Uncomplicate Your Plate
By Shane Piccolo, Fitness Trainer at Lakeview Health
Nutrition is a topic that is overcomplicated if you make it. Day in and day out people struggle with questions about what they should or should not eat to stay healthy. The simple answer is this: eat it in moderation. Obviously in the demographic of people who struggle with addiction, moderation is not a term commonly used. The issue of addiction can stem from obsessions and overthinking running rampant. However, in the case of proper diet and nutrition, unhealthy foods can be enjoyed on occasion. Before exploring any specific details, let’s start from scratch on determining what should be eaten.
Growing up, many of us know about the food pyramid. Depending on how old you are, the pyramid was either bricks stacked from bottom to top telling you your portions per day, or just a confusing triangle with slices from top to bottom. To be honest, I have no idea what the person was thinking who came up with the latter. Now, we are moving in the right direction with the makeover to MyFoodPlate. Anyone from any walk of life can look at the chart and their plate and see if they have the suggested portion of meat, starches, vegetables, fruits, and dairy. If you are simply trying to stay healthy without putting effort into your choices, this is your best option. Two thirds to half of your plate should be vegetables and fruits because these are rich with micronutrients your body needs to perform the chemical reactions you don’t think about. Additionally, many of these vitamins and minerals will help to repair some damage done during drug or alcohol abuse. One third to a quarter of your plate should be muscle building protein of a lean variety to help recover from the damage done during workouts. Protein is incredibly important in maintaining muscle mass to raise your metabolic rate. The remaining portion of your plate should be filled with complex carbohydrates to provide energy to your body. Suggested examples would be brown rice, dark breads, or whole wheat pastas. Your body can run on fats for a period of time, but your brain relies on carbohydrates for fuel. Don’t starve your brain to power your body.
Maybe your goal is to kick it up a notch by adding size, strength, or better athletic performance. Coming from a period of active addiction to introducing healthy habits, you’re going to see your body go through positive changes. If you want to maximize your results, it’s time to consider what your body truly needs to fuel itself. The generally recommended ratio of macronutrients your body needs is 40 percent carbohydrates, 30 percent protein, and 30 percent fats. Carbohydrate sources are derived from fruits, vegetables, grains, breads, and pastas. Vegetables should be the first choice, dark colored grains should follow, then fruits, and finally refined starches. In this breakdown, you will nourish your body with vitamins and minerals and then complex carbohydrates to energize your body throughout the day. Proteins are derived from meats, nuts, and dairy products. Choose leaner options first to prevent too much fat intake. Healthy fats are derived from avocados, nuts, olive oils, and fish. These fats are primarily unsaturated, which will increase healthy cholesterol in your arteries and keep your heart strong. Pay attention to the cuts of meat you choose because these are saturated, and can raise the unhealthy cholesterol levels.
This is a lot of information and you may be overwhelmed. Make the technological world work for you by using a mobile app to track these numbers for you. There are a variety of options available, and it is as easy as logging the food you eat throughout the day.
As you can see, either of the roads you take allow wiggle room for the unhealthy foods you hold dear. If a cheeseburger is what you are craving, lay out the amenities before assembling and see if your plate looks as recommended by MyFoodPlate. Maybe you’re like me and have a sweet tooth. Your nutrition tracking app will breakdown how many carbohydrates you will get from the brownie, and if those will overtake your recommended allowance. Whichever way you choose to go, don’t stress about it. We preach “one day at a time” in recovery, and with nutrition it is “one meal at a time.” Every time you eat, make the mindful decision to grab more vegetables, leaner cuts of meats, and less sugar. The small changes you make during each meal will have a major effect on the bigger picture of your health.