Hey guys! A few weeks ago when I posted my blog survey, I got a really great topic request:
How to have a healthy yet balanced diet… what does moderation actually mean?
If there was one “diet” I would recommend to people, it would be healthy yet balanced and this is something that us dietitians like to talk about!
I feel like we really overcomplicate healthy eating and weight loss with restrictive diets, counting this and that and eliminating certain foods and food groups. It doesn’t have to be that hard, and you can still have those guilty pleasure foods here and there.
How to have a healthy yet balanced diet
I find that when people talk to me about their diet and food habits, they automatically drift towards talking about what they don’t eat. All the ‘bad’ stuff. Sweets. Snacks. Carbs. Whatever that person perceives to be unhealthy and hinders weight loss, their focus is restricting it. Many diet plans focus on eliminating nutrients or food groups, counting macronutrients and really just driving us crazy about food! To me, health is comprised of both physical and mental aspects. If we are obsessing over food then this is affecting the mental aspect of wellness, and to me this isn’t healthy. And it’s usually not sustainable either.
I think a much more simple and effective approach to eating habits is to focus on the good stuff and how we can add these types of foods into our diets. Here are a few keys to doing this:
*Identify the recommended food groups for your age and focus on fitting these into your meals. I generally like to think of my entire daily diet as a big bank account full of all of the food groups, and I can pick whatever I want from there all day. Here are some great handouts from MyPlate to help you:
*Choose the healthiest options out of each food group. So maybe instead of a 12oz glass of orange juice in the morning, switch to a fresh orange for added fiber. Choose the 90/10 ground beef instead of 70/30 for less fat. Pick up 100% whole wheat bread instead of honey wheat.
*Understand portion sizes. I think is where people have the most trouble and we lose a sense of balance. Having a bowl of pasta that includes 3 cups of pasta (3x servings of carbs) topped with marinara sauce and a piece of garlic bread (another carb) is not a balanced meal. Cutting back on the noodles and adding some vegetables and lean protein to that dish tips the scales back in the favor of balance. Make sense? Read the back of the nutrition label, practice measuring foods out and understand what your portion contains.
So where does balance fit in? When we turn our attention to the good food then there probably won’t be a ton of room for things that aren’t as healthy. Going back to those food groups… If I focus on eating whole grains, healthy fats, lean proteins, getting in some dairy, and making sure I get my 2 cups of fruit and 2.5 cups of vegetables every day (<—this is A LOT of food) then I usually end the day feeling pretty full and satisfied.
But here’s the thing… if I am fueling my body with adequate nutrients and foods that are good for me then I really don’t put much thought into veering off of the path every now and then. If I want to get Thai food for lunch one day or hit up the gift shop for some Lindhor Truffles in the afternoon then I’m going to do that and not think twice about it because I know all of the other good things I have been putting into my body throughout the day. If I go to a birthday party and there’s cake then I’m going to have a piece and not feel guilty about it.
And to me, all of this is healthy yet balanced.
What does moderation actually mean?
It’s hard to stick a specific definition to moderation when it comes to diet. It is going to mean different things to different people depending on eating habits and guilty pleasures. To me, moderation means “every now and then”, really paying attention to portion sizes and not going overboard.
If I talk to a patient who tells me they eat something ‘only in moderation’ but then goes on to say that they have this something every single day, and then after a little more discussion it is clear they are having a huge portion size, I am probably going to advise them that they really aren’t having that item ‘in moderation’.
Just as I said above, when I have a really well-balanced diet then I’m usually not craving a ton of extra stuff. But there are some things that I like that I wouldn’t really want to eliminate from my diet, so that’s where moderation comes in.
I absolutely love wine but I drink it in moderation. This means that on a regular basis, I stick to a 5oz. serving and only have a few glasses per week. That’s not to say that I don’t ever, ever have more than 1 glass of wine, but generally I stick to moderation.
So where does moderation fit in for everyone else? If you love chocolate then maybe eat a hershey kiss every night instead of a whole chocolate bar, or switch to just having 1 chocolate bar per week. If ice cream is your nightly habit and you seriously have to eat it every night, then really check out the nutrition label on the package and pay attention to your serving size.
So, what does moderation mean to you?
What foods or drinks do you enjoy in moderation?
Does anyone else have any other tips or advice for achieving a healthy yet balanced diet?