A sensible meal starts with protein

Many of you know that I am a nutritional specialist and that I help people put together workable and sensible diet plans to help them achieve their fitness goals.

Truly, with any wellness and health program, diet is the most important part. Exercise and lifestyle components, such as drinking and not smoking, are very important too, but the most important thing that you can do for your health is to eat right.

So, what does that look like? For most people, it’s pretty simple. The start is about 4 ounces of lean, clean protein from either plant or animal sources. What I mean by that is about 4 ounces of organic chicken breast, turkey, egg whites, fish or tofu. This gives your body the protein nutrients that it needs to grow if you are still growing or to replenish worn-out cells if you’re fully grown.

We need good clean protein for both growth and maintenance. The other option that works well for many people is to buy organic whey protein that is very well absorbed. You must remember that just because you eat something doesn’t mean that it is well absorbed into your cells. Many nutrients pass through without ever getting into your cells, especially if they are coupled with factors that block their absorption.

An example of this is the iron in spinach. To optimize he absorption of the iron, it is important to add in a source of Vitamin C to facilitate it. Thus, we usually serve a lemon wedge with spinach salad. The best absorbed protein is egg white albumin (please cook it). The next best is a whey protein that has pro-biotics, pre-biotics and digestive enzymes added for digestability. Lighter meats such as chicken, turkey breast and fish are all fairly well digested and heavier. Fattier meats are less well digested and of course have less protein and more fat.

The next component of a sensible meal is the veggie department. A full half of your plate should be veggies. The nutrients found in vegetables are important for cell health, and the energy that these foods give is long lasting and stable. You also have to expend energy to extract the energy from veggies so you won’t suffer a sugar high from eating a lot of veggies. You will also obtain a good amount of fiber that will help pull fat out of your body. So 2-3 cups of salad or cooked or raw veggies is a good amount to aim for each meal.

The next component of a sensible meal for many is the grains and starches group, although not everyone ascribes to eating grains.

If you do like to eat grains and are not bothered by gluten, whole grains of course pack a lot more nutrition than refined grains do, as well as beneficial fiber. In our society, we tend to eat too much meat, too many grains and not enough veggies and fruit. The most sensible meal should have about a half a cup of grains. This includes such food as spaghetti, brown rice, bread or couscous. You will always be better off nutritionally by using that plate for veggies rather than grains.

Then there’s the fruit section. Having a fruit at each meal — three a day — is for most people not overdoing it. Fresh, whole fruit is better than either fruit juice or dried fruit because you get the benefit of the water in the fruit as well as a lower hit of sugar over time. Juice is too much sugar with not enough fiber, and will cause your blood sugar to rise too fast.

Most people do not have to worry about getting enough fats and oils because we get a lot just from eating sensibly and we get way too much from eating non-sensibly. Oils have just as many calories as hard fats, but they do not clog up your arteries the way hard animal fats do. Keeping a lid on fats helps to keep your weight down, too.

The sensible meal should have about 500 calories. Do that three times a day and add in a few pieces of fruit for a snack and you’re rocking. Eating sensibly paves the way toward achieving a healthy, lean body that gets the nutrients it needs, and it doesn’t have to be complex at all.

Bigger people will need a few more calories and smaller people will need a few less, so cut back of some of the components, but keep the idea of a sensible meal in mind when planning for your health!

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Jane Riley, M.S., B.A., C.P.T., Certified Nutritional Adviser, can be reached at janerileyfitness@gmail.com, 212-1451 or www.janerileyfitness.com.

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