In a world where gasoline stations contain more junk snacks and sodas than they do fuel for your car, and there is drive-thru on every corner, it can be hard to focus on good nutrition. The temptation is everywhere!
Here are some simple ways you can stay focused on nutrition without obsessing!
1. Make a plan!
Plan in advance when you go out to eat. Almost all big chain restaurants will have a nutrition menu available online. If you spend a little bit of time looking at the ingredients, calories, and other nutritional information on the menu, you will make a better selection when it comes time to sit down to order.
While you may think that the salad is the way to go for better nutrition, many times restaurant salads have more fat and calories than their pasta dishes, especially a salad bar. The point is you never know until you look.
2. But, Don’t Rely on Calories Alone
For a long time, people have been told that a deficit of 3500 calories would lead to a reduction of 1 pound of body weight (this is commonly called the 3500 calorie rule) Unfortunately, evidence shows that the body is much more complicated than that.
A study published in American Family Physician discusses how the body has many preventive measures in place to prevent weight loss. While someone who eats with a 100 calorie deficit a day for a year would be expected to lose around 50 pounds, they tend to only lose 10. This is because of the elements like hormones, activity, and the way your body needs to hold onto fat in the case of famine or fasting (think 500 years ago, or even 100 years from now, our environment can have a tremendous impact and the inside of our bodies as well).
We are also not designed to lose weight, and if you were to chart the numbers on a graph, our bodies don’t follow a nice, neat trend line.
Focus on the foods you eat that will nourish your body instead of the number of calories, or your macros, or micros. We simply don’t understand enough about the human organism to predict weight loss based on these numbers.
3. Taste The Rainbow
No, this isn’t a license to eat all the candy Skittles you want. Eating the rainbow is about getting a wide variety of food based on the different colors available. Think about your diet, how much color variety do you have?
If you know there is a lot of color variety in your diet, then you know you are getting a good dose of phytochemicals.
What are phytochemicals? They are chemicals that produce the colors in foods like blueberries, strawberries, and peppers. Science is just now discovering that they may act as antioxidants and have many other health benefits. Today’s Dietician reports that phytochemicals work synergistically with the vitamins, minerals, and fiber found in whole foods to promote good health and reduce the risk of disease.
4. Follow The 80-20 Rule
The 80-20 rule is a simple guideline to allow yourself to eat like the average person while still getting great nutrition. Bodybuilding.com recommends that 80% of the time, you want to eat a diet made up of whole foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Adding in a wide variety of proteins to ensure a healthy diet is also a good part of the 80%.
However, what about when it’s your boss’s birthday, do you have to decline the catered meal at the office? Or do you avoid the celebratory cocktail, an occasional glass of wine, or ice cream indulgence?
No, that is the other 20% of the food you eat. As long as you are eating well most of the time, you can forgive yourself for the other 20% and enjoy the hotdog at the ballpark, or popcorn at the movies. (Bear in mind, this can also depend on your current health condition)
5. Keep a journal
Humans are really good at convincing ourselves we are doing the right thing, even when we aren’t. Accountability in nutrition is one of the most important elements of nutrition focus you can use.
Many times, you may find your food journal reflects your emotional health. As you experience stress, you may reach for salty, high-fat, comfort foods. The quicker you recognize this pattern, the faster you can fix it.
6. Try for 5
Don’t want to count, log, or pay too much attention to diet; but you still want to make sure you are getting good nutrition? Aim for the 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day. That’s generally the recommended number of servings. But of course, never settle for just one of these 5.
If you hit this mark, you know you are focused on nutrition, without focusing too much on things like calories and numbers. We hope these steps help you narrow your focus on your nutrition. Try them and see what works for you.