You might hear it if you see your doctor and they tell you that you’re overweight, have high blood pressure, or have a high A1C: “You need to improve your nutrition.”
But what does that really mean? Nutrition is such a broad term that when people are told to “work on” or “focus on their nutrition” they are stumped and don’t really know where or how to begin.
In this blog we aim to take you back to the basics – the basics of nutrition and how you can be more mindful with it in your everyday lifestyle.
What is nutrition?
Nutrition is the study of the biochemical and physiological processes by which an organism uses food to support life. Nutrition provides organisms with nutrients, which are then metabolized to create energy. Without nutrition, the body would not be able to perform the functions it needs to survive.
Macronutrients are nutrition’s building blocks – the principle components that drive wellness and specialized diets. Macronutrients include carbohydrates, fat, and protein. These three macronutrients make up all the calories in food and drinks, making them important to weight maintenance, loss, or gain.
Carbohydrates include foods like wheat, rice, oats, starchy vegetables, and sweets/sugars. Carbohydrates are found in pasta, cereals, bread, potatoes, corn, fruit, and baked goods. Fats include oils, butter, and shortening. These are naturally occurring but are also added into most baked goods and snack food. Not all fats are bad; in fact, good fats are needed for normal body functions. Protein comes from animal sources including turkey, beef, chicken, pork, and lamb. There are also plant sources of protein including beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, and nut butters.
Each macronutrient is important, but each should be eaten in proportions for maximized health. For example, a general breakdown of macronutrients would be 20% fat, 30% protein, and 50% carbohydrate. Talking to your doctor or a registered dietitian can help you determine the macronutrient breakdown appropriate for you and your goals.
Want to avoid the “what’s for dinner?” question? Meal planning is an essential part of nutrition – and an essential way that a registered dietitian can help you select meals to meet your health goals and needs. Meal planning involves creating a weekly menu that includes all food groups, and healthy choices that will help you stay on a plan toward your goals. By utilizing a meal plan, you can reduce stress and save time during the week. Let the meal plan make those “what’s for dinner?” decisions!
Nutrition for overall wellness should be at the forefront of everyone’s health plan. Nutrition, along with exercise, sleep, and connection/mental health are seen as the pillars of overall health and wellness. To incorporate nutrition into your everyday lifestyle and overall wellness plan, try to think before you eat or drink. Ask yourself if this food is going to be beneficial for you. If the answer is “no,” and you are indulging in something, ask yourself if the portion is appropriate and if you have already indulged too much that week. Being mindful of what you are eating and how much you are eating will help you be more successful with nutrition and with your weight.