Here’s a post Du contributed in 2015: as relevant today as it was then!
Often, as the result of media reportage, we develop the impression that increasing our intake of a single food or nutrient is the key to a healthy diet.
In fact, the three dietary practices for which there is the most scientific support with respect to benefit to human health are increased intake of vegetables and fruit, management of glycemic load (the impact of the foods we eat on blood-sugar levels) and maintenance of a healthy body-weight.
Considered in this light, the relationship between the standard North American diet (i.e., over-size portions and high in red meats, refined grains and “junk” foods) and chronic disease becomes clear.
It is possible to eat a healthy, balanced diet, consistent with what the Harvard School of Public Health describes a “Prudent Diet”, by eating according to the following simple guidelines at each of your three daily major meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner).
Two handfuls of “non-starchy” vegetables and/or fruits:
- “Starchy” vegetables include potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams, squash, turnips, parsnips and beets
- Two colours of fruits and/or vegetables at each meal
- Fruit servings should be limited to three daily
Palm-sized serving of “starches”:
- Including “starchy” vegetables, grains and grain products (breads, pastas)
- Emphasis should be on whole grains and grain products
Palm-sized serving of protein source:
- Including fish, meats, eggs, dairy products, tofu products, beans, legumes, and nuts and seeds
- For non-vegetarians, fish should be eaten two to five meals weekly
- “Red” meats (including pork) should be limited to two meals weekly
Benefits of a Balanced Diet Compared to a Standard North American Diet
- Less calories
- Less saturated fats
- Less refined carbohydrates
- More fiber
- More vitamins and minerals
- Better blood-sugar control
Posted: 2015 March 12
Burford-Mason A. Nutrition for Docs 2008; 2008 Oct 4-5; Toronto, ON: Ontario Society of Physicians for Complementary Medicine and The Complementary Medicine Section, Ontario Medical Association; 2008.
In our family, and for the families we work with, we emphasize nutrition as essential for optimal health. Eating a well-balanced, whole foods diet will improve most health issues and prevent a myriad of chronic health problems.
We also feel better when we eat better!
We do not feel there is one diet for every person, but we do think there are important guidelines that will get most of us, most of the way there.
With so many different diets and eating ways, it is easy to get lost in all the details.
Michael Pollan sums it up so well: “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.”
This basically means to eat real food.
Avoid packaged, pre-made, fast food that is so convenient but so unhealthy. If you can eliminate most pre-packaged, prepared or take-out foods from your diet, you are eliminating most of the excess sugar, salt, unhealthy fats, food additives and preservatives you are presently eating. We encourage all of our patients to eat real food, whole foods and get in the kitchen more. Getting in the kitchen with your kids will help them learn to to eat more sensibly as well, setting an example for a lifetime of healthier eating habits.
not too much,
This reminds me of the Japanese concept “Hara hachi bu”. This translates, loosely, to: eat until you are 80% full.
Most of us are simply eating too much food. If you cut back on your intake, you will likely strike a better balance with what your body actually needs to be healthy. This is particularly important for those of us who are sedentary and not striking the right balance of calories in versus calories out, and consequently gaining extra body-fat/weight as we age.
On our home, we structure our food intake according to the Harvard School of Public Health’s “Healthy Eating Plate”: a simple, visual approach to balanced eating. To ensure a balanced intake of foods, including having “mostly plants”, ensure each major meal consists of:
- half fruit or “non-starchy” vegetable
- a palm size serving of healthy protein
- and palm size serving of healthy grains “starchy” vegetables (e.g., potato)
By eating this way, we are eating about 75% plants, most of which are of the healthier “non-starchy” variety.
Once you’re in the routine of using these simple guidelines, you will actually have, in most cases, dramatically changed the way you are eating, and will notice it in the way you are feeling! Importantly, by modeling healthy eating, we will also be fostering in our children healthy habits they can carry with them through their lifetimes.
If you need more help, we have quick, simple healthy meal ideas and tips and are happy to support you along this journey towards better nutrition! Ask us for help!
Tune in to my discussion of the next pillar, the microbiome.
Until next time,
Posted: 2015 January 8