What’s on your typical plate? Do you feel confused about what you should be eating?
With all the dietary fads and trends being marketed to us, it can be confusing as to what and how we should eat. From low fat, to low carb, to high protein, you might be confused as to what to eat and rightfully so. We’re going to dispel the myths and break it down for you with easy to understand visuals!
In the 1980’s, the government encouraged us to eat less fat, and instead eat more refined carbs and sugar. They claimed that high fat diets promoted obesity and high carb diets influenced markers of great health. However, this low-fat diet craze has catapulted us into the worst epidemic of obesity and diabetes in history.
In the 1990’s the recommendations got even worse with the development of the Food Pyramid. They suggested we eat mostly refined carbohydrates like breads, pasta, rice and cereals.
The problem with this 1990’s dietary approach is that carbohydrates break down to sugar, which gets stored in your body as fat. In addition to the 152 pounds of sugar we eat every year, we’re getting 146 pounds of flour that also breaks down into sugar. Altogether, that’s nearly a pound of sugar and flour combined for every American, every day!
In addition to the fat storage these carbs promote, they also create inflammation, which triggers most chronic diseases including diabetes, obesity, autoimmune disease, heart disease, cancer, dementia and depression.
In 2010, the government released the MyPlate guideline which is a slight improvement though heavily focuses on a low fat diet, it doesn’t include water, doesn’t promote non starchy vegetables as much as it should and it includes dairy.
So, you may be asking yourself, what should our plates really look like? It’s quite simple and this can be modified depending upon your unique body.
As you can see, most of this healthy plate is full of nutrient-dense, high fiber, low-calorie vegetables. Protein helps with appetite control, maintaining lean mass, and optimizing metabolism. Healthy fats offer myriad benefits including an efficient energy source. This plate structure also includes whole, fresh fruit with starchy vegetables or unprocessed grains. The drink of choice is water or tea.
For those of you who are avoiding grains, this GRAIN-FREE and low carb version is another option to follow created by Precision Nutrition:
As you can see this plate is a low carb approach to eating to promote optimal blood sugar management and decrease inflammation. Since it doesn’t contain grains, it’s also a great approach for healing the gut lining. Not included, but what would be a great addition is fruit. Fruit is a great source of antioxidants which protects against oxidative stress and free radicals.
In general, when creating a healthy and balanced plate try to make it as colorful as you can. These are some great additional guidelines to follow:
- Focus on more plants, protein and fats (nuts, seeds, coconut, avocado, sardine, olive oil) and lots of non starchy veggies. This will promote healthy blood sugar levels and low inflammation.
- Eat the right fats. Focus on high omega 3 fats such as nuts, coconut oil, avocados and pasture raised meats. Stay away from processed oils such as canola, sunflower, corn and soybean oil. Check out our most recent post on the importance of oils.
- Eat mostly plants! Especially non starchy vegetables and low sugar fruits (berries, kiwi, watermelon, etc). This should be 50-75% of your plate at each meal.
- Pasture raised meats. They’re full of nutrients, higher in Omega 3 fatty acids and high in protein.
- Avoid gluten: Most flour in the US is highly processed, is genetically modified and sprayed with glyphosate, a cancer causing chemical. Instead, look for heirloom wheat, Einkorn. If you’re not gluten sensitive, consider gluten foods as an occasional treat. Flour products spike blood sugar 2x as much as table sugar so these should be consumed sparingly.
- Avoid dairy: Cow’s milk is 80% casein (a protein) and contains A1 Casein which makes it incredibly hard for humans to digest, leading to chronic symptoms in many individuals. Stick to Goat or Sheep milk which contains A2 Casein and less of the protein, although sometimes people still react to these. It’s always best to pay attention as to how your body feels after eating dairy.
- Eat gluten free intact/whole grains sparingly. These grains still raise blood sugar and can trigger autoimmunity. Eat a maximum of ½ a cup per day.
- Eat legumes sparingly. Legumes such as beans, peanuts, and lentils (a better option), contain lectins which can inflame some individual’s GI tracts. Try to consume no more than ½ cup to 1 cup per day.
- Eat a side of meat or animal products; roughly about the size of your palm. Try to choose animal products that are sustainably raised or grass fed.
- Sugar is an occasional treat, including all of the healthier forms such as unprocessed, raw honey and pure maple syrup.
It’s most likely your plate won’t be structured like this 100% of the time and that’s okay. Aim to get at least 2 of the components at each of your meals, especially focusing on the vegetables. The most important factor to keep in mind is to listen to your body and it’s u unique dietary needs. Lastly, try not to stress about being perfect all the time. You are human. Give yourself grace and savor the healthiest choice you are able to gift yourself with.