How to Create The Foundation to Healthy Eating
Welcome to my blog! In this blog, and ones to follow, you can expect easy to read breakdowns of nutrition research, practical tips, resources and recipes!
Sign up for my mailing list to stay up to date and receive new posts directly in your mailbox!
To kick it off we’re going to discuss how you can build your foundation for healthy eating and what is needed.
The first step and essential foundation to healthy eating is to consume Nutrient Dense Foods.
There are a lot of diets that promote high fat vs high carbohydrates, or plant based vs paleo. Regardless of your personal diet or today’s latest fad, the importance of quality nutrients remains high.
What is Nutrient Density?
You’ve heard, “you are what you eat.” But, what does that mean, and why does it matter?
Food is made up of nutrients that inform and build our body. Some foods like kale, pumpkin seeds, oysters, and berries inherently contain high nutrient content and therefore are nutrient dense.
All foods contain macronutrients: protein, fat and carbohydrates. This is where we find calories, the gas that keeps our body moving and growing. Calories are easy to find, and each person can thrive with different macronutrient ratios, but it’s the micronutrients they carry that matter to our vitality.
Vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients (like antioxidants) are sources of micronutrients. They regulate chemical reactions in the body, like our metabolism, immune function, and hormone production and signaling. The abundance of these micronutrients is what makes food nutrient dense.
Think of your body like a car. Macronutrients are the gas, and micronutrients are the oil that we want to keep full and clean so everything runs smoothly.
There are foods that are full of calories but lack micronutrients, like pasta, crackers, chips and sweets. They leave our body depleted of the essential fuel it needs to function optimally. Not only do these foods lack nutrients, but they add to inflammation throughout the body and make us feel tired, bloated and moody.
Why is Nutrient Density Important?
Nutrient dense foods provide “sturdy” building blocks, because we are what we eat, remember? The eggs, kale, almonds, and olive oil that we eat, get broken down into tiny pieces that are then used to build and maintain our entire body.
The more nutrient dense foods we eat, the more our body is able to supply enough raw materials to maintain our health. With ample amounts of these resources we’re able to function smoother and feel light, lean, sharp and thrive daily!
For example, if the immune system is under attack from a foreign invader like a bacteria or virus, our body’s supply of vitamin, mineral and phytonutrient reserves act as our protectors and restore the body to keep it in balance.
However many Americans are nutritionally depleted because as previously mentioned, the standard American diet lacks nutrient dense foods and is abundant in vegetable oils, refined carbohydrates and sugars.
When a diet is made up of these foods and deficient in nutrients, it leaves the body depleted, fighting over nutrients, and has a harder time regulating itself. This inhibits necessary functions causing imbalance in the body resulting in exhaustion, indigestion, weight gain, moodiness, increased pain, and sickness.
People usually think that a calorie deficit will help us lose weight and feel healthier. But in many circumstances the body needs more nutrients to begin to function optimally and bring us to our goals.
By focusing on consuming the most nutrient dense food, we get the most “bang for our buck,” providing the nutrients that our body needs to thrive!
How to Eat for Nutrient Density?
So, what exactly are all these nutrient dense foods? Whole foods that don’t come with a label or ingredient list.
Make these nutrient dense foods a priority on your plate and see how quickly you can turn your habits around.
Fads and diets become irrelevant and when we focus on good, whole foods. Compare any “diet” like vegan or keto. They all package their message differently, but you won’t find one that would say vitamins and minerals are not important.
The most nutrient dense foods you can eat include:
- Vegetables & Deeply Colored Fruits
- Quality, Pasture-Raised Animal Protein, Wild Seafood and Organ Meats
- Healthy Fats
- Herbs & Spices
Start to incorporate these foods to build the foundation of your meals. Make sure you have a serving of each in your meals and you’ll begin to build your nutrient deficiencies in your body to improve your metabolism, brain function, immune protection, digestion, detoxification, and feel vibrant again!
You can use this image as a reference to consider how to build a nutrient dense plate:
Fill half your plate with non starchy vegetables like leafy greens, brussels sprouts, cauliflower or tomatoes.
Add protein like eggs, salmon, chicken or beef to quarter of your plate.
Plus some starch found in a whole food source like potatoes, cooked carrots, rice or quinoa.
And don’t forget healthy fats or herbs and spices. You can mix these into pieces of your meal or sprinkle on top. Don’t skimp on these either, they provide so much flavor and essential nutrients!
Look at your plate and make sure you have nutrient dense foods on your plate. These foods will nourish your body in the most complete way.
Subscribe to my newsletter below to be notified when the next blog is posted with more tips and resources to build your health!
Ballantyne, S. (2019). The Importance of Nutrient Density. [online] The Paleo Mom. Available at: https://www.thepaleomom.com/nutrient-density// [Accessed Feb. 2020].
Chris Kresser, M. (2018). What is Nutrient Density and Why Is It Important? | Chris Kresser. [online] Chris Kresser. Available at: https://chriskresser.com/what-is-nutrient-density-and-why-is-it-important// [Accessed Feb. 2020].