Four simple words will help your overall health and nutrition: Balance, Portion, Moderation, and Variety. To accomplish your health goals, you need to be realistic when it comes to your eating habits. It is important to work with all foods and understand how they can fit in your daily meals. Are you going to give up pizza and chocolate for the rest of your life? I think I can answer that for you, probably not! Regardless of what our society would like for you to believe, there is no “perfect” eating, no one does it, and that is ok. So, let’s learn how these words affect our overall nutrition.
Balance and Portion sizes go hand in hand. You cannot have one without the other. Balance and portion help you understand what a meal should look like. Here are some important reminders:
- It is important to have all four food groups appropriately balanced at each meal. Having just one food group or a large imbalanced meal is not the best way to provide nutrition to your body. Believe it or not, your food groups like to work together within your body to make things happen. It is important to make sure we are pairing the right food groups in the right portions to help with this process.
- Exercise requires appropriate fueling for your body. The same goes for making sure we are fueling appropriately for our exercise.
- Balancing your meals is probably one of the hardest things to figure out and this is why working with a dietitian can be useful. One easy tip to help with balancing your meal is looking at your meal and reviewing the colors on your plate. If you notice it is all one color, you might want to reconsider what you are eating to help with the balance of that meal. If one food group portion is overtaking the plate, work on decreasing the amount of that food and adding something else. Eating the rainbow will help you in figuring out the balance needed within your meal and will help make sure you are hitting four food groups per meal.
Moderation is one of the most important words when it comes to nutrition. Eating healthy does not mean giving up your favorite foods. Your favorite foods can be incorporated in moderation. I would not want you eating chocolate cake every day, just like I would not want you eating bananas as your only fruit every day. When you allow yourself to eat what you want, when you want it, it helps to remember this moderation goal. If you were to tell yourself, I am never going to allow chocolate cake again, and you finally allow yourself to eat it, you might get caught up into eating too much of it. The better way to think about the cake is, “I can have a piece of this cake today and if I want more later, I can.” This way, you can continue to work with moderation and the appropriate portions.
Variety helps ensure you are providing your body with the essential nutrients it needs. It is not healthy eating the same things every day, even if our society is telling you that those foods are healthy! There are different vitamins and minerals in all the fruits, vegetables, and even grains. Remember earlier when I said to eat the rainbow? This is another easy way to make sure you are working on variety. It is also important to feel comfortable with all foods, and know how your body responds to them.
If you keep each of these words in mind when you approach mealtime, you are one step closer to meeting your nutritional goals. As you age your metabolism will slow down naturally which can be frustrating because you have been eating a certain way for years and suddenly our bodies just don’t work as well as they used too. This is why activity is so important to your overall health. Being more active will help counteract the decrease in your metabolism. Continuing to follow these four simple words will also help in this counteraction. Although this is a hard thing to do on your own, you can do it! Working with a team can help support you in starting these new healthy habits. Checking in with someone regularly and having a group to support you, helps keep you on a healthy path.
Amanda Garant, MS, RD, CD
Registered Dietitian, M4L