You only get one body in life and what you put into it for sustenance will determine what you get out of it.
If you’ve ever looked at fast food fare – fried chicken or beef, fried potatoes and 20 ounces of flavored sugar water – you know what shouldn’t go into it.
Now let’s talk about what should. Let’s build a perfect plate for your next meal.
I subscribe to clean eating and the 90/10 Nutrition formula developed by Ryan Chapman to focus on ingredients rather than misleading nutrition labels or calorie counting.
Three Tiers of Food
Chapman breaks food into three tiers – green, yellow, and red, like a traffic light. Go for the green, use caution at the yellow and stop at the red.
He advocates that 90% of our food intake come from the green tier – fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices, unsweetened tea and coffee, lean meats, soy, beans, sweet potatoes, and healthy fats like avocados, olives and nuts.
Although, I believe in eating gluten free, Mr. Chapman advocates that no more than 10% of our consumption come from the yellow tier – certain less lean meats, pasta, white potatoes, white rice, popcorn, beer and wine, cream or half & half.
The red tier is the third rail of healthy eating. It includes fried foods, processed meats and snacks, margarine, sodas and sports drinks, sugar and sugar substitutes. Eat these only on special occasions, like big holidays. Sundays are not special occasions.
When you think fruits and vegetables, think color! A brown plate is generally not nutritious.
A healthy plate includes protein, but not necessarily from animals. While fish and poultry are often lean and healthy, you can hardly go wrong with nuts and beans. Processed meats, like any other processed food, should not be welcome on your plate.
Finally, avoid sugary drinks, whether fruit juices or sodas. The best beverage for our bodies is water.
Nowhere on this plate is sweets, cookies, candy or any other manufactured food. They do not belong in our diets.
90/10 is a great guide and leaves room for personal preference and the occasional indulgence. Many Americans partake regularly in the red and yellow tiers, consuming half their calories from non-nutritious and even harmful foods. Not surprisingly then, one third of adults in the U.S. population are obese.
The second concept to consider is portion size. Over the years, portions have become larger and so have Americans. The typical restaurant meal today – even a healthy one – is enough for two.
Here are rules of thumb for proper portion size:
- A serving of chicken, beef, fish or pork – about the size of your palm.
- A serving of peanut butter – about the size of your thumb.
- A bowl of pasta or rice (gluten free is what I prefer) – about the amount you can fit in your hand.
- One serving of fruit or vegetables – roughly the size of your fist.
These portion sizes may shock you. Most of us eat twice this amount or more, in part because we eat too fast. Our stomachs don’t have time to signal to us that we are full.
Why is this important? Research shows that poor diet is wrecking our health in the United States. Our rates of heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, osteoporosis, cancer and early death are higher in the U.S. than in any industrialized country, primarily because of what we eat.
The benefits of a good diet begin accruing right away. Switch to healthy meals and see how quickly you begin feeling better.