By Rachel Welch
“You are what you eat,” or so it is said. While this may not be a literal fact, there is plenty of evidence for the correlation between nutrition and health, both physical and mental. With the many different sources of information in the world, it can sometimes be overwhelming to build or establish a new nutrient-rich diet. Here is a foolproof and simple way to establish your neat nutrition regimen that you can actually stick to!
Nutrition, a Necessity
Nutrients move within our bodies on a regular basis - never ceasing! The food that we eat is absorbed by our bodies, where amazing chemical reactions occur to make that food into valuable and healthy vitamins! These vitamins are used to help us think clearly, sleep soundly, feel emotionally well, and even increase our physical fitness and health. Proper nutrition can also be a key form of treatment and prevention for health issues like sickness, anxiety, depression, and migraine prevention.
If you learned about the food pyramid back in grade school, then you’ve likely been surrounded by some level of nutrition education throughout your life.
There are essential components to a healthy diet that mainly are based on the nutrition which that diet can provide. Nutrients to aim for on a regular basis include:
All forms of vitamin B serve a slightly different purpose from one another, and all benefit the body (4)!
These are only a few of the valuable nutrients that our bodies rely on to be healthy and strong. Now, in case you missed the early school years food pyramid lessons, here are several food options that contain this awesome nutrition!
Water: H20 may not technically be a food, but it is nevertheless essential to a healthy and nutrient-rich diet. Our bodies need to be well hydrated in order to break down the foods we eat, and absorb their nutrients.
Vegetables: Vegetables are one of the best things to reach for if you’re seeking a healthy snack or meal! When it comes to making well-rounded dietary choices with vegetables, the more colorful, the better. Aim for dark, leafy greens, bright and colorful carrots, beets, or peppers. Try to have a rainbow assortment on your plate with every meal.
Whole Grains: Whole grains – which are high in fiber – are the best choice when it comes to your source of carbohydrates. If you are able to consume gluten with no issue, then some great options include whole wheat, barley, or multigrain products. If you practice a gluten free diet, you have the option of non-glutinous grains, like quinoa, lentils, beans and legumes, sweet potatoes, and flax or chia seeds (5).
Fish and Seafood: The recommended amount of fish is two to three servings of fish per week. Ideally, you don’t want to exceed this amount, due to the amount of mercury that naturally occurs in many forms of seafood (6). Types of fish to opt for include salmon, tuna, sardines, trout, herring, and bluefish.
Berries and Fruits: You should aim for two to four servings of fruit in your diet every day. Some healthy options that also provide antioxidants and (sometimes) fiber, include blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, apples, and pears.
Nuts, Seeds, and Such: Flaxseed, chia seeds, hemp hearts, and the like are all beneficial seeds that are easy to incorporate into your diet. Add up to ¼ cup per day into your diet via smoothies or other recipes!
Yogurt and Probiotic-Rich Foods: Kefir, yogurt, sauerkraut, and kimchi are all probiotic-rich foods. These work together with the fiber from your healthy grains, to ensure optimal gut health, which ties into overall brain health (7).
Nutrition Challenges, and How to Overcome Them
It can be challenging to overcome the hustle and bustle of our daily lives. Often, our typical schedules involve quick transitions, leaving little time to spend crafting healthy meals in the kitchen. (And honestly, sometimes you just don’t want to deal with the mess that comes with cooking! Dishes, crumbs, ugh.) Add to that, the fact that society is catered around this chaos in an unhealthy way. There seem to be fast food restaurants placed at every corner on your daily route to-and-fro, which may seem too convenient to pass up! It’s affordable, it’s filling, and it’s often our go-to when it comes to needing food amid a busy day.
While fast food may be convenient, it is not very healthy or sustainable for the long term if you aim to have a healthy body and mind. A 2015 study found an alarming number of health risks associated with common fast foods; Obesity, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular issues were all more common in individuals who consumed fast food on a regular basis. Medical News Today explains that this is because most fast food is high in sugar, salt, saturated fat, trans fats, processed ingredients, and calories. It is also generally low in antioxidants, fiber, and many other vital nutrients (8). Just think, if the bulk of your diet is built around foods that lack the nutrition you need, there can inevitably be some long-term consequences.
So, what on earth do we do? How is it possible to maintain a healthy nutrition habit, while still having time to keep up with the hustle and bustle of life?
Never fear! Thankfully, it does not have to be difficult to incorporate nutrition into your daily life, even if you are as busy as a bee. The key is thoughtful preparation. With the right meal prep schedule, you can have a week’s worth of meals ready in just one afternoon or evening. Meal prepping is trending, but for very good reason!
A good rule of thumb is to plan a day each week that will be your “cooking day.” Whether this is a “Chef’s Sunday,” a “Meal prep Monday,” or simply a “This is the only day I can do this!” day, structure out what works with your schedule and work around that. Then, you can create healthy, delicious, and – most importantly – nutritious meals that can feed you throughout the week, without the day-to-day stress and hassle!
Here are some quick and easy meal ideas that keep well in the fridge, provide balanced nutrition, and are also super satisfying!
This first breakfast recipe is my own creation that I am happy to share with you! Packed with protein, veggies, and visual appeal is my Gluten Free Avocado Toast with Eggs. This is a quick and simple recipe to get your day started with nutritious success!
Nutrients in this meal:
The avocado provides healthy fat, vitamin K, folate, pantothenic acid, vitamin E, and magnesium. The eggs provide protein, potassium, and vitamin D, and the tomatoes provide vitamin C, calcium, and vitamin A.
Quiche cups are packed with protein and veggies, and completely customizable! The linked recipe is one yummy example, but you can absolutely cater this to include your favorite components. They take about 30 minutes to prepare, and they keep wonderfully in the fridge to fuel your busy mornings throughout the week!
Nutrients in this meal:
The nutrition value of this meal is completely dependent on what ingredients you choose! If you go with eggs and veggies as the main focus, you’re sure to have a healthy balance of tasty goodness in your breakfast.
Lunch and Dinner Ideas
There are countless resources and lists out there for fabulous lunch and dinner ideas that can be meal-prepped ahead of time! Whichever recipes you choose to create, here are the basic components to keep in mind as you build your lunches for the week:
Protein: Aim for 1 cup of protein for your meal. This can be grilled chicken, pulled pork, tofu, eggs (egg salad, for instance), fish, or beans/legumes.
Vegetables: Remember the rainbow! Throw in some color in the form of vegetables. Salad, green beans, asparagus, tomatoes, squash, you name it. Build out a large portion of colorful veggies, to help support your balanced lunch.
Healthy Carbs: Don’t forget your whole grains and fiber-loaded carbohydrates! These are what will help you to keep feeling full throughout the day, and the more fiber, the better. Remember to focus on no more than a cup of these carbs. You want the protein and the veggies to be the star of your meals for optimum nutrition!
Healthy Fats: These are your omega 3’s, your avocados, almonds, peanuts, cashews, olive oils, etc. Whether you cook with these, or add a small (1/4 cup) portion to your lunch, the right amount of healthy fats are beneficial to a balanced meal!
Fruits: Finally, contribute some fruit to your lunch. Make it colorful, and aim for the antioxidant-rich varieties like we covered above. Have fun switching up your favorite fruit of the week!
Nutrition Regimen, Commencing Now!
While it may seem daunting as you begin your nutrition regimen and make the related lifestyle changes, it doesn’t have to be difficult. Start with small steps, and build on them as you go.
1. Focus on the convenience of meal prep to equip yourself with fresh and healthy meals that are quickly accessible!
2. Keep in mind the simple structure of a healthy meal:
3. Try to have fun with it! Food is a big part of our lives. It should be somewhat pleasurable.
4. At a loss for ideas? Remember, the internet is an abundant resource for recipes!
Above all, remember that your nutrition journey is not just a good choice for today, but a good choice that can lead to many healthy and happy years to come!
Compare these four food analyzer apps to see which one is the right fit for you and your health goals!