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There are a lot of people out there telling you what NOT to eat. Don’t eat carbs, don’t eat fats, don’t eat after 7 PM…. Don’t eat fruit, sugar, meat, cooked food, uncooked food… don’t eat unless you’re standing on your head with your fingers crossed. I’m sure you’ve heard them all. The problem with focusing on what not to eat is that you never truly learn how to nourish your body, just how to avoid the so called “bad” foods. And trust me, almost everything has had its turn in the dog house of edible substances.  So I’m here today to explain an easy and flexible way of understanding how to fuel your body well. By focusing on what to eat instead of what to avoid, you are more likely to develop healthy eating habits, as well as a healthy attitude towards food. So here is a visual guide to healthy eating with a more detailed exploitation to follow. Print it, post it on your refrigerator, share it with your friends, whatever you want to do with it…. well, within reason.


Colorful Veggies: These should take up half of your plate. By eating more veggies you crowd out other calorie dense foods and replace them with nutrient dense, low calorie foods that provide lots of fiber and water as well. Try new greens regularly, and be sure to have plenty of variety. Also, focus on getting cruciferous veggies such as cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts,  kale, collard, kohlrabi, bok choy daily. These veggies enhance your body’s natural detoxification capacity. Also, starchy veggies like potatoes, peas, and cooked carrots aren’t in this category… the are in the starches and fruits category that will be covered shortly.

Healthy Fats: Adding a small amount of healthy fat to each meal will help your meal last longer  A half of an avocado, a small handful of nuts or seeds, or a tablespoon of coconut or olive oil will go a long way in warding off hunger between meals. Stay away from processed fats, margarine, spreads, and fried foods. And you probably already know this, but vegetable and corn oil are NOT healthy fats. These fats are highly processed and not at all in their natural form. Our bodies are not designed to metabolize them. Seriously, think about it, where is the oil in corn? Are there corn presses in Iowa the way there are olive presses in Italy? Didn’t think so. Our next section will be focused on lean protein. If your protein is less than lean (roasts, ribs, or other fattier cuts), it is essential to get the highest quality meat you can: free range, organic, grass fed meat. The fats in the meat are what make them healthier or less healthy. If you choose one of these cuts, you will be getting a good supply of healthy fats, and it would be best to skip the addition of healthy fats for that meal.

Lean Protein: A palm sized serving of lean protein should be added to every meal. This means poultry, fish, shrimp, eggs, shellfish, game meat, very lean beef or pork. Eating adequate protein will help you maintain and build lean muscle mass, which increases your metabolic rate, and also will help maintain stable blood sugar levels throughout the day. If you are not sensitive of dairy, a small amount can be included in this category as well, although should not entirely relied upon. Tofu and tempeh are an adequate source of protein, but should not be the sole source of protein due to the large number of individuals who are sensitive to soy. Once or twice a week max. And while we’re on the subject – fake meat is highly processed soy, and is not the best bet. If your protein isn’t so lean, skip the fats and get the highest quality meat you can. And bacon is not protein. It’s just fat. Really guys.

Starches and Fruit: A quarter of your plate should be dedicated to low glycemic carbohydrates. That means slow releasing high fiber natural carbohydrates. Whole grains, beans, fruits, and starchy veggies like peas, cooked carrots, corn, and potatoes fit into this category. Many individuals are sensitive to gluten, and if you have any digestive issues or concern of gluten sensitivity, you should consider removing gluten for a period of time (6 weeks or more) and reintroduce it to see how you react. Dried fruit should be used infrequently, as it is devoid of water and much more dense than other fruits.

When planning meals or throwing a salad together, use this guide to help you balance your plate. Also, using this guide, you can make otherwise difficult or unhealthy meals more balanced. Going out for dinner? Order a side salad and only eat half of your meat. Eating at your Aunt Martha’s house? Offer to bring broccoli to go with her ribs and mashed potatoes. Want to throw something together with what you have in the fridge? Make sure all categories are in there!

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Ashley Palmer
Ashley is a Registered Nurse with a Master’s Degree in Human Nutrition. Ashley loves her son, her husband, and lifting heavy things then putting them back down repeatedly. She is a nutrition, fitness and weight loss coach and blogs at www.youtrition.net.


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