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Saturday
Jan262013

The Healthy Way of Eating

So long food pyramid. Life Time’s version of the famous triangle has given way to a bold new infographic. Beyond the vivid design itself (which makes for a great t-shirt, by the way), the image offers a visual story for the Healthy Way of Eating philosophy.

You could say the mixed colors and fonts of the graphic suggest the inherent variety of a healthful diet. The varied script, however, also illustrate the concepts of balance and proportion in our diets--the priorities we should bring to our eating each day. While the image serves as a great conversation starter, there's more to the infographic story. For those interested in a little more detail, we're happy to offer that below. You can dig even deeper by downloading the new version of our core nutrition manual Eat Well. Live Well. and by reading more of the articles on Life Time’s website.

Little by little, our goal is to generate more awareness of what a healthy diet looks like. We think the infographic is one more dimension of that message. The image--as well as the results-quickly speak for themselves.

NON-STARCHY VEGETABLES | Fill half your plate with a rainbow of colors

Nature's most nutrient-dense foods are non-starchy vegetables. In fact, each color contains unique phytonutrients, which means variety goes a long way in your diet. Loaded with vitamins, minerals, fiber and other nutrients, these foods should take up half your plate. As you eat more of these vegetables, you'll likely find you have less appetite for other foods. Make them as a salad or side dish, or eat them first in your meal to make sure you get them in. A detailed list can be found in Eat Well. Live Well.

You can eat most non-starchy vegetables cooked or raw. Some nutrients are released when the vegetables are roasted, steamed or sautéed, while others are more nutrient dense when they're raw. Don't get so hung up on how they're prepared. Just get in the habit of eating them, and try to mix up the preparation methods when you can. Over time, you may get more creative and try replacing some starchy foods with non-starchy substitutes. For example, it's pretty simple to make "rice" out of cauliflower and dramatically drop the amount of carbohydrates in many recipes. 

FISH, MEAT, DAIRY, WHEY, EGGS & POULTRY | Eat protein with each meal

Eating a moderate portion of protein with each meal has been shown to improve satiety and to support lower body fat levels. Contrary to popular myth, it hasn’t been shown to be detrimental to the kidneys or bone mass. In fact, additional protein can be beneficial for those trying to lose weight, those who are more active or those who are concerned with age-related loss of muscle mass. For all animal products, we suggest opting for organic and naturally raised sources (e.g. grass-fed beef and dairy, pastured chicken and eggs, etc.).

If you choose to avoid animal protein, be cautious of soy. A fair amount of research questions the benefits and even suggests longer term risks of soy intake. Additionally, most soy today is genetically modified. Life Time offers a protein supplement made with rice and pea protein called VeganMax, which can help support the protein needs of those who don't eat animal sources. 

FRUITS | Berries are best

Fruit is another excellent source of vitamins and minerals but contains a lot more sugar than non-starchy vegetables. That doesn't mean you shouldn't eat it, but we do encourage people to make up most of their vegetable and fruit intake with vegetables. As a rule of thumb, eat two to three times as many non-starchy vegetable servings as fruit servings. Berries are best due to their high concentration of antioxidants. Keep in mind, however, that fruit juice isn’t the same as whole fruit and can contain as much sugar as soda does.

NUTS, SEEDS, HEALTHY FATS | Add good fats

If you're looking for new and rich ways to flavor your vegetables, prepare your foods, and create more filling snacks, fat can play an important role in a nutritious diet. We've written about fat in several articles, but the bottom line is you don't need to be afraid of fat unless it comes from less healthy vegetable oils like corn oil, soybean oil or canola oil and from trans-fats, which are usually found in processed foods. Eat Well Live Well outlines the best fats to use and how to use them. 

LEGUMES, GRAINS, YAMS & POTATOES | Limit your starchy vegetables

Notice that this recommendation is not to eliminate but to limit intake of starchy foods. Starch is another name for complex carbohydrates, which are broken down into sugar. Your body can't do much with starch or sugar other than burn what it can (given your present activity level) and store the rest as fat. Furthermore, a large part of the population is sensitive to carbohydrates as shown by elevated fasting or postprandial (post meal) blood glucose levels. The best way to determine how carbohydrates should fit into your nutritional plan is to take a simple blood test, like the myHealthScore Assessment, and discuss the results with a dietitian or nutrition coach. 

Of all the starch sources, those containing gluten are the most controversial. We cover this topic in Eat Well Live Well, but you may also enjoy reviewing our interview with Dr. William Davis on this topic. 

WATER, HIGH-QUALITY MULTIVITAMINS, OMEGA-3 FISH OIL | Include in diet every day

Drink water as your main beverage, and be sure to supplement with a high-quality multivitamin and omega-3 fish oil. Staying hydrated is important for maintaining energy levels, controlling food cravings and even aiding in the removal of fat and toxins from the body. Multivitamins and fish oil help to fill the nutritional gaps left by an imperfect diet, which results from our own food choices but also from nutritionally depleted food sources like CAFO meat or lower quality produce compared to that grown even fifty years ago. You get what you pay for in these and other supplements, so ask questions and be smart about what you purchase. 

When it comes to nutritional change, it’s best to take a step at a time. Consistent throughout Eat Well. Live Well. is the message to take your time and adopt one habit at a time. Let the infographic be a guide, but make the process authentically your own. Be creative as you personalize the Healthy Way of Eating recommendations for your own taste, preferences, and lifestyle.

I hope you’ll share your thoughts and experiences for making meaningful changes to a healthier way of eating--and living. You can even share the message if you order an Eat Fit t-shirt from our online store (quantities are limited). Be well.

Written by Tom Nikkola - Sr. Director of Nutrition & Weight Management

This article is not intended for the treatment or prevention of disease, nor as a substitute for medical treatment, nor as an alternative to medical advice. Use of recommendations in this and other articles is at the choice and risk of the reader.

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