Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Nutrition Planning 101

Creating a healthy nutrition plan can be daunting but nothing changes without change. But invest a little time and you can create a plan to insure success. Let’s start with some basic ideas about creating a nutrition plan you can LIVE with, not a diet that implies short term adherence. Stick with the basics and slowly transition to more detailed analysis as you need or enjoy. The key is to start at a place that is not so overwhelming that you don’t get started.

 Know your caloric intake. Here’s the hard part…being honest (with yourself) and accountable….You have to know at least ballpark figures of your calorie consumption to find a starting place. If it’s not working to move you towards your goals then work to change it. The most common pitfalls in caloric intake estimation include “portion distortion” and “mindless snacking/snacking amnesia.” It is worth the time spent reading labels, measuring foods and keeping a log for at least a few days until you have a better handle on the truth of how much you are consuming.

 Know your caloric needs. The intention is not to become calorie obsessed but you need to have a basic idea of how much your body needs for basic function. Losing fat is not about severe calorie restriction but about finding calorie balance to allow you to increase activity and energy levels while creating just enough calorie deficit for healthy fat loss.

       Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR):  Easy BMR Calculator
   Women: 655 + (4.35 x weight (lbs)) + (4.7 x height (in)) – (4.7 x age (years))
   Men: 66 + (6.23 x weight (lbs)) + (12.7 x height (in)) – (6.8 x age (years))

         Then add in any calories burned by exercise or multiple by activity multiplier. 
                    1.2 sedentary
                    1.375 lightly active (exercise 1-3 days/week)
                    1.55 moderately active (exercise 3-5 days/week)
                    1.725 very active (exercise 6-7 days/week)

 Aim to eat 5 smaller meals per day. You will find a million opinions on this regarding its effect on metabolism but the keeping the fire burning with small meals makes sense to me. Eating more frequent meals is also a lot easier mentally when trying to manage a new nutrition plan. Smaller more frequent meals allow for more variety and the next meal is never far away….

 Include a lean protein, complex or fibrous carb and healthy fat with every meal. The body needs protein, carbs and healthy fats. Do not eliminate any of these macronutrients; just make healthier choices in each group. By including a combination of healthy choices or each macronutrient digestion rates are slowed down providing a steady supply of energy rather than creating a cycle of energy spikes and crashes.

                Some ideas to start with:
  • Protein: tuna, skinless chicken breast, turkey breast, greek yogurt, cottage cheese, beans, chickpeas, eggs/egg whites.
  • Complex carbs: potatoes, yams, brown rice, quinoa, oatmeal, whole wheat products.
  • Fibrous carbs: lots of veggies, leafy greens!
  • Healthy fats (watch portions…calories add up quickly): nuts, nut butters, olive oil, flaxseed/oil.

 Avoid processed foods. Consider food choices that have the fewest steps to get the food from the plant, ground or tree to your hands. Choose those that have the least number of ingredients on the label. And remember….you can eat a lot more food within your daily calorie budget if you stick with clean foods!

Be an educated label reader.

  •  Look at the ingredient list. Can you pronounce everything on the list? Order does matter here, early in the list means more in it. Products advertising whole wheat should say 100% whole wheat and whole grains should be the 1st ingredient on the list.
  • Be aware of portion size and calories. It may be a healthy choice but not gonna work with the plan if you eat a whole multi serving package.
  • Avoid saturated fats. These are most prevalent in processed foods. Check for hydrogenated in the ingredient list.
  •  Watch for added sugars.
  •  Check out the Nutrition Facts Label Program on the FDA website to become a more educated label reader.

 Labels provide a lot of enlightening information! Might change your mind about some eats after seeing what you are really eating!


 Taking the time to create a healthy nutrition plan and being an educated food consumer is an investment in your life. Are you ready to get started?

Sure, the day to day can get tough, especially when 1st getting started, the key is to create new habits. Think about your long term goals when considering a less than stellar food choice. The taste only lasts as long as the food is in your mouth…Is that choice going to get you closer to your goals? Don’t deprive yourself completely but don’t fall off the wagon, be more conscious of the choices you make. Stick with it, you will feel better and stronger!


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