Spring has sprung and with it brings a hopeful promise of warmer weather and longer days; both opportunities for improving your fitness and health. Locally, one of the biggest opportunities to improve your fitness is the annual Lilac Bloomsday Run. Whether you are training for this annual rite of spring or not, eating as if you are will bring big benefits. So, dive into this food plan!
The key to building a diet for fitness and health is to consume a variety of nutrient dense foods from the basic five food groups. At www.ChooseMyPlate.gov, you can get a personalized online food plan based on your estimated calorie needs. The plan defines the amount of fruits, vegetables, grains, protein and dairy foods you need for good health and fitness performance. For example, a daily food plan for 1,800 calories includes the following:
Fruit: 1 ½ cups fruit or fruit juice. In general, 1 cup of fruit or 100% fruit juice or ½ cup dried fruit can be considered as 1 cup. Fruit is a source of carbohydrate your body’s primary fuel source, but fruit is also rich in fiber, potassium and many vitamins, especially vitamin C.
Tip: Try a refreshing smoothie made with a banana, berries and orange juice! To boost your smoothie’s protein content try adding low-fat cottage cheese or yogurt. Balancing carbs with protein can sustain your energy and prevent you from getting too hungry.
Vegetables: 2 ½ cups. Any vegetable or 100% vegetable juice counts toward the vegetable group. Vegetables are an excellent source of vitamin C, beta-carotene, potassium, magnesium and many other vitamins and health protective substances.
Tip: Try a big bowl of baby spinach mixed with broccoli, peppers, tomatoes and carrots topped with chopped nuts, a small amount of feta cheese and a low-fat dressing.
Grains: 6 ounces. Grains are divided into 2 subgroups; whole and refined. Whole grains have a higher nutritional content because they contain the entire grain kernel. Refined grains have been milled to increase their shelf life and give a finer texture, but healthful nutrients like B vitamins, fiber and iron have been removed. Make half your grains whole grains. Examples include brown rice, quinoa, popcorn, bread or crackers made with whole wheat, rye or oatmeal listed as the first ingredient or whole wheat pasta. Whole grain breakfast cereals include Wheaties, Cheerios, Total, Kashi, Shredded Wheat and Oatmeal.
Tip: Replace white flour with King Arthur’s White Whole Wheat; it can be found in your local grocery store. Replace white pasta with Barilla Plus, a whole grain pasta high in fiber and protein.
Dairy: 3 cups. Dairy foods such as low-fat milk, yogurt and cheese are not only quick and easy sources of protein, they are also rich in Vitamin D and calcium. A diet rich in calcium and Vitamin D helps maintain strong bones, reduces the risk of osteoporosis, protects against high blood pressure, and may help prevent weight gain. Men and women 19-50 years old need 1,000 mg per day while post-menopausal women need 1,200-1,500 mg.
Tip: Read food labels for calcium content; it is reported as a percent of daily value which is 1,000 mg. For example, if the calcium content is 30% the product has 300 mg of calcium.
Meat and alternatives: Five one-ounce equivalents. This group provides protein, an important part of a weight loss regimen due to its role in increasing satiety. Protein also builds and repairs muscles especially important for those people engaged in more rigorous fitness training. In general, 1 ounce of meat, poultry or fish, 1 egg, 1 tablespoon of peanut butter, ½ ounce of nuts or ¼ cup cooked beans is equal to a one-ounce equivalent. If you are not vegetarian, try to include at least 8 ounces of cooked seafood per week to boost your intake of health promoting omega-3 fatty acids.
Tip: Soy beans are an excellent source of protein and fiber and can be added to salads or simply steamed. You can buy them in the pod or shelled.
If you are using your personalized food plan as a guide, you are on your way to better health and are likely fueling your body properly for fitness. Don’t just eat, eat better!
Stacey Trogdon, RD, CDE CHER Diabetes Educator