Food is essential to the ability of our bodies to blink, breathe and function. Unfortunately, in today’s fast paced world, we are more focused on the enjoyment of taste and textures and may have completely forgotten how important good food and nutrition is to living a good quality of life. For example, the human body can survive:
- 3 minutes without air
- 3 hours without shelter
- 3 days without water
- 3 weeks without food
This is the “Rule of Threes” for survival. Although food is the fourth item on the list it is the one that sustains us for the long term and requires proper planning and conscious thought for long term health and quality of life. Proper fuelling of the body can greatly enhance your body’s overall performance, including physical activity and exercise.
Recently, nutrition experts at the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) released information about the “Healthy Eating Plate”. The Healthy Eating Plate is their alternative to the U.S. government’s “MyPlate”, which addresses shortcomings in their model. Based on credible science and third-party research, the Healthy Eating Plate model provides new and improved information for those of us who are looking to maintain a healthy weight, prevent disease and sustain a good quality of life.
The Healthy Eating Plate
The Healthy Eating Plate is based on the latest scientific evidence which shows that a plant-based diet rich in vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats and healthy proteins lowers the risk of weight gain and chronic disease.
The sections of the Healthy Eating Plate include:
- Vegetables: Eat an abundant variety or vegetables. Limited consumption of potatoes is recommended.
- Fruits: Choose a rainbow of fruits every day.
- Whole Grains: Choose whole grains, such as oatmeal, whole wheat bread, and brown rice.
- Healthy Proteins: Choose fish, poultry, beans, or nuts, which contain healthful nutrients. Limit red meat and avoid processed meats.
- Healthy Oils: Use olive, canola, and other plant oils in cooking, on salads, and at the table. Limit butter and avoid trans fats.
- Water: Drink water, tea, or coffee (with little or no sugar). Limit milk and dairy (1-2 servings per day) and juice (1 small glass a day) and avoid sugary drinks.
(For more information on the Harvard School of Public Health press release click here.)
The aim of the Healthy Eating Plate is to illustrate one way to put together a healthy meal that fits within the guidelines of the Healthy Eating Pyramid.
Healthy Eating & Exercise
Interestingly enough exercise, movement or physical activity are not on the “Rule of Threes” for survival. That would explain why only 15% of the population belong to a fitness facility or health club while the remaining 85% are not motivated enough to move on a regular basis.
Focusing on exercise alone is “putting the cart before the horse” if you are looking at long term success changing and improving your body and expecting long lasting results. For example, why buy an Andromeda Red Lamborghini if you are going to put unleaded gas in the tank, fill it up on empty each and every time and never change the oil? The car may look impressive on the outside but under the hood the engine is working at 50% and is destined for a trip to the mechanic before your know it.
Your body is a beautifully constructed machine. Invest in the highest quality fuel (reduce the amount of processed and refined foods and choose real foods and drink adequate amounts of water) to avoid the build up of impurities in the body that diminish performance and improvements to your health. Quality ingredients that you take in also result in quality building blocks that help to build and change the makeup of your body. It is the equivalent to choosing linoleum or marble tile for your kitchen floor.
Real Food, Real Budgets & Limited Time
Choosing real foods to fuel our bodies is the logical choice. If everyone could do this there would be a Whole Foods on every street corner and Burger King would not exist. Unfortunately, real food costs significantly more than the processed alternatives available on grocery store shelves and fast food outlets. With the state of the economy as it is today and the pressure to get value for our dollar many are hesitant to sacrifice large portions of their budget for food when there are many other responsibilities to consider.
Real food takes time to cook and prepare. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (2011), roughly 50% of the U.S. population prepare food on a daily basis and spend an average of 35 minutes. That’s hardly the amount of time and effort that went into the meals cooked prior to the days of the microwave and TV dinners. For those of you who can dedicate the time to preparing meals for the dinner table the benefits are significant. For those of you who are unable to simply find the time to cut, chop, peel, bake or grill there are alternatives that might work into your busy lifestyle.
Foods Prepared at a Local Food Market
Natural food stores not only provide high quality ingredients but many offer prepared foods (hot and cold) that are an ideal option for the person “on the go”. Many large chains have multiple locations across the country which can make it convenient and cost effective to grab meals on your way to and from work.
Freshly Prepared Foods Ordered Online
For those of us who don’t have access to local natural food stores there are online ordering options with high quality foods that are prepared, sealed and shipped right to your door at a price point that won’t break the bank.
Next Steps …
If you are looking to get the most out of your workouts and providing the best fuel for your body, the Healthy Eating Plate is a good place to start. Making a commitment to good eating is a conscious choice and there are options to make it realistic and sustainable.