A Balanced Diet Starts with a Balanced Meal
I have a simple rule that will help you balance each one of the five to six meals you should be eating every day. Please see my other blog on How Often Should I Eat which explains why you should eat five to six meals per day rather than two or three.
Each meal’s caloric makeup will consist of one-half to one part fat, two parts protein, and three parts healthy carbohydrates. For example, if you are following the Basic Health Diet, and eating 1,800 calories per day, you’ll eat 360 calories per meal for a total of five meals.
- Fat: 150 to 300 cal/day or 30 to 60 cal/meal
- Protein: 600 cal/day or 120 cal/meal
- Carbohydrates: 900 cal/day or 180 cal/meal Protein and carbs have 4 cal/gram and fat has 9 cal/gram.
You can determine the number of grams of each nutrient group you should consume at any meal by dividing the calories per meal by four or nine. For example, 1 serving of fat: 60 cal/meal/9 = 6.6 grams of fat per meal CHOOSE HIGH-QUALITY PROTEINS TO BUILD MUSCLE Protein and its amino acids are the building blocks of muscle and are an essential part of the human diet for the growth and repair of tissue.
Adequate protein is necessary for successfully optimizing hormones, increasing lean body mass, and decreasing body fat. High-quality proteins contain the most amino acids.
- Egg whites
- Lean meats
- Low-fat cottage cheese
- Protein shakes
- Soy products
A very convenient, practical, and efficient way to make sure you are getting enough high-quality protein without any added fat or cholesterol is by supplementing your diet with protein-containing nutritionals (e.g., protein powders, meal replacement drinks, sports bars).
This is especially important for men who exercise since an inadequate protein intake is related to the depletion of essential amino acids that occurs during intense training. In addition, high-quality proteins and essential amino acids have a positive influence on our hormonal and immune response to exercise, and they also enhance our ability to adapt to high-intensity training. The Life Plan Diets all provide about one gram of protein per pound of body weight daily, which falls right into the recommended range for muscle and strength building. You will be eating approximately 30 to 35 grams of protein with each of your small meals. Each serving size of protein is about the size and thickness of your palm, not your entire hand. The palm does not include the fingers or thumb, as some of my patients wish.
The Right Fats Keep You Satisfied
Healthy types of dietary fat allow your body to feel satisfied after eating, build hormones, ensure the integrity of all your cell walls, insulate and protect your organs, and transport nutrients throughout your body.
Assessing the many types and forms of dietary fat can seem complicated, but ultimately, the bottom line is: The optimal types of fat are found in natural foods, and the best fats are listed below. Dietary fats found in processed foods are not healthy, no matter what the label says.
Avoid foods fried in vegetable oils, such as corn and safflower, and eliminate processed foods. For those of you who don’t like fish, fish oil supplements are now an option: You should take three to four grams per day. Cooking with olive or canola oil instead of vegetable oil also helps.
Enjoy any of the following in moderation, based on the ratio:
- Lean animal proteins
- Wild salmon
The Right Carbs Energize Your Workouts
Vegetables and most fruits, whether they are fresh, frozen, or even canned, are healthy carbohydrates because they are digested very slowly and their sugars enter our bloodstream in small amounts.
Man-made carbohydrates, on the other hand, come from grains that undergo processing that removes most of their natural fiber and nutrients, making them easily digestible and rapidly assimilated by our bodies. These carbohydrates mainline sugar into our bloodstream, pushing blood sugars and insulin levels sky-high. As our blood sugars fall, hunger returns, cravings rapidly follow, and compulsive, uncontrolled eating takes over.
Focus on These Fruits
Tropical fruits are exactly what you imagine: fruits that grow in hot climates, mostly outside the mainland United States. This list includes pineapple, banana, pomegranate, guava, mango, papaya, and fresh figs, and these are on the “no” list. So are all dried fruits: They are extremely high in sugar because they become concentrated when their water content is removed. Dehydrated or freeze-dried alternatives would be a much better choice.
Here are the best fresh fruit choices that pass the low-glycemic test and that you can enjoy every day:
- Berries (any type)
The glycemic index determines how fast a particular food will raise your blood sugar. Diabetics have successfully used the glycemic index for many years to help control their blood sugars. Recently, people who have wanted to lose weight and prevent cravings have used this index. The idea is that when blood sugar and insulin levels are kept low, your body is much less likely to convert sugars to body fat, and food cravings are reduced or even eliminated. This has worked very well for me and my patients. I recommend it to all of you as another tool that can be used to get lean and stay lean. You can find a glycemic index list of some of the common foods we eat on the Internet at www.diabetesnet.com. Processed carbs generally have very high glycemic indexes (greater than 60), including ice cream, white bread, all white flour products, bagels, white potatoes, bananas, raisins, potato chips, some alcoholic beverages, white rice, and pasta made with white flour.
Low-glycemic-index foods (under 45) include most nontropical fruits and vegetables, regular oatmeal, sugar-free peanut butter, yams, brown rice, sugar-free dairy products, some non-wheat grains, legumes ( with the exception of baked beans and Fava beans), new potatoes and nuts.
It is absolutely critical that the carbohydrates you eat be mostly those with a low glycemic index to ensure the maintenance of low levels of blood sugar and insulin. Limit your intake of high glycemic carbs to immediately before and/or immediately after a high-intensity weight-training workout. This will shuttle muscle building nutrients quickly into muscle tissue and promote growth and strength.
High-Fiber Foods Make The Best Carb Choices
Fiber is vitally important–especially if you want to lose fat without jeopardizing your muscle mass and, at the same time, improve your overall health. On average American men consume around 10 grams to 12 grams per day, and the recommended intake is 25 grams to 50 grams per day – Preferably around 35 grams. In a major study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association in October 1999, it was shown that a high intake of fiber reduces not only obesity, but also high blood pressure, other heart disease risk factors, and the probability of many cancers. Some experts even believe fiber plays a greater role in determining heart disease risk than total or saturated fat intake.
Dietary Fiber does all this by remaining mostly undigested in your GI tract. This provides bulk to the foods you eat so that the undigested food stays in the stomach longer, making you feel fuller and delaying hunger and cravings. Once the food reaches your intestines, it moves along at a faster rate, which slows the release of carbohydrates and fats into your bloodstream, where blood sugar levels remain well controlled an insulin secretion is reduced. Many experts now believe fiber’s effect on blood sugar levels is the main reason for its “fat-fighting” properties and other health benefits.
Because fiber makes you feel full, including it in your diet helps you eat much less overall, without even thinking about it. A 2011 study from Penn State proved that people habitually eat about the same weight of food every day. In other words, we feel satisfied once the quantity of the food we are looking for is met, not the total number of calories. So when you eat food that’s physically heavier, you’ll eat less of it. When you eat high-fiber foods, including vegetables, you consume a higher volume or weight of food with fewer calories – and you won’t feel the least bit deprived.
The best fiber sources include whole natural foods such as:
- Brown rice and wild rice
- Green, leafy vegetables
- Sweet Potatoes
- Ezekiel Bread