It’s the start of a new year and many people have resolutions that include losing weight, starting a new diet plan, clean eating, managing a health condition and many more.
The one common component for success — nutrition. Today, I’m going to tackle the basics of nutrition that can help anyone who has a goal like I mentioned.
First, where to start?
Many people are new to the game of good nutrition. And yes, I called it a game because, in many ways, there are a lot of tricks of the trade that can help get nutrition on track so goals can be met.
A great place to start is by looking at the USDA food pyramid guide to get a basic idea of the food groups and quantities needed for good nutrition. I know there can be a lot of negative speak surrounding the U.S. food pyramid guide, but I want to reiterate a few key words: start, guide, basic. That means that it is a starting place, an especially good one for someone who has very little experience with what a basic meal of vital food groups consists of, serving as a guide and basic structure for healthy nutrition.
Of course, we are learning more and more about the types of foods that are better to have in our diets, or conditions people may have that require deviation from the pyramid. And people can feel differently when eating larger or fewer quantities of certain foods. But using the food pyramid can provide a baseline to build from or compare against when getting nutrition on track for meeting goals. Here is the link for the website containing the pyramid and a plethora of other resources: https://www.cnpp.usda.gov/FGP.
That leads me to the next topic — food tracking.
Now that a baseline is in play, food tracking can be a great accessory tool for honing in on better nutrition. Tracking is not always necessary but can be used as a starter for change, a tweak for plateaus or a more exact measuring tool when tracking macro or micronutrients. There are many ways to track. The basic paper and pencil journal sitting on the counter can work just as well as the newest food tracking app. MyFitnessPal is a great app or web-based tracking tool for anyone who is willing to use technology. If you are a “techie,” and you have an activity tracker like a FitBit or Apple Watch, there are usually programs or apps that work with the trackers to maximize your calorie balancing. Using these tools can help you understand the “calories in” portion of managing weight.
Finally, “calories in, calories out” — what exactly does that mean? Well, looking at how the body works on a fundamental level, the body burns calories every day for organ function, tissue support and physical activity. And on a fundamental level, if you consume more calories than you burn, you will gain weight. Conversely, if you burn more calories than you consume, you will lose weight. If you do not have control over this concept, managing weight is difficult. While there are some people who use specific nutrition protocols, most people really just need to understand and use the promise of “calories in and calories out”; this concept goes a long way toward meeting goals.
I recommend using the other tools I mentioned to help manage calories in and out. Over time, getting more specific with the process, controlling types of calories etc., can help meet new goals or push past plateaus. But most people need to just do a better job of managing their calories in and out to meet their nutrition-based goals.
“New year, new you,” means trying a lot of different things to resolve to a new and healthier lifestyle in 2019. Consider focusing on how the basics of nutrition can get you exactly where you want to be. Understanding basic nutrition, taking time to document what you are eating, and looking at exactly how many calories you are taking in versus how many calories you are putting out are very effective ways to win in 2019.