Nutrition through the Holidays:
As we looked at in our last blog post about stamina, the three points below are great benefits of a healthy lifestyle. In this article we explore the nutritional aspect more in-depth.
- A balanced diet will help keep your blood sugar even throughout the day so you can avoid times of depressed energy and emotion.
- Processed foods are full of salt, sugar and fat that weigh you down and deplete the body of energy. So cook at home whenever you can.
- Activity: keeps your blood pumping and your metabolism high.
In order to keep energy even and constant, carbohydrate, protein and fat need to be a component of each meal. How much of each will depend on your individual body and how it processes each of these components.
If you are a person who tends to crave sweets and experience blood sugar extremes where you feel dizzy or tired in the afternoons; you will want to have more protein and fat compared to carbohydrate in your diet.
If you tend to have a naturally low energy and fat doesn’t “agree” with you then you want to have a higher portion of carbohydrates compared to fat and protein.
Metabolic typing is one way to answer the personal body type and metabolism questions in detail for you. I am a certified metabolic typing advisor help people determine their metabolic type in order to assist in their diet planning. Figuring out your personal metabolic type can help to alleviate all kinds of problems including weight gain and loss, aches and pains, digestive issues, and consistent energy.
Regardless of your metabolic type you can achieve consistent energy by including protein, fat and carbohydrate in each meal and avoiding high starch or high sugar carbohydrates. When you do eat these types of carbohydrates try to balance with fat and protein to avoid blood sugar highs and lows.
Let’s take a look at a few imbalanced meals compared to balanced meals:
Examples of imbalanced meals
- Breakfast: Oatmeal, brown sugar, non-fat milk
- Lunch: Vegetable Pad Thai with rice noodles
- Dinner: Ham steak, broccoli and avocado salad, creamed kale
Examples of balanced meals
- Breakfast: 12 grain porridge, low-fat or whole Greek yogurt, walnuts
- Lunch: Chinese chicken fried brown rice with extra vegetables
- Dinner: White bean and ham soup with braised kale, polenta
The first breakfast is an example of a high carbohydrate breakfast that may leave you feeling hungry a couple of hours later and potentially cause a spike in blood sugar, leaving you with a mid-morning craving for sweets and caffeine.
The balanced breakfast includes protein, fat and carbohydrate. The porridge is high in fiber, it also has some protein and fat, the yogurt has protein, fat, and naturally occurring carbohydrate from lactose, walnuts offer omega-3 fats and protein.
Lunch in the imbalanced meal again is an example of a carbohydrate-loaded meal. There is no fiber in rice noodles, very little protein in the noodles or vegetables, and a small amount of fat in the oil used to cook the vegetables. Vegetables are the only redeeming feature of this meal.
In contrast the balanced meal has chicken for protein and fat, brown rice for fiber and sesame oil for frying the rice. The extra vegetables add more fiber and a low glycemic index energy source that will leave you feeling full and satisfied to get through the rest of your day.
The unbalanced dinner example is high in protein and fat and has little carbohydrate. This type of meal can cause just as much of a problem in your body as one high in carbohydrates. There is a lot of protein and fat and very little carbohydrate that can upset to your stomach (overloading your pancreas and gallbladder). You may experience a dip in blood sugar after a meal like this because of the complete absence of carbohydrate.
The balanced dinner offers protein, fat and carbohydrate. The beans have protein and carbohydrate, small bits of ham in the soup gives you high quality protein and good saturated fat, kale offers tons of low glycemic nutrients and polenta is a high fiber whole grain. You can adjust the amount of polenta based on your individual energy needs.
Energy needs are individualized based on your own unique body and activity level. Portions will need to be customized to you.
As you are planning your balanced meals, I just wanted to review foods that fall in each of the three categories, carbohydrate, protein, and fat, you will notice some foods fall under more than one category.
- Whole Grains: Farro, Freekeh, Quinoa, Brown Rice, Corn meal (polenta)
– Higher GI: Potatoes, sweet potatoes, peas, carrots, peppers
– Lower GI: Collards, spinach, kale, arugula, mixed greens
– Lower GI: Green beans, mushrooms, onions, celery, cucumber
- Sweet treats and sweetened beverages
Vegetables are carbohydrates and I have created a few examples based on the glycemic index of the vegetables. Higher GI vegetables include potatoes, sweet potatoes, peas, carrots, and peppers. Not that you should completely avoid these vegetables on the contrary. When balancing a meal you won’t want to have brown rice and potatoes at the same time.
Lower GI vegetables include the ever popular, nutrient dense green-leafy vegetables. But, Not to be ignored are just as important the second line of lower GI vegetables. These vegetables offer just as many positive nutrients, fiber, phytochemicals and trace minerals with very few calories.
Beans are both a great protein and carbohydrate source. They offer beneficial soluble fiber that helps with intestinal health.
As you are planning your menus, take into consideration sweet treats and sweetened beverages as these contribute to your total carbohydrate intake. If you are having a sweetened coffee with breakfast, try not to have other high carbohydrate grains or cereals, if you will eat a dessert after a meal, don’t eat a huge bowl of spaghetti.
- Organic, local, grass-fed, free-range
- Vegetable proteins: tofu, tempeh, whole grains high in protein like quinoa and farro
Protein helps to keep you satisfied throughout the day, it provides essential enzymes and provides the building blocks for body function and form.
I encourage you to buy organic, local, grass-fed, and free-range because of the positive environmental impacts, animal care, and nutritional value. There are less pesticides and herbicides used that can seep into our water and air and have adverse affects on our health; animals have a happier healthier life when raised under these conditions; and the fats in these animals are higher in polyunsaturated fatty acids and shorter chain saturated fats which are easier for your body to process.
- Organic, local, grass-fed, free-range
- Beef, chicken, pork
- Vegetable fats: coconut oil, olive oil, sesame oil
Fat is an important component that has been demonized for far too long. Our brains are primarily made up of cholesterol, fat provides an efficient energy source, and many body functions including each cell membrane is made up of fat. Plus it makes food taste better.
Hormone disrupters and environmental toxins are found in the fat of commercially raised animals. Purchasing animal products including milk and butter from organic and local sources will reduce your exposure to hormone disrupters.
Vegetable fats are great and should be in the least processed form possible. Coconut oil, olive oil and sesame oil are all oils that are mechanically processed instead of chemically and they are not treated with high heat which can denature fat, breaking down the positive effects of the food.
Home cooking is really important because processed foods are laden with unnecessary amounts of salt, sugar, and unhealthy fats. There is nothing more dehydrating and energy sucking than processed foods. They affect your skin quality, your sleep, energy, and weight.
When you cook at home you can control the amounts and types of salt, sugar and fat to help keep your family healthy. During this time of year you will want to pull out your slow cooker and 30minute meals cookbooks to make it easier to make home cooked meals. I also recommend setting one day a week aside for prep and planning of your meals so that each day you don’t have to make a meal from scratch or wonder what you will be eating that day.
Here is an example of a quick meal. It takes only 20 minutes to make. As you can see:
Easy Fried Rice
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cooking Time: 20 minutes
Yield: 4-6 servings
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 small onion
2 cloves chopped garlic
1 medium diced carrot
½ lb. green bean, cut into 1 inch pieces
½ lb. baby spinach
½ bunch scallion
4 cups cooked long grain brown rice (must be made ahead of time)
2 tablespoons tamari soy sauce
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 egg, lightly beaten
Sauté onion in sesame oil.
Add garlic to onion.
Add carrot, green bean, and spinach and sauté for 4 minutes.
Add scallion. Add ginger.
Sauté these for about 4 more minutes so flavors can melt into each other.
Add rice and sprinkle with water. Water gives extra steam to the dish.
Add tamari soy sauce and toasted sesame oil.
Lower heat and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
You can prep rice ahead of time and use it for the whole week adding different vegetables and protein for variety. It is easy to add more vegetables, whatever you like. Add tofu, chicken or beef to round out the meal.
By planning out your meals and using balanced nutrition as you plan, you can improve your energy level, maintain healthy weights, and still enjoy the meals you eat each day.