I know I casually glossed over nutrition in my first few blog posts, but let’s be honest—nutrition is a rabbit hole in itself. Food choices are incredibly personal. I don’t feel that it’s my place to tell anyone specifically what to eat or when to eat. That is up to the individual to decide. However, there are some reputable nutrition guidelines I would highly recommend because they promote both health and sustainable weight loss. When I first started my weight loss journey in Summer 2019, I started seeing a registered dietician that provided me with a handout to put on my fridge that closely resembles the Healthy Eating Plate created by the Harvard University T.H. Chan School of Public Health. If you want to lose weight and eat healthy, this Healthy Eating Plate is an invaluable, visual guide on how to design your meals.
Why the Healthy Eating Plate Works
What I appreciate most about this guide is that it takes the guess work out of building a healthy meal. The more decisions you can automatically build into habits, the easier it is to stay on track. Your willpower is finite and the more decisions you have to actively make, the more you deplete this limited resource. You don’t have to eat exactly to this plate. I don’t personally like to include fruit with my meals and eat fruit as a snack instead. However, I always make half my plate vegetables, one-quarter lean protein and one-quarter whole grain carbs or starchy vegetables at lunch and dinner. Even if I make dishes that consists of a mixture of ingredients, I’ll make half my plate vegetables. Life is hard enough, let’s not make nutrition more complicated than it has to be.
The Healthy Eating Plate is highly customizable, as well. You can use whatever types of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and healthy proteins you prefer. You can also prepare them any way you like, as long as you limit the use of oils. I get so burnt out on salad and this plan allows me to switch out foods without guilt or confusion. Regardless of your personal food preferences, this plan allows you eat a diet high in fiber, micronutrients and healthy protein to keep you satiated and well-nourished.
This plan also provides guidance regarding what food and drinks should be reduced, limited, or avoided. Sugary drinks are not only loaded with empty calories, they may also disrupt the hunger-suppressing hormones that signal when you are full. White breads and rice should be limited because they have been linked to lower levels of satiety and cause significant fluctuations in blood sugar levels. This plan also calls for avoiding processed meats and red meats due to the recent classification of red meat as a Group 2A “probable carcinogen” and processed meat being classified as a Group 1 carcinogen. Trans fats, which have been proven to increase your risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes, are to be avoided in favor of healthy, unsaturated oils like olive and canola. Using the Healthy Eating Plate will help you become more mindful of healthy foods, and foods that are problematic for your health.
Instead of following the latest fat diet craze that eliminates a whole food group for no reason, try using the well-researched Healthy Eating Plate. These guidelines greatly simplify nutrition into a practical, visual guide you can use every day. Please keep in mind that this is a visual guide on what to eat and not necessarily how much to eat. I will take a deep dive in portion sizing in the next blog post. In the meantime, feel free to visit the Harvard Nutrition Source website for more great information regarding nutrition, recipes, healthy lifestyle, and the environmental impact of your diet.
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Remember to always be kind to yourself and keep moving forward!