Looking to eat healthier in 2017 while increasing activity but unsure how? Read on to get the skinny on how to fuel your body well.
Carbohydrates are your body’s favorite fuel to use when exercising and it’s also your brain’s favorite fuel. The brain actually requires 130 grams of carbohydrate each day and then consider your muscles also want carbohydrates for energy.
Carbohydrates sometimes get a bad rap but that’s generally because of the type of carbohydrate that is chosen. Choose nutrient-rich carbohydrate sources such as vegetables, fruits, beans, legumes, whole grains over refined, sugar added foods.
What you get from nutrient-rich carbohydrates? Vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients (helpful chemicals naturally occurring in plant foods), and fiber are all found in vegetables, fruits, beans, legumes, and whole grains. Phytonutrients have protective effects on heart disease, eye health, inflammation, bone health, and certain cancers. Fiber can be helpful in lowering cholesterol, maintaining a healthy body weight, and controlling blood sugar.
Isn’t there too much sugar in carbohydrate foods? If you choose nutrient-rich carbohydrates, you are getting naturally occurring sugar in foods like fruit or low-fat dairy products. You are also getting the vital nutrients we discussed above. The “added sugar” found in processed foods and beverages are the much bigger concern and should be limited.
Specifically, what types of nutrient-rich carbohydrates should I choose? For vegetables and fruits, choose a variety of colors since they will contain different phytonutrients. Focus on more non-starchy vegetables such as spinach, cauliflower, and bell peppers over potatoes, corn, and peas. Enjoy fruits and vegetables raw or prepare with limited fat using cooking methods like steaming, roasting, or microwaving. Any type of bean or legume is great. Choose dry, frozen, or canned (be sure to drain and rinse if selecting canned to limit sodium). Whole grains are a great opportunity to get more fiber in your diet. Select brown rice, whole grain bread, quinoa, bulgur, oats, or barley for example.
What about protein? While protein is required, most Americans get adequate if not excessive protein in their diet. When choosing protein sources, opt for lean sources such as seafood, skinless chicken or turkey breast, egg whites, low-fat dairy, tofu, beans, nuts or seeds. Remember to prepare again using little fat such as roasting, baking, or steaming.
How about fat? Again, fat is required in the diet but most Americans get adequate amounts. Focusing on healthier fats such as nuts, seeds, olive or canola oil, and avocados in small amounts will help offer monounsaturated fats, omega-3 fatty acids, and limit saturated & trans-fats.
What about hydration? It’s especially important to stay hydrated because of our climate. Prior to exercising it’s good to drink water and then have small sips throughout your workout. You likely don’t need a sports drink unless you are exercising for more than 1 hour. A good way to test if you are drinking enough water during exercise is to weigh yourself before and after. If you lost weight, you lost water due to perspiration. For every pound you lost, consume 20 fl oz. of water. You can also size up your hydration status by your urine color.&bnsp; A hydrated person’s urine is a pale shade of yellow.
Tips & Tricks
Unsure how to tackle getting started? Here are some tips and tricks! Plan to fuel up well by grocery shopping and prepping during the weekend when you have more time.&nbps; Chop up vegetables and have fruits ready for snacking. Go for a walk if you have a craving for something less nutrient-rich. If you do choose something less nutrient-rich, don’t let it sabotage your entire day. Balance less healthy choices with exercise and ask yourself if it’s an event or a habit? For example, are you having a piece of cake because it’s a loved one’s birthday or simply because it’s Tuesday? Save less nutrient-rich choices for events and not as a daily habit.