Healthy Eating 101

By Luke Pearce, Lead Nutritionist, B.Sc. Biology, PN-1, NASM-CPT
Inner Element Fitness Lead Nutritionist

Considering changing your eating or workout habits? Wondering where to start? Here, we tackle several frequently asked questions about how to eat healthier and improve fitness.


Do food combinations matter?

Plenty of internet health sites and articles talk a good game about how combining certain foods at meal time have health benefits. In general, however, there is insufficient scientific data to support these claims.

In reality, 95 percent of us need to focus on eating the right foods every day, and which foods do and do not belong in the mix of choices. The remaining five percent, including elite athletes who maintain top physical health, may benefit further because they’ve already mastered healthy eating.

Which foods should you eat or avoid?

Rather than seeing foods to only eat or avoid, try to find a balance that will support your goal.

If you aim to lose weight, you know you probably need to cut back on sugary foods, increase your protein and healthy fat intake, drink more water, and ensure you eat lots of veggies and fiber. But you also have a life and family with special occasions and situations where you won’t be able to control the food served. You need a plan that accounts for these scenarios, so you know what to do when they occur.

The key is to offset and rebalance. If you indulge (whether a few bites or a slice of cake), the trick is to adjust the food choices you make across the day to accommodate the indulgence and help you stay on track.

Knowing what to eat is in the palm of your hand.

When it comes to small changes to eat healthier, you have everything you need with you all the time.

Take a look at your hand.

When it comes to eating the right amount, your hand is a great measuring tool!

Women – The size of your palm (excluding your fingers and thumb) represents the amount of protein you should have on your plate. You’ll need a fist-sized amount of carbs. For veggies, cup your hands together to see how much you should be eating per meal. Use your thumb as your guide to measure your healthy fat volume.

Men – For protein, use two palms (no fingers or thumb) to measure an adequate amount of protein per meal. You’ll also need two fists’ worth of carbs, two cupped hands for veggies, and two thumbs’ worth of healthy fats on your plate.

This is how you can easily help visualize your portions.

There are no shortcuts to eating healthy.

The path to nutritional health is always the same, but you may enter it at a different place than someone else.

Eat toward a goal without stressing over it. Finding a balance between fueling the body and intuitive eating, where you visualize and know what foods and portions your body needs.

How accountability helps keep you on track.

Some folks may have to track their foods; others may succeed with the support or encouragement from an exercise or eating buddy, or from a food sponsor – someone you text or call when you’re feeling tempted to eat something that is not in your nutritional plan.

Whatever your goal, and the tools you use to achieve it, make sure they are sustainable. Six out of seven people who set a goal to lose weight achieve it. And then they undo their success within a few months or years because they don’t maintain the changes made to achieve their goal. The key is the diet after the diet and having an ongoing plan – or lifestyle – that maintains your achievement.

Preparation is key to a great workout.

Want to get the most out of your workout? Be sure to prepare your body ahead of your workout.

Science has found that it is more important to have a proper pre-workout meal with a healthy fat typically 90 minutes to two hours ahead. With proper fuel in your engine, you will be able to push yourself to be stronger, faster, and fitter.

Nutrient timing & how to use it.

When you work out, you tear muscle fibers. The first source of fuel your body burns are your glycogen stores. The next stores to be tapped are the fats in your body.

If you want to maximize your workout benefits and help your body recover faster, have a protein and carbohydrate within an hour or so of your workout, and avoid fats right after you finish working out.

Post-workout meals (within 90 minutes to two hours of your workout) should be protein-based and can involve sugar to replace the glycogen stores. The purpose is to replenish and recover.

You do not have to avoid (healthy) sugars right after your workout. In fact, fresh fruits and electrolyte drinks are faster for your body to digest and work to replenish the glycogen stores you’ve just burned through during the workout.

Pre-packaged meals can be another great resource. For instance, take chicken and rice. It is low in fat, high in protein, plus rice is low on the glycemic index and can be digested quickly.

When you don’t want anything heavy after working out, or if you need a quick meal option, try a protein shake or smoothie with fruit or berries for carb sources.

No matter what you choose, consistently preparing and replenishing your body with the right foods are key to achieving health goals. Need help defining goals and designing a personalized nutritional plan tailored to your health goals and lifestyle. Ask me

DISCLAIMER Please recognize the fact that it is your responsibility to work directly with your physician before, during, and after seeking fitness consultation. As such, any information provided is not to be followed without the prior approval of your physician. If you choose to use this information without the prior consent of your physician, you are agreeing to accept full responsibility for your decision. 

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