March is nutrition month and with it comes the opportunity to learn more about a topic that can help you live a healthier and longer life — nutrition. We know you might already have a good idea of what to eat and what to avoid eating so we are not going to reinvent the wheel. But the first step into transforming your diet is to understand the basics of nutrition. We hope this simple guide can help you start building a healthy diet plan for you and your loved ones.
Why is Nutrition important?
Nutrition is a critical part of health and development. The World Health Organization (WHO) states that people with healthy eating patterns live longer and are at lower risk for serious heart problems such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, malnutrition and obesity.
According to the CDC, fewer than 1 in 10 children and adults eat recommended daily amount of vegetables and 4 in 10 children and fewer than 1 in 7 adults eat enough fruit. This raises a concern – are we putting enough nutrients in our bodies? You might think that avoiding eating out often or sugary snacks might be enough to ensure a nutritious meal plan, which definitely helps, however, is not only what we don’t put into our bodies what’s important, but also ensuring we are giving our bodies all the nutrients it needs to function correctly.
What are macronutrients?
Nutrients can be classified based on the amount needed in the body. Macronutrients are the nutrients the body needs in larger amounts and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) are needed in smaller amounts.
Understanding how nutrients affect your body and the role they play in healthy nutrition is crucial. Macronutrients are the following:
- Carbohydrates: Our main source of fuel and are easily used by the body for energy. For example, bread, cereal, corn, fruit, oats, pasta, potatoes, rice, etc.
- Proteins: Essential for growth, tissue repair and preserving muscle. For example, chicken, egg whites, fish, soy, turkey, etc.
- Fats: Essential for cell, nerve tissue and hormone production. For example, avocado, butter, nuts, olive oil, etc.
These three macronutrients are essential for a healthy and balanced diet. If you are unsure of what is the quantity you should include of each macronutrient in your diet you can use a Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) calculator to measure approximately how many calories you burn a day and an estimate of how many macronutrients you need to reach your goals, whether it is maintaining your weight, losing weight or gaining weight. Remember to always consult a health professional or a registered dietitian for further information and assistance.
The Healthy Eating Plate
Another good rule of thumb when it comes to eating a balanced meal is to use the Healthy Eating Plate as a reference for all your meals. Guiding yourself by the recommendations of the Healthy Eating Plate you will ensure you’re incorporating all the nutrients your body needs to stay healthy and functioning well.
Both of these give similar recommendations in terms of how much of your plate should include of each food group:
- Vegetables and Fruits: ½ of your plate.
- Whole Grains: ¼ of your plate.
- Protein: ¼ of your plate.
- Healthy Oils: in moderation.
Plus, it is also recommended to stay active and drink mainly water, but tea and coffee are also good options to accompany your meals.
Making changes in your overall eating pattern can help you and your loved ones stay healthy. Food is life and fuel to our bodies. Let’s make sure we take advantage of all the nutrients and energy healthy meals can bring to our bodies. Don’t forget that the best and safest way to build a new diet plan is to consult a Registered Dietitian. This will also help you have a specific plan according to your medical or personal needs and reach your goals faster.
Published on March 13, 2023
- Nutrition (who.int)
- Why It Matters | Nutrition | CDC
- 7.1: The Basics of Nutrition - Medicine LibreTexts