We are constantly being bombarded with information relating to the newest diet plan or easiest way to lose weight. With so much information out there it can become confusing to navigate your way to what a healthful and sustainable way of eating looks like. Rather than implementing or cutting out entire food groups, healthy nutrition can come down to the ABC’s. “A” for adequacy, “B” for balance and “C” for calorie control. Additionally, “M” for moderation and “V” for variety.
Adequacy in nutrition means that you get a sufficient number of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients from the foods you eat. For example, if you eat a serving of broccoli, chicken and brown rice you are going to be consuming vitamin C and K, riboflavin and magnesium from the broccoli, lean protein from the chicken and whole grains and fiber from the brown rice. These foods are dense in nutrients and support an adequate pattern of eating. On the flipside, if you were to eat a Big Mac, large French fries and a large soda you would be filling your body with a heap of trans and saturated fats, processed carbohydrates and an amount of sugar that far exceeds a serving size.
Balance means that you eat proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and fiber. Yep, you read it correctly; you can eat carbs and fats as part of a healthy diet. Some diets on the market encourage individuals to cut out all carbs or only eat naturally fatty foods. Although these diets may temporarily result in dramatic weight loss, they are both unhealthy and unsustainable. A healthy eating pattern relies on nutrients from proteins, carbohydrates and fats. These macronutrients intertwine and work together to create a balanced eating pattern.
Calorie Control means that you pay attention and are aware of the number of calories you consume each day. This doesn’t mean that you carry around a notebook writing down every calorie you consumer (that sounds exhausting) but that you instead have an awareness of the calories in certain foods. If you are eating vegetables, fruits and lean proteins, you are safe to assume that those foods have low-calorie content. Calorie control becomes extremely important when you are eating out or eating processed/packaged foods. To control your caloric intake while eating out, you should always look for a “light” menu/dish or split your meal in half and take the rest home. With packaged foods, it is often easy to mindlessly reach into the box or bag without really understanding what you are putting into your body. Before reaching your hand in, take a minute to scan the label on the back of the package and educate yourself on what a serving size indeed looks like (yes, that means just three Oreos flaunt 160 calories).
Moderation is fun because it means you can eat anything and everything, but there is a catch. You can eat anything in reasonable amounts. It is essential to fill your diet with nutrient-dense food; however, you are allowed to have that piece of chocolate or scoop of your favorite ice cream. Moderation allows you to recognize that you can eat anything you want as long as you don’t overdo it. It follows the line of too much of a good thing can be harmful. Similar to how five servings of ice cream are unhealthy, eating a whole watermelon is not so great for you either. Moderation focuses a lot on serving size and recognizing when you are full.
Variety means that you eat various foods in varying amounts. Eating does not need to be bland and boring. It should be full of vibrant colors and exotic flavors. The more vibrant color a fruit or vegetable has, the more nutrients it contains. Spinach, sweet potatoes, beets and berries are all whole foods that burst with both flavor and nutrients. By eating a variety of fruits, vegetables and lean meats you allow yourself to try different flavors and not get bored of that same old salad you might be eating every single day for lunch.