Learning about nutrition for beginners

Embarking on a journey towards better eating habits is a transformative pursuit that goes beyond mere numbers on a scale. It involves embracing a holistic approach and understanding how different components of nutrition work. In this comprehensive guide, we will navigate the intricacies of food, exploring not only the science behind shedding pounds but also the key lifestyle factors that contribute to lasting success. My goal is to empower you with knowledge and practical strategies, fostering a sustainable path towards a healthier, happier you.

Understanding macros 101

Learning how to eat healthy

Macros, or macronutrients, form the fundamental groups of food. All foods are categorized into three main groups of macronutrients: carbohydrates, proteins, fats, or a combination. Macronutrients (food) are just as important as water; the human body needs macros and water every day. The amount of macros you eat are directly related to how much weight you have on your body, and weight distribution. Lets breakdown macros even further:

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates serve as primary sources of energy for the body. They include items like bread, pasta, vegetables, and beans. When we consume these foods, they provide the energy necessary for our daily activities. These activities range from internal processes that happens involuntarily, to activities such as having the strength to walk 5 blocks. Carbs act as fuel for the body, similar to how gas fuels a car. Just as insufficient gas can cause a car to stall and stop, inadequate carb intake can lead to a slowdown in bodily functions, resulting in symptoms such as fatigue.

Conversely, if you overfill your gas tank, fuel spills onto the ground, resulting in wasted money. With the body, there’s no spillage, but excess carbs leads to overload. When the body receives more carbs than it can utilize for energy, the surplus is stored in fat cells. Continued consumption of excess carbs leads to an accumulation of more fat cells; basically weight gain.

The amount of carbs needed per day depends on age, sex, activity level, and current health. We’ll get into that more later.

Protein

Protein is a macro

Protein is the meat we eat and the eggs we scramble. It is what gives our organs and tissues structure. Protein is the muscle, the stomach, the liver, intestines, etc. It is like the frame of a house providing structural support and strengthening.

Like the frame of a house, protein serves as a building block for the body. It gives strength to tissues, muscles, organs, cells, ect. Protein is like a support system that contribute to the overall architecture. But unlike the frame of a house, protein is incredibly diverse and has a wide range of functions beyond structural support.

Most people do not eat enough protein because it is typically a food item that must be prepared. Compared to carbs, it is not readily available.

Fats

Fats are last, but not less important. However, compared to the amount of carbs and protein that’s needed daily, fat consumption should be consumed in moderation. This is because every gram of fat is 9 calories. Every gram of carb and protein is 4 calories. That’s double the amount.

Fats are important for energy when energy is low due to a lack of carbs. The also are critical for hormonal balance, absorbing micronutrients (vitamins), and joint health.

Fats are broken down into good and bad. The good fats help balance the bad fats. If there’s too many bad fats, weight gain is the result. But more importantly arteries become clogged causing a traffic jam in the blood vessels. This can lead to a stroke and/or heart disease.


Nutrition is about balancing macros

We discussed macros, now we’ll discuss how to balance those macros with examples of daily meals.

Example #1:

Nutrition for beginners

This is Melissa. She’s a business professional living in NYC. She’s fairly healthy, but she suffers from anxiety, fatigue, and poor sleep. Her breakfast consists of coffee with cream and sugar, paired with a breakfast bar from Trader Joe’s. Her lunch is usually a salad from a nearby restaurant. For dinner, Melissa cooks pasta with jumbo shrimp, a piece of garlic bread, coupled with a glass of wine. Dessert consists of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream.

Lets breakdown the macros for Melissa’s food intake:

  • Breakfast – Coffee with cream and sugar (fat/carbs), breakfast bar (carbs)
  • Lunch – Salad (carbs)
  • Dinner – Pasta (carbs) shrimp (protein), garlic bread, (carbs) wine (carbs)
  • Dessert – Ice cream (carbs/fat)

If you look at the food items and how they were broken down, you’ll see that Melissa has mostly eaten carbs for the day. In addition, it is likely that Karen is under eating. This can contribute to anxiety, fatigue, and poor sleep.

Example #2:

Nutrition for beginners

This is Nicole. She’s a busy entrepreneur living in NYC. She recently started a workout regimen with a goal of losing weight she’s gained over the past two years. For breakfast she has a half raisin bagel with cream cheese and a berry smoothie with frozen berry mix, protein powder, and oat milk. For lunch, she has a vegetarian burrito, sparking water, and a cookie. After work she goes to gym. While waiting in traffic, she eats a handful of chocolate covered raisins to snack on. Dinner was 2 baked chicken thighs, broccoli, and brown rice. Being a busy entrepreneur and finishing work around 12am, Nicole snacks on Cheez It crackers, a Dove Ice Cream bar, and a few Pringles.

Here’s a breakdown of macros for Nicole’s food intake:

  • Breakfast – Half bagel (carbs), berry smoothie with frozen berries (carbs), protein powder (protein), oat milk (carbs)
  • Lunch – Vegetarian burrito (carbs), cookie (carbs)
  • Snack – Chocolate covered raisins (carbs)
  • Dinner – chicken thighs (protein/fat), broccoli (carbs), brown rice (carbs)
  • Snacks – Cheez It crackers (carbs/fat), Ice cream bar (carbs/fat), Pringles (carbs/fat)

Macros for Nicole consisted of mostly carbs. High carb intake will contribute to weight gain.

Learning about nutrition for beginners

Melissa and Nicole’s food intake is typical for most people. If both of them scheduled an appointment with me to obtain assistance in their health and nutritional goals, this is what I’d change.

Melissa:

  • Breakfast: Black coffee, 3 eggs, whole grain toast with peanut butter
  • Lunch: Diced chicken, green beans, rice
  • Dinner: Salmon filet, broccoli, 1/2 sweet potato with sprinkled cinnamon
  • Dessert: Berries

Nicole:

  • Breakfast: Berry smoothie, 3 eggs
  • Lunch: Chicken burrito, no cheese or sour cream
  • Dinner: 90% ground beef with onions and peppers, broccoli, brown rice
  • Snack: Berries, nuts

As you can see, all meals for Melissa and Nicole contain the proper macros: protein, carbs, and fat. With protein being the bulk of the meal. This is the basics when it comes to learning about nutrition. It is very important to know what macro you’re consuming and how much of it. Again, most people eat more carbs than any other macro because it’s tasty and readily available.


Prioritize protein intake for nutrition

Protein for weight loss

Prioritizing protein in your nutrition is crucial for achieving optimal health. To prioritize protein intake, include high-quality sources such as lean meats (cuts of meat with less fat), poultry, fish, and eggs in your meals. Aim to distribute protein intake evenly throughout the day to support muscle repair and growth, enhance satiety, and maintain steady energy levels. Incorporating protein-rich foods into every meal and snack can help regulate appetite, prevent overeating, and support weight management goals.

Additionally, consider including a variety of protein sources to ensure you obtain all essential amino acids necessary for overall health. Whether you’re trying to lose or gain weight, seeking to improve body composition, or simply aiming to support overall well-being, prioritizing protein in your diet is a cornerstone of a balanced and nutritious eating plan.

Balancing carbs for nutrition

Balancing carbs in your diet means making sure you eat the right amount for your body’s needs. Carbs give you energy, but too many can lead to weight gain. On the other hand, not having enough can make you feel tired and low on energy.

To balance carbs, choose healthier sources like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. These give you energy without causing big spikes in your blood sugar levels. Also, pay attention to portion sizes. Instead of loading up on carbs, include a mix of protein, healthy fats, and fiber in your meals to help you feel full and satisfied. Finding the right balance of carbs in your diet can help you stay energized, maintain a healthy weight, and feel your best.

Controlling the need to snack

Sugary Dessert

Controlling snacking can be challenging, but there are some strategies you can try to help manage it. First, make sure you’re eating balanced meals with a good mix of protein, healthy fats, and fiber to help keep you feeling full and satisfied. This can reduce the urge to snack out of hunger. Next, try to identify any triggers that lead to snacking, such as boredom or stress, and find alternative activities to distract yourself.

Keeping healthy snacks on hand, like fruits, vegetables, nuts, or yogurt, can also help satisfy cravings without overindulging in unhealthy options. Additionally, try to practice mindful eating by paying attention to your hunger cues and eating slowly to fully enjoy your food.

Finally, establish a consistent eating schedule and limit exposure to tempting snacks by keeping them out of sight or out of reach. With some planning and mindfulness, you can gain better control over snacking habits.

Conclusion

Embarking on the journey of learning about nutrition as a beginner is a vital step towards improving overall health and well-being. By understanding the basics of nutrition, including the importance of balanced meals, portion control, and making informed food choices, beginners can lay a solid foundation for healthier eating habits.

Through education, experimentation, and persistence, individuals can empower themselves to make positive changes in their diet and lifestyle, leading to long-term benefits such as increased energy, improved mood, better weight management, and reduced risk of chronic diseases.

Remember, the path to better nutrition is a journey, and each step taken towards learning and implementing healthier practices is a step towards a healthier, happier life.

If you’re struggling with learning how to eat and nutrition in general for your health, schedule a consultation. We’ll discuss your goals and develop a realistic plan to help you achieve them. Learning about nutrition and how to eat takes time, but in the long run, it’s well worth it!

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