March 2, 2020 / Kimberly Newman
There is not one way of eating that works for every single body. Nutrition is bio individual and your plate should reflect that. With that said, we all want to eat as many nutrient dense whole foods as possible. Figuring out what to eat can feel really overwhelming and confusing with all the misinformation we are barraged with daily.
These 5 steps are simple and are a great place to start to help you create meals that are going to be delicious, help to keep you satiated and give you the biggest nutrient bang for your meal.
1) Two thirds of the plate should be plant based. This means that your plate should reflect nature. Think salad greens and arugula, as well as some cooked veggies, green or not. Plants are loaded with micronutrients, vitamins and minerals which helps everything from boosting the immune system and creating more energy. Half the plate should come from less starchy veggies like cooked kale, spinach, swiss chard, salad greens, zucchini, brussel sprouts, beets, beet greens, onions, leeks, eggplants, tomatoes, cucumber, and cabbage. A smaller portion (about 1/2 cup) can be from starchier veggies like butternut squash, sweet potatoes, carrots, beans, and even some ancient grains like quinoa and forbidden black rice for some quality fiber and extra antioxidants.
2) Treat protein as a side dish, not the main course. 12 oz Rib eye anyone? Animal products are our only source of vitamin B 12 and also provides us with vitamin E, D and other B vitamins. Meat also contains certain enzymes that we need in order to access essential amino acids and so many wonderful minerals like zinc, magnesium, and potassium. However, we live in a meat heavy culture and our portion sizes are out of control. We do not need as much as we are told to believe we do. So aim for 3-4 oz of good quality protein max with each meal. Think pastured chicken, grass fed-grass finished beef, wild salmon, shrimp and halibut, organic gmo free tofu or tempeh and pastured eggs.
3) Add healthy fats. Healthy fats are crucial to our health and your pallet! They increase our metabolism, help us to feel full and satiated, and help to keep our blood sugar regulated. They also make food taste good! This is what will give your plate what’s called the flavor factor. What classifies as a healthy fat? Monounsaturated Fats which are found mostly in plant and animal foods. Theses fats help improve insulin sensitivity, lower our blood pressure and lower our LDL cholesterol: the cholesterol which can attach our artery walls and lead to health issues. For this use nuts, seeds, avocado oil, olives, olive oil, and salmon. These fats can also be found in grass fed butter, beef tallow, lard and duck fat. We need some saturated fats that are found in whole foods, like grass fed animal protein, butter, coconut oil and lard. So while you should eat in more moderate portions, you don’t need to skip all together. Use these stable saturated fats for cooking at high temps.
4) Eat the rainbow at each meal. And I don’t mean in the form of condiments. Adding more color to your plate will not only add more nutrients, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants to your meals, it will also make the meals more appealing. Not sure about you, but brown meals aren’t making my mouth water. Colors will make the meal more pleasing to the eye and help get the digestive juices flowing quicker. Why do we care about antioxidants? They help fight free radicals which also helps in the prevention of diseases like cancer and heart disease.
5) Pasture-raised animals when possible. I’m sure by now you have heard all the rage about pasture-raised animal products. So what’s the deal? Pastured animal products pack more punch by having more of critical nutrients like healthy fatty acids, B vitamins, Vitamin E and antioxidants like beta-carotene, superoxide dismutase, and glutathione, a powerhouse cancer fighting compound also found in vegetables. Grass fed meats have 5 times the amount of healthy omega 3 fats which are great to help fight inflammation, lower blood pressure, and slow the development of plaque in the arteries. Opt for grass fed, grass finished beef, pasture raised chicken, pork and eggs, wild caught sea food. Look for the humanely raised sticker on the package to help ensure the animals are in a good living environment.
Other things to consider is getting in some fermented foods like kimchi, raw kraut and kefir to help with healthy gut bacteria. Slow down, sit, turn off your phone/TV and pay attention to your food. We need to be in a parasympathetic state to digest properly and it’s important to understand that digestion starts in the brain. Be mindful when you eat. Drink your fluids away from your meals. Too much liquid during your meal will dilute your stomach and slow digestion.
Written by: Kimberly Newman, 200 RYT, Certified Fitness Trainer & Wellness Coach, Functional Nutrition Therapy Practitioner, Reiki Master and lover of life.