October 6, 2021

Food Basics

Sifting through social media posts, advertisements, and opinions from family or friends on food and what you should be eating day-to-day is not only confusing but often overwhelming! While advice is great, applying essential nutrition to your own life is a totally different story!

Today we are breaking down the basics of what you should eat in a day. After reading, you will be able to apply food group guidelines to create meals you know you’ll enjoy and maybe even be inspired to try some new things.

First things first, let’s talk food groups. There are 5 basic groups:

  • Protein
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Grains
  • Dairy or Dairy Alternatives

Each of these food groups provides vital and diverse nutrients from the next in line, some that the other groups cannot provide. So basically, variety is key to getting your body everything that it needs!

Since variety is key, yet our eating instances are limited throughout the day, it is essential to be strategic about how you plan on getting a little bit of everything you need each day.

If you have ever seen a MyPlate, this is an excellent example of what the ideal plate should look like for each meal. However, fitting all 5 different food groups at each meal is a lot of planning and a lot of food to account for!

Instead of aiming for all food groups at each meal, let’s aim for just a few while emphasizing the ones that are easy to miss or especially important.

Tip #1: Aim for at least 3 food groups at each meal. Make one of them a protein source (meat, beans, legumes, meat alternatives), one a fruit OR a vegetable, and a third food group of your choice.

*You can also add more foods if that combination sounds good to you*

Why is protein so important? Well, protein is essential for many of the functions your body performs day-to-day. It is the building block for your muscles, and eating protein consistently during the day can help you stay full. While you could get all of your protein at one meal, it may also be tough on your kidneys. These are both great reasons why protein is great in smaller doses throughout the day!

Tip #2: For snacks, aim for 1-2 different food groups!

Try pairing some nuts, seeds, or your favorite nut butter with a grain (toast, rice cakes, crackers, etc.) or a piece of fruit (fresh, dried, frozen, or canned all count!). Grains and fruit give you an initial burst of energy because they are more easily digested, while nuts/nut butter digest slower and provide a bit of protein!

Tip #3: Choose foods that you enjoy and eat them how you like them!     You’re more likely to eat a variety of foods and stick with a balanced diet if you enjoy what you are eating. It can also be boring to eat the same things every day. If you need inspiration, check out Pinterest, there are a ton of great meal ideas. From cheffing it up in the dorms to meals for the entire family, there is bound to be a recipe for you.

Tip #4: If you consider yourself a picky eater, start by eating some of the healthier foods you enjoy first or challenge yourself to try one new food or method of cooking per week.

Tip #5: If you’re in the dark about what foods fit under certain groups, just google it. The internet is pretty helpful with the fundamental facts!

*Note: some foods may actually fit into more than 1 food group (there are always exceptions to the rules). Quinoa is a great example- while it is a grain, it is also a great source of protein!*

Tip #6: Don’t forget about hydration!!

Water is a crucial nutrient as well. If you are not a fan of the taste, you can always add some flavor packets. Fresh fruits and veggies can also provide some hydration as they have a large amount of water content. Not to mention, electrolytes which are also important for re-hydrating after a long day in the sun or after a particularly sweaty workout.

To recap: food doesn’t have to be complicated. Eat what you enjoy and eat a variety. If you feel significant gaps in your diet or want further assistance to help you plan and learn more about nutrition, sign up for a 1-on-1 session today!