From our afternoon snacks to morning coffee to dinner with friends, everything we put into our bodies is directly related to the way we feel, look, and move. Many people have misconceptions about what proper nutrition is. To make the best decisions, the first step is to learn as much as possible and then figure out ways to implement the information into your lifestyle.
The Importance of Nutrition
Many people do not realize just how important nutrition can be. Having a nutritious diet is essential because what you eat affects how your body functions. An astonishing 1/3 of Americans have some level of obesity, and obesity can cause serious health concerns including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and osteoporosis.
As there are consequences to poor nutrition, eating the proper nutritious diet offers numerous benefits including the following:
- Aids in Weight ManagementEating healthy can help you manage your weight. When you manage your weight, you will feel better about yourself and have more confidence in everything you do.
- Reduces the Risk of DiseaseAs mentioned before, obesity is associated with numerous different diseases. By eating well, you minimize your risk of these diseases. Diseases include heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and even certain types of cancer.
- Improves MoodThe food you eat can impact your mood because when you eat poorly, you will feel lethargic and sluggish. On the other hand, eating nutritiously will provide you with increased energy levels and brain power which will improve your mood.
- Enhances Digestive HealthDigestive health is heavily affected by what you eat. To function properly, your body needs the proper amounts of protein, vitamins, and minerals, and eating nutritiously provides your digestive system with what it needs to function.
What you put into your body represents who you are as a person and is often a reflection of the lifestyle you live. Of course, it is perfectly fine to indulge in a sweet treat every now and then, but moderation is key to maintaining a nutritious diet.
When people want to lose weight, many go on a diet. Instead of following a trendy diet or changing your fitness plan every few months, you should view nutritious eating as a lifestyle change. Results will take time to achieve, but by focusing on nutrition as a lifestyle change instead of a quick fix, the results will last longer.
How to Read Nutrition Labels
If you are serious about eating right, you need to read the nutrition labels on your food purchases. By knowing how to properly read a nutrition label, you will know what foods to purchase and which to avoid. A food labeled as “healthy” or “low-fat” might not be very nutritious, but by knowing which information to find on the nutrition label, you will be able to find healthy food options.
Naturally, the first thing you want to do is look at the ingredient list, and ingredients should be recognizable and natural. Avoid foods with mostly ingredients you cannot even pronounce. Natural ingredients are healthier because they have more nutrients than processed foods which take us to our next point.
Vitamins and Minerals
The reason we eat is to consume the nutrients we need to keep our bodies working at top capacity. When reading labels, you need to look at the vitamins and minerals you will consume when eating the food. By looking at how much of a vitamin or mineral a food contains, you can determine if the food is healthy or not.
Fat and Sugar Levels
Two of the most important things to look for on a nutrition label are the fat and sugar levels. Surprisingly, many items that you think of as “healthy” have high amounts of added sugar. Of course, most food will contain some amount of fat and sugar, but it is important to look at the percentage of daily value so you can determine if you will eat it. For example, a yogurt that contains 30% of the daily sugar level might not be worth it, but another yogurt who contains 15% of the daily amount is.
Percentage of Daily Value
Most nutrition labels are based on a 2000 calorie diet, but you have to factor in your weight and body type to see if this is the correct amount for you. For example, a 100 lb. female does not need to eat as much as a 200 lb. male because their bodies require different levels of nutrition. In addition, when trying to lose weight, you will need to consume fewer calories. When reading the nutrition labels, you need to keep in mind how much of each item you are consuming. Using an app or keeping a food log is helpful because you can calculate how much of your daily values you are receiving.
When reading the nutrients on food, many people forget one of the most important things- serving size. You may purchase a box of macaroni and cheese or bag of chips for yourself under the impression you read the box and understand the nutritional value. However, if you look at the serving size, you may be surprised that you need to multiply the nutritional value by two or three. Pay close attention to serving size and how many servings are in the container you buy.
How to Create a Nutrition Plan
When you decide to take your nutrition seriously, you should create a meal plan for yourself. Remember that every person has different nutritional needs, so you should not assume that one person’s meal plan will be the same as yours. First, look at your lifestyle and make certain considerations including the following:
- How much do you exercise every day?People who move a lot throughout the day will burn more calories and therefore need to consume more calories.
- What is your nutritional goal?Are you looking to lose weight, gain weight, or maintain your weight? Each goal plays a key role in determining how many calories you need to consume.
- How much time do you have to devote to cooking?While your time commitment will not determine how many calories you need to consume, it will factor into which foods you should eat. If you have time to prepare meals each day, you can focus on certain meals, and if you are scarce on time, you can focus on other meals.
After taking an in-depth look at your lifestyle, it is time to create your nutrition plan. There are many interesting options out there, but you need to analyze your options carefully. Many fad diets are not good for your overall health. You need to create a plan with longevity, even if you do not see results as quickly.
How to Make Healthy Dining Choices
One of the main problems people have when trying to eat properly is how to make healthy choices while dining out. Whether it is going out with friends or grabbing something on the go, here are some tips on making nutritious choices.
Many people use eating out as an excuse to eat poorly, but that does not have to be the case. There are several ways to keep your meal healthy. Here are some tips when eating out at a restaurant.
- Learn what restaurant phrases mean.You may not know what certain phrases on the menu mean and unintentionally order something fried or covered in a creamy sauce. Avoid things that are “crispy” or “rich,” and if you have any questions, ask the server.
- Drink plenty of water.When you drink water, you are filling your stomach up which will help you avoid overeating.
- Eat half of your meal.Some people force themselves to eat the entire meal in front of them or continue to eat even when they are not hungry anymore. While you do not want to waste food, you do not have to eat it all; all you have to do is ask for a to-go box.
- Skip dessert.You do not need to eat dessert so just skip it. It is generally filled with empty calories and will not help you reach your nutrition goal.
Eating on the Go
Going out to a restaurant is one thing. Going to a fast food place is another. While they do offer a few healthy options, fast food places are not exactly known for being healthy, but it may be your only option. Here are some options on how to make a fast food restaurant healthy.
- Swap fries for something else- or just skip the side altogether.French fries seem to come with just about every fast food meal. Dine at a place that allows you to swap out fries for something else, such as a salad. If there is no alternative option, skip the side altogether.
- Avoid soda.Soda is a surprising culprit in the battle of the bulge. If you want to focus on your nutrition, you should cut soda out completely. Opt instead for water, unsweetened tea, or low-calorie non-carbonated drinks.
- Plan your meals in advance.Many restaurants offer their nutritional menus online so you can make healthy choices before you dine. It is important to look up nutritional information because not all salads are healthy and not all hamburgers are unhealthy. Planning your meal in advance also allows you to make decisions on side dishes and toppings and see how they factor into your healthy eating.
If possible, you should take the time to plan your meals for the week. When you do this, you have absolute control over what you consume. Plus, if everything is planned out in advance, you will not need to eat at fast food places on days when you are in a hurry. Make your lunches and dinners for the week on Sunday night. It will take some time on Sunday, but it will save you time in the long run and cut down on food waste.
You need to take care of yourself and eat well to keep yourself healthy for the people around you. Knowledge is the first step, and if you still have questions, talk to a professional nutritionist for assistance and advice.