I thought I would talk a little bit about just how crucial proper nutrition is to getting and staying healthy. Also, I realize I missed National Nutrition Month by two days (it was in March), but hey nutrition is that important it should be National Nutrition Month every month in my opinion!! Also, can you guys believe it’s already April???!?!?!?
Ok back to the issue at hand…the topic of nutrition is a HUGE one! I could write countless posts about the many different facets of the topic but to start out with I am just going to talk about the basics and why it is important. To get right down to it, you can’t out run a bad diet. You can’t out lift it. You can’t out CrossFit it. You can’t out HIIT it. You just can’t out exercise poor nutrition. Honestly part of me would like to tell you that you can exercise 5 days a week and then go straight to the drive thru each day when you are done for that Big Mac or 12-piece Chicken Nugget meal but that just sadly isn’t how it works. In order to really achieve optimal health and wellness you need to nourish your body with healthy foods and a balanced diet. You need to make sure you are getting all the vitamins and nutrients your body requires to work efficiently and effectively and unfortunately you aren’t going to be able to find those things on the menu at your favorite fast food joint.
Now I am not saying you can’t indulge every once in a while in some of your favorite guilty pleasures….lord knows I do! Let’s face it life is too short to ALWAYS pass up that cheeseburger or taco platter! But the food choices you make on a daily basis affect your health greatly. Good nutrition will:
- Ward off disease,
- Keep your stress/anxiety levels down,
- Help you to sleep well,
- Keep your energy levels up,
- Keep your brain functioning at its best, and
- Allow you to live longer…
and that is just to name a few! A bad diet well will do the exact opposite! Namely shorten your life span, greatly increase your risk for diseases such as diabetes, cancer, heart disease and stroke, and just make you generally feel blah. No one wants to go through life feeling BLAH, right?? I sure don’t and that was one of the main reasons I got started on my own journey to get healthy. I was waking up every single day with zero energy, pounding headaches, non-stop sinus infections and anxiety that was so bad it almost got to the point I couldn’t leave the house…. and that was me only a year ago you guys!
In just under twelve months, by changing my diet and adding consistent exercise to my daily routine I have just about completely turned my life and health around! That is how truly powerful eating right and moving your body can be. And there is nothing at all special about me. I don’t have a high-priced personal trainer who comes to my house and yanks me out of bed each day at 5am. I don’t have my own private chef who cooks me 3 nutritious meals a day. I don’t workout for hours on end day in and day out. I really am just a regular person, with a normal life who was so tired of dragging my sorry, tired butt around each day I did something about it. I began eating whole foods, cooking my meals at home and meal prepping to avoid reaching for junk food and pre-packaged items when the cravings hit and I forced myself to find 30-45 minutes to exercise 5 days a week with the help of a great program that basically plans my workouts for me. That’s it!
I’ve talk about in previous posts about how I am one of those weird people who actually enjoys working out. For me, it was just about finding the time and making it a priority again. That part, the fitness component of the equation, actually wasn’t all that tough for me. The hard part for me, and the part that today is still a struggle, is getting my nutrition right. Now part of my struggle is all the numerous food allergies I have which makes fueling my body properly all that more challenging but even someone with no food allergies or limitations still has to pay a fair amount of attention to what they are putting in their bodies.
We can workout once a day for about 30 minutes and check that off our list but choosing the right things to fuel our body with requires you to make smart choices all day long, every day. Not quite as easy in my opinion. And man oh man, are there temptations everywhere! There’s that bag of chips in the vending machine. The cookies that your co-worker brought in for the office to share. The dang pizza calling your name that would be so much easier to pick up on your way home than it would be to cook a healthy meal after a long, hard day. But if you indulge in those things too often, no amount of exercise is going to keep you healthy and fit.
A nutritious/healthy eating plan involves eating food from all the food groups. In total there are 5 of them (according to the USDA):
- Fruits – should make up one half of your plate in conjunction with vegetables; good to choose fruits with a variety of colors; stay away from fruit juices though…tons of added sugar usually!
- Vegetables – should make up one half of your plate in conjunction with fruits; same as with fruits, choosing a variety of colors ensures you get a good mix of nutrients…don’t forget the orange colored veggies! Canned or frozen vegetables are also a great choice.
- Grains – should make up ¼ of your plate; a good rule of thumb with grains is to pick products that have the word “whole” in front of the name; incorporating bread, rice, cereals, oats and/or pastas into your diet is a great way to get the fiber your need along with other important nutrients like iron, folate and the B vitamins.
- Protein – should make up the other ¼ of your plate; choosing lean meats offers a great source of protein without the added fat; great sources of protein aside from meat are eggs, nuts and beans/legumes.
- Dairy –2-3 servings of low-fat or non-fat dairy options are recommended each day; great for building strong bones; a lot of dairy products are also high in Vitamin D which I myself was lacking in as are a lot of people these days. Also a great source of protein…I like to drink a cup of non-fat chocolate milk right after I workout. Delicious and great for helping my muscles to recover!
You want to incorporate these five groups into a balanced diet in the right proportions (think I will follow up this post with a whole other one about portion control!) to make sure your body gets all the right nutrients, vitamins and minerals it needs to work at its very best. Now some people consider there to be a 6th food group as well…the fats/oils group (the USDA no longer recognizes this group). This is the one you want to try to incorporate the least as generally although some oils do contain nutrients, they are generally high in calories.
I know, it’s a lot to think about but the alternative to not thinking about it is that blah, sick, tired, run down life I spoke about earlier. That old saying, “You are What You Eat” is really true. If you eat healthy foods, you will be healthy. If you don’t, you won’t be doing your body justice. Think about how much your body does for you all day long, every day. Help it out by giving it what it needs to thrive!