Lately, it seems that everybody is obsessed with good nutrition but they’re all confused about how to achieve it. Some people make sure they eat nuts often. Others swear by lemongrass. For people who do not have access — or desire — to eat such things, vitamin stores will sell you a plethora of supplements to keep you healthy.
All of these things have their virtues, but you cannot focus on just one thing to make you healthy. If you are taking a multivitamin but eat poorly you are not improving your health. When it comes to nutrition, keep it simple and work on the basics. Think of your fitness as a house. Your nutrition is the foundation of the home. If you start taking a lutein supplement before you master basic nutrition, it’s like replacing a window when the wall is falling in on itself.
Basic nutrition is just that: basic. It is not complicated and does not take too much thought. You want to keep fat, sugar and white flour intake low. You also want to make sure that you are eating enough lean protein. That’s pretty much it. If you want to do exceptionally well, then you would want to have a small meal about every three hours. I know that we like to make nutrition and health complicated, but it doesn’t need to be.
I know that you are probably already thinking, But there are good fats. Yes, there are fats that are healthy for you, but that is getting too complicated. For now, keep it simple. Fats, even the healthy ones, have lots of calories and contribute to weight gain and arterial clogging. We want to minimize their consumption, because there is so much fat in a normal diet that we will always have enough. We also want to keep sugar and white flour levels low because they have very little nutritional value and cause your blood-sugar levels to spike. This can lead to an energy drop and can ultimately cause type II diabetes.
A good way to start eating well is to be sure to eat five servings of fruits and vegetables each day. This will not change your life overnight, but it will help you get more of the vitamins and minerals you need. It also helps replace foods that do not support your health, like French fries. Another easy rule to follow is to eat fish more often preferably twice each week. Fish is a great source of lean protein, and is high in omega fatty acids. There are numerous ways to improve your health through proper diet, but you want to make sure your diet focuses on whole foods and not supplements.
It is important to remember that even by eating better, you will not eat perfectly — and you should not expect to. If you put that kind of pressure on yourself, then you will feel awful when you eat a brownie. Your goal should be to simply do better. I tell all of my clients, “Just eat better than you did last week.” That will allow you to consistently improve without making any huge sacrifices.
As you get a better grip on your nutrition, then you can start venturing into supplementation. However, it’s important to remember that supplements are not necessary for the average person. They can help you improve your nutrition, but they are not a substitute for eating well. Real food should be where you get the bulk of your vitamins and minerals. If you find that you are eating foods that are high in calories but have few vitamins, then you should start making a few changes. Just remember, keep it simple and work on the foundation before you start on the roof!
Jared Carter, CSCS, owner of Move Forward Fitness Personal Training in Center City, has been helping clients reach their goals for the past eight years. He can be reached through www.moveforwardfitness.com
or at firstname.lastname@example.org.