As individual humans, we will all have individual dietary needs. Add in specific goals and it really starts to vary from human to human. There are however a few things that will help all humans to feel better. Below is my revamped version of the food pyramid. Take a peak and then let me walk you through each level.
First off this pyramid was designed to represent your daily intake of food. Each time you build a meal, build from the bottom up. As you work your way up the pyramid, the quantities decrease.
The base of all nutrition and foundational for feeling good is hydration. Dehydration contributes to fatigue, foggy-headedness, headaches, and body cramps. All of these will make things more challenging when trying to live a healthier life. Tips for drinking more water:
Invest in a water-only container to travel with you always.
Invest in a home water filtration system.
Start with a glass first thing in the morning.
Add lemons, limes, oranges, berries (frozen fruit works too).
Every time you sit down at a bar or restaurant order a water and drink it.
Get your water in early so you don’t wake up 10 times to pee each night.
The next layer of all healthy diets is vegetables. Despite what type of nutritional plan you are aiming to achieve, vegetables should make up the majority of your plate. They are filling and low in calories making them perfect for finding a healthy balance. They also make your skin look amazing and give you energy to move through your day, workout included! Green vegetables get bonus points as they have more actual electricity in them, which is why they help power your body so well. Tips for eating more veggies:
Roast a bunch of seasonal veggies and add to meals throughout your week.
Keep a bag of kale on hand to make quick salads and to add to soups and smoothies.
Keep frozen peas, edamame, and veggie mixes on hand to add to meals quickly.
Eat something green with every meal!
Find dips and spreads to dip them in for healthy snacking.
Next up is protein. The amount of protein will depend on your size and goals. Protein helps to build lean muscle, which boosts your metabolism naturally. Shooting for 20-30g of lean protein per meal will get you a good start on hitting your protein goals. Tips to upping your protein intake:
Before you stress too much about how much to eat, find out how much you’re consuming right now. The best way to do this is to track your food for a few days to decipher your starting point. Apps like Loseit or LifeSum work great.
Familiarize yourself with high protein foods that meet your requirements (vegetarian, vegan, paleo). Lean meats, fish, eggs, cottage cheese, yogurt, oats, tofu, beans and veggies all provide decent amounts of protein.
Combine protein filled foods together to up the amount in each meal.
Invest in a high quality protein powder to supplement when needed. You can add this to smoothies, healthy baked goods, and more. Make sure the powder is a decent quality by checking out the ingredients list… the less ingredients the better. Also, ease into a new powder as these can trigger stomach issues in some.
Fruit shares the same row on the pyramid as proteins because once you’ve filled your plate with veggies and protein, fruits can be a lovely way to add flavor, fiber and nutrients to your meals. They are naturally higher in sugar than veggies so start with the veggies and then sprinkle in some fruit to curb sweet cravings and fill you up with vitamins and minerals! Tips for eating more fruit:
Add a piece to your breakfast - frozen fruit works great here too!
Keep fruit handy for snacks - bananas and apples are my go to.
Try something fruity instead of sugary for treats.
Add some to your salads.
Eat with the seasons to keep it fresh and interesting.
Familiarize yourself with fruits with lower sugar (carb) levels to help you reach your goals - I love this article for that!
Healthy fats make you feel full and help you to burn body fat. The same way that heavy greasy food is filling, healthy fats allow you to feel satiated without all the grease and calories in a slice of pizza. Most people do not consume enough of these while trying to eat healthy and therefore, end up feeling hungry and that’s no fun. **Beware of the quantity! They are up high on the pyramid because they are high in calories, meaning you need less of them to get the benefits. Tips for increasing healthy fats:
Add avocado to everything!! Sandwiches, salads, smoothies, toast, rice bowls, get crazy.
Add nuts and seeds to salads and homemade dressings or pestos.
Keep a bag of nuts on hand for a quick pick me up snack. **Monitor portions.
Use chia seeds, flax seed, olives and olive oils.
Grains and Dairy
Grains and dairy are good IF your body can tolerate these foods. It is not a given that each human can eat these foods. Our bodies were not originally designed to eat processed grains or dairy everyday so it is rather normal to need to limit or eliminate these foods from your diet. If you have regular stomach troubles I’d recommend reducing these foods from your meals to seeing how you feel. Most of these foods are to be eaten in smaller quantities and less frequently for optimal health.
Try different kinds of grains - oats, quinoa, brown rice.
Eat full fat dairy, just less of it. - Eating small quantities of full fat dairy will help you increase your healthy fats and be more filling than that zero calorie yogurt filled with empty calories and sugar.
Try nut milk, coconut milk, oat milk and other substitutes when needed. **I like almond milk for baking or cooking, coconut milk for adding creaminess to soups, smoothies, battering fish or tofu & making whip cream. I really love oat milk (this brand specifically) for my morning coffee.
At the tippy top of this pyramid is the “Fun” foods. I personally think all food is fun if you really start to play and get creative with flavors and recipes, but this category contains the foods you would typically eat during a holiday or at a party. These are foods that are treats. Be sure to treat these treats as TREATS, not as your fifth meal everyday. Indulge in these foods to curb cravings but also pay attention to how these foods make you feel. There are other ways to celebrate so keep that in mind when faced with a room full of treats :) Tips for consuming fun foods:
Indulge in small quantities and eat it slow. Savor and indulge slowly.
Invite a friend to indulge so you can split something.
Make homemade versions of your favorite treats (preferably with the best ingredients you can find/afford).
Don’t keep binge worthy foods in the house, make a special trip/date to indulge wisely.
Take a pause before you consume. Ask your body if it even wants it. Make a tea, a drink a glass of water, or take a walk first, then see what the craving is telling you.
No matter what your eating plan or intention is (high carb, vegan, keto, paleo, low carb, see-food diet, lol), all plans will need your body to stay hydrated in order to get results. Vegetables, healthy amounts of grains and protein, along with adequate healthy fats are all required to find the healthiest you. The only thing that changes is the is the percentages of these foods, based on your goals and your biology. Tracking your food is the easiest way to get results, but not required for every day life. If you are trying to create healthy food shifts you must know your starting point. Then you slowly tweak as you learn more and more about what YOUR body really needs to feel its best. Stay curious. Be kind. Be patient.