Meeting your nutritional needs is essential to overall health and well-being. A balanced diet provides the necessary nutrients to maintain healthy body weight, improve your immune system’s ability to fight against illnesses like the flu, and function properly throughout the day. However, there’s a lot of discourse surrounding proper nutrition, often with conflicting information. This can make determining a healthy nutrition strategy confusing, especially for those just starting. In this article, we’ll discuss some guidelines and tips for improving your nutrition. Whether your goal is to improve your health, lose weight, build muscle, and more, here are some general guidelines for improving your nutrition.
Calculate your nutritional goals
Establishing a clear plan for getting proper nutrition is a necessary first step. Whether your goal is to lose weight, build muscle, or be healthier, ensuring you’re getting adequate nutrition is a great place to start in improving your overall health.
When determining your nutritional goals, first look at your current nutritional status. Consider keeping a food diary to track your eating habits and identify problem areas in your diet. For example, you may realize you’re not consuming enough protein to make up for your strenuous workout routine. In this case, your nutrition goal may be implementing more protein in your diet.
When setting nutritional goals, it’s crucial to be realistic. Depending on your starting point, avoiding getting burnt out on all the changes you’re making is essential. This is why it is vital to set realistic incremental goals. Attainable goals give you a sense of accomplishment after your achievement and contribute to your big-picture goals. The plans you establish should be measurable and specific too. For example, “eating healthier” is a broad goal that doesn’t provide much information, let alone a way to track your progress. Instead, a goal like “Limit sugary beverages to once a day” is realistic and helps you track your progress.
If you’re new to the world of nutrition and aren’t sure whether you’re setting the right goals for your progress, consider working with a health and wellness coach. They can help you identify areas for improvement in your diet and assist in creating new and healthy habits. A wellness coach can also produce incremental goals in your diet and fitness strategy if you decide to hit the gym.
Consume whole foods
After keeping your food diary, you may notice how many processed foods are in your diet. Limiting the processed foods you eat is a great place to start when improving your nutrient intake. Processed foods are bad because they are more calorically dense, contain high amounts of added sugars and fats, and can leave you feeling hungry because of low levels of nutrients. On the other hand, whole foods are more nutrient-dense and contain various essential vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients critical to maintaining your health.
If you aren’t sure about the difference between whole and processed foods, consider apples versus apple pie. Apples come straight from the tree and don’t require preparation aside from a quick rinse. While apple pies contain apples, they demand many additional ingredients to become an apple pie. Ingredients like added sugars, fats from butter, and processed grains for the crust all get added to make an apple pie. Because of the added elements, the apple is taken from its original form and turned into a less healthy alternative. The same logic applies to other processed foods, including chips, candy, deli meats, and more.
When improving nutrition, implement more whole foods into your diet. Whole foods help your body regulate blood sugar, get the nutrients it needs, and help you feel full and satisfied throughout the day, more so than processed foods.
Stick to water
Your body needs to stay hydrated to function properly. Water restores your body of lost fluids. Staying hydrated is especially important when starting a new workout routine or recalibrating your metabolism. Water is also necessary for proper digestion, which is vital when improving overall nutrition.
Consuming surgery beverages impacts your diet and doesn’t provide you with any nutrition. Drinks like soda and juices have lower nutrient levels because they’re processed. These drinks do not hydrate you as well as water because of added sugar and sodium. Switching from sugary beverages to water improves your nutrition.
Practice mindful eating
Improving your diet and nutrition means eating a better diet. Depending on your health goals, you may take up new exercise hobbies to accommodate your lifestyle goals. After completing strenuous workouts, like a long run with solid running shoes, your body needs nutrients replenished. This is where mindful eating comes in. Mindful eating helps form a positive relationship with food and improves your awareness of hunger cues and the nutrition your body needs.
To practice mindful eating, eat slowly and savor your food. Slowly eating helps you stop eating when you’re full and allows you to savor each bite, leaving you feeling more satisfied after a meal. Mindful eating also helps improve your awareness of eating because of emotional triggers, and instead, choose more nourishing and satisfying foods when you’re hungry. By practicing mindful eating, you can make healthier choices and become more attuned to your body’s nutritional needs.
Consider your portions
Calculating your portion sizes can be challenging because there are many factors to consider. Portion sizes are not a one-size-fits-all because of contributing factors like age, gender, fitness level, weight, fitness goals, and more. To get a solid estimate of portion sizes to meet your nutritional needs, start using a food scale to help determine appropriate portions. Cross-reference your portion sizes with serving size guidelines. Most food products provide a general metric for portion sizes which is a good starting point to determine how much of an item you should eat.
When determining your portion sizes, consider your activity level and energy needs. If you work out for three hours a day, you’ll need to get much more energy from food than someone who is sitting at a desk all day at work. You can also use a calorie-tracking app to help you determine portion sizes. Calorie-tracking apps allow you to input necessary data like activity level, weight, gender, height, and more that affect your overall nutritional needs. By inputting your different meals, you can see where you’re meeting your nutritional needs and identify areas for improvement.
Nutrition for a healthier lifestyle
In conclusion, meeting your nutritional needs is necessary for any lifestyle. By making informed decisions about your diet, you ensure your body is getting the nutrients it needs to perform well. By focusing on setting realistic, incremental goals, consuming more whole foods, and practicing mindful eating, you’re on your way to improved nutrition, no matter where your starting point is.
About the Guest Author: Ashley Nielsen
Ashley Nielsen earned a B.S. degree in Business Administration Marketing at Point Loma Nazarene University. She is a freelance writer who loves to share knowledge about general business, marketing, lifestyle, wellness, and financial tips. During her free time, she enjoys being outside, staying active, reading a book, or diving deep into her favorite music.