A nutrition primer from Lifetime dietitians
Sometimes the simplest lessons are the hardest to learn. At Lifetime, dietitians teach simple rules of nutrition to help individuals learn (or relearn) how to properly fuel their bodies. Nutritional knowledge is critically important in maintaining health and vitality and enhancing longevity.
Start with the basics: The foundation of nutrition is a focus on whole, natural foods with high-quality proteins, vegetables and healthy fats. We’ve heard it a hundred—perhaps a thousand times. But what does it mean? Why is protein important? What are healthy fats? Are all vegetables equal?
Here’s a quick primer on the building blocks of good nutrition and how to include them in your daily diet.
1. Why protein? – Protein in your diet stimulates metabolism, balances blood sugar, supports lean tissue growth and supports immune function
How? Make protein a priority at all meals and snacks, such as fish, meat, dairy, whey, eggs and poultry. Eating a moderate portion of protein with each meal has been shown to improve satiety and to support lower body fat levels. Contrary to popular myth, it hasn’t been shown to be detrimental to the kidneys or bone mass. In fact, additional protein can be beneficial for those trying to lose weight, those who are more active or those who are concerned with age-related loss of muscle mass.
2. Why carbohydrates? –Carbohydrates are necessary for energy production; however, when you consume more carbohydrates than your body needs or can efficiently process, it can lead to fat storage and eventually, the inability to burn fat.
How? Vegetables are high quality carbohydrates; loaded with vitamins, minerals, fiber and other nutrients, these foods should take up half your plate. As you eat more of these vegetables, you’ll likely find you have less appetite for other foods.
- Aim for a minimum of 5-6 cups of vegetables per day and incorporate as many colors as possible
- Emphasize cruciferous veggies such as broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and kale to encourage estrone detoxification
- Non starchy veggies should make up the majority of your carbohydrate intake (Limit starchy veggies such as corn, green peas, potatoes)
- Aim to eat between one and two servings or less per day – berries are best
- Avoid fruit juices or dried fruit, which are concentrated in sugar and carbohydrates
Starches – bread, cereal, crackers, rice, pasta, etc.
- Limit to small portions (1/2 cup)
- Best Options: quinoa, brown/wild rice, steel cut oats, sweet potatoes
Sugars – soda, desserts, candy, etcetera
- Limit sugars, especially high-fructose corn syrup
- Too much sugar destroys healthy flora balance in gut, which is essential to immunity, digestion, & cognitive function
3. Fats –Don’t fear fat! Your brain is 60% fat and every cell in your body is surrounded by fat, which is essential to metabolism and normal cell function, including regulation of blood sugar, lipids, blood pressure, and inflammation.
How? Aim for healthy, essential fats and avoid processed versions; opt for several servings a day of the following foods:
- Nuts/seeds (not peanut), natural-nut butters (not peanut), olives, avocados, olive oil, guacamole, hummus, and organic butter are all good ways to add flavor and satisfy hunger
- Incorporate 1-2 tablespoons ground golden flaxseed twice daily to support digestive function and estrogen metabolism/removal.
- Cook with coconut oil and save olive oil for colder items (low heat only)
4. Hydration– Water hydrates, energizes, and detoxifies your body.
How? Aim to drink half your body weight in ounces.
- Alcohol – aim for fewer than 3 drinks per week, no more than two in one night until you reach your goal body composition; alcohol use can interrupt sleep and digestive function.
- Caffeine – opt for green tea for more antioxidants and health-promoting properties.