Updated: Jul 10, 2020
That word…Diet? What does it truly mean? The word diet can mean different things to different people. Diet is defined “as the kinds of food that a person, animal, or community habitually eats.” Another definition that most associate with the word diet is “restricting oneself to small amounts or special kinds of food in order to lose weight or for health reasons.” When I'm advising my clients, I have them focus on finding the right blend of both of these definitions.
O.k. so which foods should I limit and which should I habitually eat? We'll, let's start with the obvious. Sugar! We have all heard that we should stay away from sugar, especially refined sugar. It makes sense if you think about it a certain way. One time I was invited to talk to a Girl Scout Troop about exercise and healthy living. It was during cookie sale time which made it a tough crowd. Everyone loves the sweet taste of Girls Scout cookies. But to make my point with this unusually tough crowd, I poured in a bowl what an amount of sugar looked like for the average person’s intake of Girl Scout cookies. When you see the average intake of sugar in it's raw granulated form, it's not very appetizing. I then proceeded to ask the girls if they would eat the bowl of sugar and their answer was a resounding “no way!”. When I explained that it was akin to eating the sugar in the cookies, they understood. For that particular Girl Scout troop I believe cookie sales were down that year.
Anyway, here are some pointers that may help you decide what foods to avoid or limit:
Carbs: Your body needs carbohydrates or carbs, but understanding the difference between good and bad carbs will help you fuel your body especially while exercising.
Too Much Protein: Your body needs protein but your body can only process a certain amount of protein. Over eating protein will lead to your body storing the unused protein into fat.
Processed foods: these foods often contain many filler ingredients (let alone a lot of words we can't even pronounce!). Make sure you're reading the labels of your food. In one of my seminar’s about nutrition the speaker said “you probably want to choose the low fat sour cream over the fat free sour cream as there are so many fillers in the fat free.” You'll only know that if you read the labels.
Now that you know what to limit you likely ask, “What can I eat?"
Choose multi grain foods rather than white flour foods (pasta/rice).
Stick to fruits, nuts, vegetables (steamed or sauté) and potatoes which happen to be a good carb to eat.
Dips like hummus and salsa are great with raw vegetables.
Try to eat small meals throughout the day vs. big meals at traditional sittings.
Often times people ask, "can I cheat?" The answer is yes. I always advise my clients to cut back slowly on the sweets if you can’t go cold turkey. Drinking less soda and limiting alcohol consumption can help cut calories. Learn what a portion size is so you won’t overeat during a meal. Rule of thumb says a portion size is your hand size. See the link below from the FDA which will may help you in finding the right blend of foods to eat.
I find that keeping a journal of what I eat is a great way to track calories. There are a lot of apps that can do this for you. My favorite is “My Plate”. It links to my Apple Watch exercise activities making it easier to track how much food (and calories) I am eating in conjunction with how many I'm burning through exercise. Most people tend to eat the same foods for most of the week, so logging in your food is made easier after the first few entries. Whatever the app, find a tool that works for you as tracking your food intake will keep you focus on the goal of a healthier lifestyle.
And, as alway, helping with our diets is exercise. Exercise is definitely a plus at any time in our life, but most don’t know that 80% of how we get fit/healthier comes from food choices. So, back to the question, Diet, what does it truly mean? It means finding and incorporating the right balance of good healthy foods and exercise in your daily lifestyle. All of which will go a long way toward helping you achieve your fitness goals.
Here are a couple of links you might find useful for nutritional guidance.