I hope you enjoy my latest article in Iron Girl!!
Nutrient Dense Meal Planning
"The best strategy for promoting optimal health and reducing the risk for chronic disease is to choose a wide variety of nutrient-rich foods," according to the American Dietetic Association (1). However, living in a nation filled with processed food - and very good marketing - means very little meal planning and plenty of calorie-dense options. Now-a-days, there is nothing unusual about putting a "meal" in the microwave or placing a food order through a car window. Although you know you should prioritize wholesome ingredients to fuel your active and healthy lifestyle, without proper time-management, cooking at home can feel quite burdensome.
It is unreasonable to believe that you can never enjoy a meal outside of your home. However, relying on an 'on-the-go' diet may not provide your body with an ideal quantity and quality of nutrients. Without a doubt, the most powerful nutrients are found in foods that contain little to no ingredients. Although there are many boxed, frozen, packaged and canned foods that claim to protect your body and mind, the most advantageous way of keeping your body strong is through a plant-based diet, balanced with lean or low fat protein, complex carbohydrates and heart-healthy unsaturated fats.
The foundation of a heart-healthy diet should be supported by a colorful diet, filled with fruits and vegetables. Based on a meta-analysis compilation of cohort studies evaluating fruit and vegetable consumption, researchers F.J., He and colleagues established that an increased consumption of fruit and vegetables from less than three servings a day to more than five servings a day is related to a 17 percent reduction in coronary heart disease (CHD) (2). Considering the severity of vitamin and mineral deficiencies around the world, it should be a no-brainer to take every advantage of the abundance of accessible fruits and vegetables in your local grocery store or farmers market.
As an active female, you have a lot on your plate. Meal planning should not be tedious or cumbersome. Rather than focusing on calories, carbs and fat, check out the ingredients of your daily food choices. As a start, seek out wholesome foods, with around five ingredients or less. Rather than eliminating foods from your diet, make replacements. For example, rather than snacking on a Special K protein bar (with 40-plus ingredients), choose a glass of milk. Secondly, take a few minutes each morning to plan out what you are going to eat that day. It may also help to plan your grocery list for the upcoming week. Because there is a strong correlation in the rising number of overweight and obese individuals and the ever-increasing number of processed food options available to consumers (3), it is suggested to steer clear of the well-marketed "healthy" options, which contain a paragraph full of ingredients.
When it comes down to nutritious and balanced eating, keep in mind that a calorie isn't just a calorie. If you are committed to creating a healthy lifestyle, a diet rich in nutrient-dense foods will provide your body with a variety of essential vitamins and minerals that aid in the prevention of severe health conditions, help to increase longevity, reduce the need for costly health care, improve physical performance and overall quality of life.
Example of nutrient-dense meal planning:
Breakfast - Oatmeal, nuts and fruit and a glass of skim/soy milk
Mid morning snack - Piece of fruit with cheese
Lunch - Vegetarian or lean meat in veggie-filled wrap and cottage cheese with fruit
Mid afternoon snack - Veggies with hummus and Wasa cracker(s)
Dinner - Brown rice with lentils and spinach and scrambled eggs
After-dinner snack - dark chocolate (1/2 - 1 ounce) wwith a piece of fruit
Whole grain wrap
Low-fat cottage cheese
Lean meat/vegetarian meat
Dark chocolate (70% - 85% cacao)
1) Marra, M.V. and Boyar, A.P. (2009). Position of the American Dietetic Association: nutrient supplementation. J. Am. Diet. Assoc. 109(12): 2073-85.
2) He, F.J., Noson, C.A., Lucas, M. and MacGregor, GA. (2007). Increased consumption of fruit and vegetables is related to a reduced risk of coronary heart disease: meta-analysis of cohort studies. J. Hum. Hyperten. 21(9): 717-28.
3) Barr, S.B. and Wright, J.C. (2010). Postprandial energy expenditure in whole-food and processed-food meals: implications for daily energy expenditure. Food Nutr. Res. 2(54): doi: 10.3402/fnr.v54i0.5144.