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I Want To Eat Better, But How?

Clarify the Confusion

by: Tania Gustafson

Let's begin with a question. How many readers made a resolution, a promise or are intending to make some kind of change or improvement to their lifestyle in the hopes of improving their level of health in 2015? I bet a lot of hands just went up. Keep your hand up if your resolution had anything whatsoever to do with food. I'll bet you almost all those hands are still raised. Congratulations on making a conscious choice to do better. So, how's it working for you so far? Have you started seeing any results or are you stuck in that place of “I know I have to make some changes, but I'm not sure exactly what to do...” ? You are not alone.

Every January many people resolve, to eat better and for each individual it can look a little different. This is by no means a definitive list, but here are a few of the most popular changes; some people cut out sugar or coffee, some limit or eliminate alcohol, some vow never to eat bread again and some decide to cut out entire food groups, such as carbs or fat. Sound familiar? Now although cutting some things, like sugar, coffee and alcohol, out of your diet only servess to improve your health, cutting entire components of food, like carbs and fat, does not. It can, in fact, be quite damaging.

Let's take a quick review here. Based on science and physiology, our bodies are designed to function correctly in a state of homeostasis or balance. We achieve that state when we eat balanced foods (PFCs), that fuel and nourish our bodies at a cellular level, every three to four hours throughout the day. When these criteria are met, blood sugar and hormones are stabilized, stored fat is being released into the body, lean muscle is being built, metabolism increases, energy levels increase, cholesterol level drop, blood pressure drops – I could go on. Bottom line, balancing is essential to overall health. Period.

So how does a person know which foods to choose, how much to eat and how often to eat it? Great questions. First, know your PFCs, protein, fat, carbohydrates. In my practice, I have found that the most difficult component for clients to get enough of is protein. Many are so conditioned to either skipping a meal or simply grabbing a piece of toast, they have difficulty making sure to add in a protein at each meal. Fat is another component some clients, especially women, struggle with. Many think that by adding fat to their diet they will get fat. This is definitely untrue. Our bodies need ALL the PFCs and that includes a fat, each time we eat. On the flip side, getting enough carbohydrates is never a problem, however getting enough nutrient-dense carbohydrates is another story.

As with anything, there are different degrees of quality. To make it very simple, the fewer ingredients a food has, the higher quality it is. For example, choosing to cook a meal of grilled salmon with steamed veggies and brown rice (all single ingredient foods) is a much higher quality meal than a pre-cooked barbequed chicken with potato salad and a dinner roll (each food has several ingredients). Each meal has a protein, a fat and carbohydrates, but the quality and number of ingredients that went into each dish are vastly different. Each time we eat a food that has “extraneous” or “non-food” ingredients in it (preservatives, flavourings, thickeners, artificial sweeteners, etc.) it taxes our digestive system and our liver as these items are not recognized as food, therefore making it difficult for our bodies to know how to metabolize it. Do this often enough and the colon becomes clogged, digestive slows down and toxicity builds up in the body.

Now that we are clear on the types of foods that are best, let's look at portion size. It's all in the palm of your hand. Open your hand and take a look. The palm of your hand, minus the fingers and thumb, is your protein portion. One palm for ladies one and a half to two palms for men. Now make a fist. This size represents the amount of carbohydrates. Again, one for ladies, two for the guys. Now take a look at your thumb. This represents the quantity of “mushy” fats as I like to call them – avocado, mayo, butter, oil, cheese (yes, cheese is considered a fat) – and again the ladies get half and the guys get the entire thumb worth. For nuts, also considered a fat, a small handful is the size to aim for.

Along with good choices and portion size is timing. Eating a balanced PFC meal within one hour of waking and every three to four hours throughout the day up until one hour before bed will keep your body fuelled, balanced and energized.

If you are not happy with your current level of health, I invite you to begin making small changes today that will have a huge impact on your life and the lives of those you love tomorrow. After all, if you don't take care of your body, where will you live?

Tania Gustafson

Nutritionist & Fitness Coach, IBNFC


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