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Sunday, December 5, 2010

What should I put on my plate?

So, I bet you're wondering, "Self, how should I fill my plate to get optimal nutrition?"  It probably keeps you up at night.  Let me help.  Think of it like a pie chart. 
  • Half of your plate should be low G.I. carbs.  No, not gastrointestinal.  Glycemic index.  The glycemic index is a scale from 1-100 that measures how quickly your body turns that food into sugar and releases it into the blood stream.  That's how we use all food--we turn it into sugar to be used for chemical energy.  So, foods like, for example, candy bars, white bread, scones, ice cream, etc., have a high G.I score because they're very quickly converted into sugar and released for use in the blood.  This results in what's commonly known as a "sugar high."  The problem, of course, is that shortly after a sugar high, you feel like crap and you're hungry enough to gnaw your own arm off.  High G.I. foods are not your friends.  What we want instead are low G.I. carbs that are slowly and steadily released into the blood over a long period of time.  That way, we stay full and get a nice bounce of energy to carry us through until the next meal.  Great, so what are we talking about here?  Veggies, fruits, and whole grains.  If you don't think you like those, you just haven't tried enough of them.  There's enough variety that there's something for everyone.  So, half of your plate: low G.I. carbs.
  • A third of your plate should be lean, high quality protein.  This includes chicken (white meat), pork (with the fat trimmed), turkey (white meat), fish, beans, quinoa, tofu, etc.  A serving looks like a deck of cards, or about like the size of your palm.  I know--you're crying because you don't see beef on the list.  Don't cry.  It scares children and small animals.  Beef is generally a big player in the saturated fat arena.  I'm not saying you can never have it.  But it shouldn't be a daily thing.  I'd say 2-3 times per week, max.
  • The remaining area--17%ish--should be fat.  That's right, I said it--FAT.  The diet industry has done us a humongous wrong by teaching everyone that fat is bad.  If you don't eat fat, you will drop dead.  Soon.  The key is to eat the RIGHT KIND of fat.  So what are good fats?  Unsaturated fats from vegetable sources.  In other words, olive oil, canola oil, peanut oil, nuts (almonds, cashews, walnuts, etc.), avocados (mmm...guacamole), peanut butter, etc.  These fats keep your eyes healthy, your skin bright and moisturized, and they also KEEP YOU SKINNY.  Yep.  A scientific study (I can't remember where it was published--Google it) showed that people who ate peanut butter everyday--even though it's a high calorie food!--weighed less than people who didn't eat it.  So, repeat after me, "Eat your fat, dear."
I'd like to stress that I'm not a health care professional, but I do read A LOT (and I stayed in a Holiday Inn Express last night--hahaha...get it?) and I try to follow this formula for my own diet.  It works really well for me and it agrees with dietary guidelines published by reputable sources who are health care professionals.  Try it.  I think you'll find you feel better.

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