Ok, so it’s no secret that nutrition is a major component in our overall health an wellbeing…It plays a huge role in everything!…Whether the goal is weight loss, weight gain, or weight maintenance, good nutrition is key.
But, what is good nutrition?
That’s not an easy question to answer, because defining “good nutrition” isn’t as simple as looking up a word in the dictionary…Everyone’s definition is different…For some, it may be eating super low carb (i.e. adhering to a ketogenic lifestyle), others my be inclined to eat a more plant based diet, and then there are those who follow to a more “traditional” dieting strategy (i.e. balanced amounts of carbs, protein, and fats).
While none of these approaches are inherently wrong, they aren’t exactly right either. What works for one won’t always work for another in terms of diet. And, in truth, diet isn’t the only aspect of good nutrition. It’s only a small part of it. No matter what type of diet plan you choose to follow, good nutrition can be achieved.
On the whole, good nutrition is about so much more than just which foods to eat and which to avoid. It’s also about more than just calories in…It’s how you expend those calories, what you’re working towards, and what you actually achieve…Regardless of the types of foods you choose to eat, a good nutrition plan is well developed, based on your specific goals, and built around four common characteristics.
- Balanced energy
- Nutrient density
- Balanced goals
- Honest outcomes
Here, we’ll explore each of these four characteristics.
1. Balanced Energy:
Seems pretty straightforward, doesn’t it? Wanna lose weight? Eat less calories! Gain weight? Eat more calories! Maintain? Find your right calorie balance!
It’s that simple!…Or, is it?
While creating the proper energy balance to match your goals is necessary, it’s not as simple as “just eat more to gain” or “just eat less to lose”. When you’re looking to lose or gain weight, you’ve got slow down and take the time to assess the rate at which you add or subtract calories into or from your diet.
In terms of weight gain, consuming too many calories too fast can increase your risk of:
- High blood pressure
- High blood cholesterol
- Various types of cancer
While dramatically restricting calories and losing weight too quickly can lead to:
- Hormonal imbalances
- Reduced metabolic function
- Lack of concentration
- Reduced reproductive function
A controlled change in nutrition (i.e. adding or subtracting calories slowly, over time) prevents the balance of energy from jumping to either extreme, and allows the systems of your body to adjust naturally, leading to desired outcomes and better overall health.
A good nutrition plan, whether it be geared towards weight loss or weight gain, always keeps the balance of energy in mind. For best results, the plan should progress slowly and in a way that works well for your body composition to change (over time), but it should also allow you to adapt easily to the new lifestyle changes, so you can, and will, stick to it.
2. Nutrient Density:
Regardless of the type of diet you chose to follow (Keto, vegan, vegetarian, balanced/traditional, etc.), what you eat is just as important as how much you eat.
In order to get the most out of the foods you eat, you first have to understand nutrient density. For example, you’ll get limited nutrients from a doughnut, as opposed to s spinach and mushroom omelette with a side of whole wheat toast. The doughnut will pack on the calories and little else, while the omelette and toast will offer you many more nutrients without an overwhelming number of “empty” calories.
It’s easy to lose nutrient density by consuming too much of the wrong kinds of fats (trans fats, hydrogenated oil’s, high amounts of saturated fats) and overly processed “convenience” foods. Thats why it’s so important to be mindful of what you put into your body at all times. Remember, good nutrition shouldn’t make you work harder to meet your goals…It should make it easier to support a healthy body.
If you feel you fall short in this area, try this little exercise;
First, make a list of all the foods you eat each day and review the nutrient density of those foods. Look at how many grams of fat, carbohydrates, and protein is in each food, and how the calories match up. Tip: protein and carbs each have 4 calories per gram and fat has 9 calories per gram, so let’s say a particular food has 130 calories, 2g Fat, 8g carbs, and 20g protein…The nutrient breakdown would look like this, fat: 2g x 9 cals/g = 18 calories, carbs: 8g x 4 cals/g = 32 calories, and protein: 20g x 4 cals/g = 80 calories. If you do the math, the number of calories from each macronutrient adds up to total 130 calories, which indicates that this particular food is extremely nutrient dense. If the numbers are way off, it’s a pretty good indicator that the food item in question isn’t the most nutrient dense, and is probably loaded with overly processed and artificial crap. You also want to look at how much sugar and fiber is in each food you eat. Try to keep items to 15g or less of sugar per serving…the more fiber, the better!
After you’ve reviewed your daily food choices, make a list of some alternatives, and review the nutrient density of those things….What’s the best option?
Try to choose foods higher in nutrients more often than those that are overloaded with empty calories.
3. Balanced Goals:
Now it’s time to talk goals.
More than likely you’re pursuing good nutritionin an effort to meet a primary goal of some sort. Whether it be health, performance, or body composition, I’m guessing you’re thinking of little else other than “I wanna achieve x as soon as possible”.
Let’s say, for example, you’re super focused on losing weight. Your goal is just to get the numbers on the scale to drop, TODAY! You’re not focusing on nutrient dense foods and you’re not getting enough energy to support any functional performance…With this unbalanced approach, something is eventually going to give out. Aggressively pursuing one goal only will offset the balance of good nutrition and potentially negatively affect other areas of your health.
Back to your example, if you only focus on weight loss, you’re going to have lower energy levels which will affect your performance and even your health. So, when you think about good nutrition, you need to incorporate habits that will positively impact all three goals of health, performance, AND body composition…You know, balance!
You have to make sure your energy needs are being met, and that you’re fueling your body with the right kinds of foods each day. Remember, significant, lasting results take time, and by focusing on performance and overall health, as well as body composition, you’ll be more likely to achieve the results you desire AND keep them!
“Long-term support of good nutrition is dependent on honest reporting to allow for realistic outcomes.”
I’m just gonna be blunt here. You can have a great nutritional plan, but you won’t get realistic results if your reporting isn’t accurate. In other words, if you aren’t recording your daily food intake accurately, you aren’t going to see the results you want. When tracking calories and macros for a specific goal, you HAVE to be 100% honest when documenting what you’re eating. This goes beyond accurately measuring and weighing foods, and it does not mean that you have to be “perfect”, BUT if you eat a cookie, you’ve got to document that cookie. By being honest and holding yourself accountable, you’ll be able to see what areas you need to work on, and concentrate on those specific areas in an effort to improve your outcome.
Ultimately, good nutrition is about more than just calories and eating vegetables…It’s about eating to support a healthy life…Balanced energy, nutrient dense foods, balanced goals, and committing to honest outcomes are ALL key factors of a good nutrition plan, and should ALL be taken into account when pursuing your goals.
Not sure where to begin. Contact me today for personalized online nutrition coaching. My Nutrition Strategies include BMR and DCE calculations, calorie and macronutrient recommendations, and other tips, tricks, and methods to help you achieve the body you’ve always wanted while still enjoying delicious food and maintaining your proper energy balance.