.  Restricting too many calories while trying to lose weight can actually cause a loss of lean mass and fat mass to increase (source).  Not getting enough calories can lead to reduced lean muscle.  A reduction in muscle mass can result in a decreased resting metabolic rate and increased fat mass.  In order to keep metabolism up and stay lean, athletes need to eat enough calories to support physical activity and keep lean muscle.
5 Popular Nutritional Mistakes made by Athletes (and how to beat them!) Click To Tweet

In the end, when the right amount of calories are eaten, hydration is properly maintained, carbohydrates are highly available, and enough nutrient-dense foods are consumed, all athletes (anyone who participates in physical activity) will benefit.  Performance will improve, you’ll notice quicker recovery, see adaptions to training, reduce injury risk, and see an overall improvement in health.

Do you make any of these nutritional mistakes?