Focusing just on macros can distract from the most important point in nutrition: we eat food not nutrients. Frankly, you can reach your recommended macro distribution—higher protein, moderate fat, and moderate carbs—eating protein shakes, refined carbs, and a fiber supplement. Is that healthy? Workable? Sustainable? Delicious? Not really any of those.
Several constituents in foods—anthocyanins, pectins, oligosaccharides, lycopene, to only name a few—have no recommended dietary allowances (RDAs), are not on a food label, and not part of most fitness apps. They are, however, likely important for health, especially for athletes.
So, how do you figure out what to eat?
- Eat food…whole minimally processed food whenever possible.
- Eat a wide variety of colors of plant foods every day.
- Orange/yellow foods? The color comes from carotinoids, especially beta-carotene.
- Red, dark blue or purple foods? That is lycopene, Vitamin A, and anthocyanins.
- White foods? Even white foods, like cauliflower, white potatoes (with the skin of course), and beans have lots of nutrition.
- Dark green? This is one of the most important groups.
- Lean protein foods (e.g., chicken without the skin, pork loin, fish, shellfish, eggs, lean beef cuts, such as, flank steak, top loin, and sirloin) are best. Getting 7 ounces of fish per week (about the size of two smart phones) is important because of the omega-3 fatty acids.
- Beware of packages. Labels ‘healthy’, ‘natural’ or ‘paleo-friendly’, among other phrases, is meaningless. The front of the package is for marketing. The food label is regulated, so that is where to look.
- Eat when hungry. Stop before you are full.
- Don’t let yourself get to hangry! But if you get there, reach for a plant (nut, seed, fruit, veggie, avocado instead of sweets or refined carbs).
- Enjoy a splurge, every so often, plan it into your intake, and don’t beat yourself up. Negative self-talk about food rarely leads to better food choices.
Happy and healthful eating,
Donna G. Pertel, MEd, RD, LDN
Interested in adding more colorful plant foods to your intake? Contact me for CSA (crop share) locations firstname.lastname@example.org.