Spring has finally sprung and I hope you've all been enjoying the nice weather! Warmer temps naturally bring about excitement for summer, and also remind us we will soon be wearing significantly less clothing and exposing parts of our body to sunlight that are essentially translucent at the moment. For those of you who had fall or winter babies like me, you may be feeling this even more acutely!
So with Memorial Day only five weeks away, it's time to do a Spring cleaning of your diet. But where to start? No matter what your approach to getting healthy, I wanted to share three core principles to help clear up some common misconceptions and get you started on your summer goals.
1) Not all calories are created equal
This is one of my favorite principles when it comes to nutrition. What this means is, if I tell you to stick to 2000 calories per day, you will see different results if you eat 2000 calories worth of fruits and vegetables than you will if you eat 2000 calories worth of cheeseburgers. You are probably thinking, “duh”, but it’s a simple principle that can be lost when you’re busy trying to stick to a specific number. Where the calories come from is more important than the number, so while you should make sure you’re not totally overdoing it, try not to obsess over how many you are consuming in a day. The number of calories your body needs completely depends on your weight and your activity level so it’s going to be different for every person.
2) Eating fat will not make you fat
This is one of those trends from the 80’s that sparked a revolution of “fat-free” and “low-fat” food options. Unfortunately those items are often packed with added sugar and sodium to boost the flavor, so they end up doing more harm than good. Now, there are good fats and bad fats so it is important to make the distinction, but what we’ve learned in the last decade is that not only do good fats not make you fat, our bodies actually need them to function properly and they can help with weight loss. Good fats can be found in things such as avocados, olive oil, nuts and nut butters, coconut and coconut oil, grass-fed meats, wild salmon, whole eggs (the yolk), and full-fat dairy. Bad fats are the ones that can lead to health problems. These are called trans fats and include anything with hydrogenated oil, often found in restaurant food or processed, packaged, and fried foods.
3) Unless you have an intolerance, don’t cut out a food group
If you don’t notice any issues with your body digesting a particular food group, it’s best to keep it in rotation. Carbohydrates in particular have been given a bad reputation and are usually the first to go if you’re trying to lose weight. However, carbs are the body’s main source of energy so shouldn’t be cut out entirely from your diet, but much like fats, there are “good” carbs, known as complex carbs, and “bad” carbs, called simple carbs. Complex carbs are fruits, vegetables and whole grains, while simple carbs can be considered anything white - white sugar, white bread, white rice, white pasta. These items have been stripped of all their nutrients, so your body digests them quickly, causing your blood sugar spike, and when it crashes, you are hungry again. This is why it feels like you could eat 3 take-out cartons of white rice and not feel full. So stick to whole grain carbs such as whole grain pasta and bread, and brown rice, which will maximize your protein and fiber intake and keep you feeling satisfied longer.