Balanced nutrition is actually pretty simple, but we’re bombarded by millions of dollars’ worth of advertising touting unhealthy foods. For the most part, we spend very little time really thinking about what we put into our mouths on a daily basis. Sure, we’re all busy every day, but a little planning and picking up some healthy snacks can prevent your stomach from steering you into a really unhealthy food choice.Developing balanced nutrition just requires a little knowledge of your food’s nutritional value and some easy planning. Your body constantly adjusts to stay in balance. It may sound like a ridiculous oversimplification but, by eating healthy, balanced foods, you make it that much easier for your body to function at peak condition. Here are my top-10 super quick tips for assessing your daily food intake.
TIP 1: KEEP A FOOD JOURNAL FOR A WEEK. Write down absolutely everything that you put in your belly—water included—for seven days (or longer, if necessary) so you can figure out your patterns. Include time, quantity and how hungry you felt on a scale of 1–10. Make a note of what physical activity you did that day as well; there’s usually a correlation between exertion and hunger. The more information you put in your journal, the more data you have to analyse and figure out your patterns.
TIP 2: DON’T LET YOURSELF GET FAMISHED. If your stomach is grumbling, there’s a good chance you’ll overeat or snack on something unhealthy. You’re more prone to ignore the unhealthiness of your snack or overdo the portions in your impulse to fill your belly. Eating smaller meals more often throughout the day is the easiest way to combat the tummy grumbles and avoid sabotaging your daily food intake.
TIP 3: SPEND MORE TIME IN THE PRODUCE AISLE OF YOUR GROCERY STORE. Fresh veggies require a little more effort than grabbing french fries at a drive-through, but one builds healthy bodies and the other builds love handles. Experiment with adding a green pepper to your morning omelet in place of bacon or have an apple instead of a candy bar.
TIP 4: TAKE A PICTURE OF YOUR FOOD AND DRINK BEFORE YOU EAT IT. This helps you remember what you ate when you ate it and the portion size. Often, when you’re really hungry, you overlook all the extra calories in that meal—the cheese, condiments, bacon, etc. If your food came in a package that has a label, take a picture of that, too. Balanced nutrition starts with knowing the nutritional value of your food. Use those labels to help with planning your protein, carbohydrate, fat and calorie intake.
TIP 5: DRINK MORE WATER. Soda pop, lemonade, energy drinks, beer—they taste so good and are a huge part of our daily lives. Unfortunately, they’re also a huge part of our daily caloric intake. Those extra calories can translate into as much as 40 pounds of weight gain a year. Here’s the great news: If you cut sugary drinks out of your daily fluid intake and drink 2–3 quarts of ice cold water a day, you’ll benefit from:
- Cutting hundreds of calories (and chemicals) from your daily intake.
- Burning more calories (part I)—ice cold water makes your body work harder to warm it to body temperature.
- Burning more calories (part II)—the more hydrated you are, the more often you’ll urinate. Each trip to the restroom will force you to get up from your desk and be active.
- Regulating your blood pressure, transporting nutrients and keeping all your bodily systems running smoothly.
TIP 6: EAT REAL FOODS. The more you can avoid processed foods, the healthier you’ll be. Meat, fish, poultry, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds don’t have nutrition facts labels on them because you know what nutritional value they contain. While I’m not advocating a full-on diet change, my diets are very effective in helping some individuals get healthier and lean. I suggest meeting in the middle—fewer processed foods than you eat now and healthier real foods. If you’re vegetarian or gluten intolerant, you’ll need to adjust any food intake to meet your dietary restrictions.
TIP 7: AVOID THE EXTRA CALORIES WHEN EATING OUT. When you’re eating at home, you know exactly what ingredients are going into your meal. When eating out, you have a lot less knowledge of and control over all the extra calories that get put into that meal. The added butter, salt, sugar, and dressing can really add up to make that healthy meal you ordered a calorie and fat bomb. Ask for any dressing on the side and your meats or vegetable cooked “plain” without sauces or butter. Spend a few minutes scanning the menu for healthy choices and make sure to ask your server to help keep them healthy. It’s really that simple. If you can’t find a healthy choice, then choose a salad with plenty of veggies (and even some grilled chicken) and make sure you get the dressing on the side. Sometimes it’s better to have a salad, leave a little hungry and have a healthy snack at home.
TIP 8: WHAT HAPPENS IN THE PANTRY DOESN’T STAY IN THE PANTRY. The first step is to banish all the unhealthy snack food from your house—if it’s not there, you can’t snack on it. Sure, you may have fantastic willpower, but when you have a craving and see that bag of chips, you’re putting yourself in a predicament for no good reason. Having some fruit in a bowl on the counter works wonders—you see it constantly, you can grab it on the way out the door and you’ll also feel guilty if you bought it and allowed it to go bad right under your nose. Celery and carrots last even longer in the fridge than fruit and are always a great snack. A handful of nuts and dried cranberries will go a long way in fueling your body and fending off any cravings for sugary snacks.
TIP 9: PLAN YOUR SNACKS JUST LIKE YOUR MEALS. A “snack” absolutely does not have to be something decadent that you need to feel bad about after eating. Actually, snacks play a major role in fueling your body throughout the day. Did you know that your body burns more calories while it’s processing food than when you have an empty stomach? Snacks fill in the gap between meals and keep your body burning calories all day long. Plan your snacks by bringing a couple of pieces of fruit to work or on your daily activities. Granola, nuts and dried fruit all travel well. There are plenty of healthy options in energy and nutrition bars, but be aware of the calorie density and nutritional value. If you’re (occasionally) eating a meal-replacement bar, make sure it’s replacing a meal and not a snack. If you have healthy snacks available, you’ll make your choices far more easily.
TIP 10: IT’S ALL ABOUT BALANCE. In order to stay active, build a lean physique, and keep your energy level high, you need to get enough macro-and micronutrients and water each day. Macronutrients include fats, proteins, and carbohydrates; micronutrients include vitamins and minerals. Your body requires vitamins to regulate its complex chemistry, including that of the digestive and nervous systems. Minerals are the building blocks for bone strength and cardiovascular health. Meats, fruits, and vegetables contain plenty of the vitamins and minerals your body needs on a daily basis. Vitamin supplements are also a good way to make sure your body is getting the vital micronutrients it needs.