Sunday, May 15, 2011

How To Practice Balance And Moderation In Your Diet

I have to be honest and tell you that more than 50 percent of the exercise required to stay fit and firm as you age involves a fork and knife. No amount of exercise can compensate for poor dietary habits. I believe in finding a healthy eating plan that works for you, that you can live with for the long-term.
 
One of the easiest ways to incorporate a healthy eat plan into your life is through balance and moderation in the foods you eat everyday.You can eat any food you desire as long as it is in moderation and balanced it with the rest of the foods you consume. For example, I love brownies, so when I have a brownie for dessert I only have one. I also balance the carbohydrates and sugar in the brownie by not having bread with my meal.

The first step to learning balance and moderation in your diet is knowing how to classify foods into their basic source of protein, carbohydrates, and fats as well as how they are used in your body. The second step is mastering portion. Knowing how many calories you consume from each food source and what your serving sizes are will enable you to balance your meals. Eating this way can be easily incorporated into your lifestyle - it’s a plan you can stick with over time.

So let’s begin by seeing how foods are broken down into their basic components of protein, carbohydrates, and fats and how your body uses them. In this post we'll talk about Protein.

Protein

Protein is a necessary part of every living cell in your body. Next to water, protein comprises up the greatest portion of your body weight. Protein substances make up your muscles, ligaments, tendons, organs, glands, nails, hair, and many vital body fluids. It is essential for the growth, repair, and healing of your bones, tissues, and cells. In addition, the enzymes and hormones that catalyze and regulate your body processes are comprised of protein. So, you see the proper amount of protein in your diet is vital for your health and wellbeing.

Protein is composed of building-block chemicals called amino acids. There are approximately 28 commonly known amino acids that your body uses to create all the various combinations of proteins needed for survival. These 28 commonly known amino acids are further classified as essential and nonessential amino acids. Nonessential amino acids can be produced in your body, while essential amino acids cannot be produced in your body and must be obtained from the foods you eat.

The sources of protein in your diet are classified as complete or incomplete. Complete proteins contain all the essential amino acids and are mostly from animal sources such as meat, fish, poultry, eggs, and dairy products. Incomplete proteins lack one or more essential amino acids that your body cannot make itself. Incomplete proteins usually come from plant- based sources such as fruits, vegetables, grains, and nuts. You must eat incomplete sources of protein in a combination that contains all the essential amino acids in order for your body to use them.

As mentioned, you must get your essential amino acids from your diet because your body cannot make them itself. Some of the best animal sources of protein are fish, poultry, lean cuts of meat, and low-fat dairy products. Some of the best vegetable sources are beans, nuts, and whole grains.

So, now you must be thinking how much protein should be in your daily diet? According to research on this topic, there is no one-size-fits-all answer. Recommendations range from a minimum of 10 percent of your daily caloric intake to 30 percent. However, results from scientific research are now revealing that people who consume higher amounts of protein (20 to 30 percent of their daily caloric intake), while cutting back on their carbohydrate intake, tend to lose weight faster and stay leaner than those people on low-fat diets.

The reason higher protein, lower carbohydrates diets are more conducive to weight loss and maintenance is interesting. First, high-protein foods slow the movement of food from the stomach to the intestines, meaning you feel full longer and don’t get hungry as often. Second, protein has a leveling effect on your blood sugar which means you are less likely to get spikes in your blood sugar that lead to cravings for carbohydrates. Third, your body uses more energy to digest protein than it does to digest fat or carbohydrates. (3)

Over the years, I found that eating about 30 percent of my calories from protein works great for me to maintain my weight and muscle mass. Here’s how to calculate how many grams of protein that equates to 30 percent of your daily caloric intake. First, you must have an idea of how many calories you consume daily. I suggest you keep a food journal for at least a week in which you write down everything you eat and drink and the corresponding quantities. Next, you have to calculate the total calories you eat each day from your journal. You can do this by finding the nutritional data for foods from different sources. For example, the USDA’s National Nutritional Database can be found at www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/foodcomp/search/.

Once you know how many daily calories you are eating it’s easy to calculate how much protein you should be consuming. Let’s say the result from above calculations show that you are eating approximately 1800 calories per day. So, 30 percent of 1800 calories equates to 540 calories that should be consumed from protein. Next, you convert the calories from protein to grams by dividing the 540 calories by 4 which equals 134 grams of protein.

Now that you know how much protein you need in your diet here are some good sources of protein listed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help you with you serving sizes.

1 ounce meat, fish, poultry equals 7 grams of protein

1 large egg equals 6 grams of protein

4 ounces milk equal 4 grams of protein

4 ounces low-fat yogurt equals 6 grams of protein

4 ounces soy milk equals 5 grams of protein

3 ounces tofu, firm equals 13 grams of protein

1 ounce cheese equals 7 grams of protein

1/2 cup low-fat cottage cheese equals 14 grams of protein

1/2 cup cooked kidney beans equals 7 grams of protein

1/2 cup lentils equals 9 grams of protein

1 ounce nuts equals 7 grams of protein

2 tablespoons peanut butter equals 8 grams of protein

1/2 cup vegetables equals 2 grams of protein

1 slice bread equals 2 grams of protein

1/2 cup of most grains/pastas equals 2 grams of protein

I hope this helps you start to understand how to balance your meals.  In my next post I'll talk about carbohydrates.
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