What is a balanced diet? Talking "Macros"!
“Eat this, not that.”
“Take this pill, and drink this magical shake!"
We have all heard these terms, or heard of “magic” weight loss remedies before. Playing around with “diets” is common and its even more common to fall off track with them because half way through what you thought was claimed to work, you hear of something else claiming completely different! It’s hard enough already fitting everything in your diet that one needs as far as real nutrition goes. So, that being said, what do we really need to be healthy, active humans? And what do our bodies need to function? Enter "macronutrients"!
You have probably heard the word "macros" many times and wondered what the heck is all this talk about a "macro"? Well first, let’s define what macronutrients are. Macronutrients are the largest class of nutrients the body requires and include protein, carbohydrates, and fats. Each of these macros serves a different purpose in our bodies, but all are needed. Diets that include cutting out a certain macronutrient group (such as low or no carb diets) are not healthy, nor are they ever sustainable for long term and can cause more harm than good in the long run.
Each macro also includes a calorie count. So for example, 1g of protein is equal to 4 calories. This is the same with carbs, they equal 4 calories per gram as well. Fats however are the highest, containing 9 calories per gram of fat. A balanced diet should and ideally include all of these in moderation. This does however depend on your health and fitness goals...
I always suggest to my clients never restrict anything, especially when we are training towards a weight loss goal for example. It’s easy to get away from all the necessary nutrients (macros included) when on a "diet plan". The typical one I always seem to come across is "low carbs" or "cutting" which does include eliminating carbs from the diet. A balanced diet should include all of your macros yes, but in appropriate amounts according to your goals.
As a student however, it can be difficult to get all these macros in for the day, and much easier to buy a burger and fries, drink coffee, or not eat at all. So what can you do in order to ensure a healthy balanced diet, get to your goals as well as keep things simple?
Fist step, define your goals. What is it you would like to achieve or see in your body both physically and mentally? Weight loss? Muscle gain? Maintain overall health? It’s very important to first get this set up for yourself before beginning any one "diet". Otherwise you may end up cutting out as said before an important food group that your body actually needs in order to function properly.
Second step, grocery list and meal prep! This may sound repetitive and obvious, but it works! Meal prep until the sun goes down, meal prep until you can’t even stand on your own two feet, you will thank yourself when you are starving and eat your prepared healthy meal vs. purchasing that fast food meal! By meal prepping, you will be more likely to stick to your plan, eat a balanced diet and save money! You will also reach your goals A LOT quicker.
Final step? Enjoy the foods you eat! We need to make sure that eating well and healthy is also enjoyable and not a torture game for several weeks. This is where balanced dieting and mindful eating comes into play. Once in a while, it’s actually good and okay for your body to see a burger and fries, or some chocolate and ENJOY IT! Now I am not saying every day after you feel you have been spot on with your diet and now for desert you can indulge every night... no. That’s not quite how it works. However, you can ideally do this 2-3x a week maximum and still feel good, reach your goals and never feel restricted.
How? Don’t stress about it, bottom line. The more we as humans stress, the more cortisol (stress hormone) we release in our bodies, causing us to hang on to fat as a survival mechanism. I would much rather enjoy a little desert and feel good about it than sitting there eating it AND stressing over how many calories this food has, or thinking about how guilty I feel for treating myself! By allowing yourself to sit, relax and thoroughly enjoy what you are eating, less cortisol is released and the less likely your body is going to hang on to existing and new fat cells vs if I just simply didn't stress out about it. Again though, everything in moderation.
In conclusion, a balanced diet includes all major food groups (macros) carbs, proteins and fats. It also includes enjoying life a little and not stressing. We want good carbs, healthy fats and moderate amounts of protein in every meal in order to maintain a healthy mind and body. There is much more I could go on and on about as far as meal prep, what are good carbs, how much protein is appropriate ect. If these are some topics you would like to hear more about, or have any topics you would like more information on, give me a shout via email and I will be contributing to the wellness page weekly with new nutrition and fitness info! You can also check out my Instagram, @livingwellwithchanelle.
Incorporating good carbs, healthy fats and moderate amounts of protein in every meal will help you maintain a healthy mind and body.