Healthy Habit Challenge: Eat 3-4 balanced* meals and snacks on at least 3 days this week

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In order to create a healthy diet, it is important to understand the basics of nutrition. Once you have the basics nailed down, you can create healthy and balanced meals that include all of the vital nutrients that you need to fuel that body. So this week, we’re covering the basics of nutrition, addressing some of the nutrition myths, and giving you tips to creating balanced meals.

 

What is Nutrition?

We’re starting at the most basic level: defining what nutrition actually is. Nutrition is defined as the process of providing or obtaining the food necessary for health and growth. It is how food affects the health of the body. Food is essential. It provides vital nutrients for survival, and helps the body function and stay healthy.

Types of Nutrients

Your body needs nutrients to function and for growth and development.  Nutrients are broken down into two major categories based on how much of them you need.

Macronutrients are required in larger amounts. Macronutrients include fats, carbohydrates, and proteins. They provide most of your energy (measured in calories). Water is also a macronutrient.  Water doesn’t provide energy but it is necessary to absorb the other macronutrients.

Micronutrients do not provide energy but are just as important.  Your body doesn’t make them so you need to get them in your diet, but in smaller amounts. Micronutrients are vitamins and minerals.

 

Carbohydrates

The main role of a carbohydrate is to provide energy and fuel the body similarly to how gasoline fuels a car. Carbohydrate rich foods include corn, beans, bread, cereal, pasta, rice, tortilla, potatoes and other root vegetables, fruit, dairy, and sweets.

Although there are many myths around carbohydrates and many diets that aim to limit carbohydrate intake, carbohydrates are necessary to provide some of the most basic and usable energy for your body. Aim to choose whole grain sources of carbohydrates. These will contain more vitamins, minerals, and fiber than refined carbohydrate sources. You can read more about whole grains here.

 

Fats

Fat is another macronutrient needed by your body. Fat provides structure to cells and cushions membranes to help prevent damage. Oils and fats are also essential for absorbing fat-soluble vitamins like vitamin A, a micronutrient that is important for healthy eyes and lungs. Fats can be found in oils, coconut, nuts, milk, cheese, meat, poultry and fish,

Fats, like carbohydrates, have also been cut out in trendy diets. Fats provide necessary energy and play an important role in your body. Lately, it’s become popular to consume high fat diets.  Extremes in either direction aren’t good for you.  Fat is not meant to be the primary source of your body’s fuel.  It’s best to consume fats in moderation as a part of a healthy and balanced diet.

 

Protein

Proteins are the building blocks needed for growth, development, and repair and maintenance of body tissues. Protein provides structure to muscle and bone, repairs tissues when damaged and helps immune cells fight inflammation and infection.

Opt for lean sources of proteins like chicken, fish, beans, eggs, lean beef, lean pork, yogurt/dairy, turkey, and nut butters like peanut butter. Protein helps increase fullness, which can help to create a more satisfying meal.

Vitamins and Minerals

Vitamins aid in energy production, wound healing, bone formation, immunity, and eye and skin health. Minerals help maintain cardiovascular health and provide structure to the skeleton. Vitamins and minerals are found in all kinds of food groups. They are most often found in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins.

 

Water

Water plays a very important role in the body. It helps to restore fluids lost through metabolism, breathing, sweating, and the removal of waste. It’s the perfect beverage for quenching thirst and re-hydrating your system. Water helps hydrate your organs so that they can function properly.  Check out resources from Week 3 for ideas to up your water intake. [LINK TO WEEK 3 RESOURCES]

Now you’ve got the basics of nutrition and are ready for this week’s challenge.  Your challenge for Week 2 is to eat 3-4 balanced* meals and snacks on at least 3 days this week. Eating balanced meals will keep you more full and satisfied, while providing much needed energy to perform your tasks.  Plus, when you eat balanced meals spread out across the day it can also help to regulate blood sugar levels. It will minimize overeating and strong cravings later in the day that can leave you feeling uncomfortable.

 

Creating a Balanced Meal

MyPlate is an excellent way to build a balanced meal. Aim to follow the MyPlate method for every meal. This focuses on making half of your plate fruit and non-starchy vegetables, ¼ of your plate a lean protein, ¼ of your plate a whole grain, and a side of dairy. Use MyPlate as a check list when ordering, planning, or cooking meals. Do you have a whole grain? Do you have a serving of vegetables? Do you have a serving of fruit? Do you have a serving of lean protein? And do you have a serving of low fat dairy?

Consciously creating balanced meals helps you include a whole variety of foods. When you eat a good balance of key nutrients, like macronutrients and a wide variety of micronutrients, you have more energy for everyday activities. Eating a variety of healthy foods also ensures that your organs are working properly to help prevent and lower the risk of chronic disease.

 

What is one step you can take to create more balanced meals this week?

This week’s resources provide more information to help you plan regular, balanced meals. Take a look here:

 

Whole Grains 101

http://www.letsmovestlouis.com/blog/archives/09-2018

Handouts

Balanced Meals and Blood Sugar
Why Carbohydrates are Important
Ways to Add Healthy Fats