BY: Dasha Anderson, MS, NASM-PES

How to Change Your Nutrition for Optimal Health

Understanding nutrition: Beyond just counting calories

Nutrition is not solely about limiting caloric intake. It’s equally crucial to focus on the quality and nutritional value of the foods consumed. Here’s a balanced guide to help you navigate the intricate landscape of healthy eating.

Prioritizing nutrient density

While reducing calorie intake can lead to weight loss, it’s essential to ensure the retained calories come from nutrient-rich sources. This approach not only helps in maintaining overall health but also ensures that muscle mass is preserved during the weight loss journey.

Balancing muscle and fat loss

A common misconception is equating weight loss with health, since it’s crucial to distinguish between muscle and fat loss. Muscle plays a vital role in metabolic health and physical strength. Thus, combining a nutrient-rich diet with strength-based training can maximize fat loss while maintaining or even building muscle.

Choosing the right nutrients

The body benefits from a balanced intake of good fats, proteins, and carbohydrates tailored to individual needs. By focusing on these nutrients and reducing refined sugars and empty calories, one can manage sugar cravings more effectively.

Considerations for a healthy diet

Macronutrient awareness:

While it’s not necessary to obsessively count every calorie, understanding one’s macronutrient requirements (proteins, fats, carbohydrates) can be beneficial. This knowledge provides a framework for making informed dietary choices.

Strength training:

Cardiovascular exercise has its merits, but for those looking to improve body composition, strength training is key. A systematic and progressive strength training program can drive significant transformation in body composition.

Beware of empty calories

  • Hidden sugars: Sugar can be found in many unsuspected foods. It’s essential to read labels carefully and look out for names like sucrose and fructose. On average, a person consumes between 10-20 teaspoons of hidden sugar daily. It’s more healthful to derive sweetness from natural sources like fruits.
  • Hydrogenated fats: Often present in processed foods such as chips and fried items, hydrogenated fats are best avoided due to their potential adverse health effects.
  • Refined grains: Products might be labeled as “healthy” but could still contain processed flour. Terms like “enriched flour” should be approached with caution.
  • Limiting processed foods: While not all packaged foods are harmful, it’s good practice to ensure at least 80% of one’s diet is fresh and unpackaged. Fresh produce, lean proteins, and whole grains are reliable choices.

Smart grocery shopping

Navigating the grocery store with health in mind can be simplified. Prioritize fresh produce, lean proteins, and whole grains. For packaged foods, it’s essential to read labels carefully so that you understand the ingredients and nutritional content. This informed approach can lead to healthier food choices and better overall health.

Dasha L Anderson is a celebrated trainer and fitness expert in New York City, with a master’s degree in exercise science and sports nutrition and a specialty in performance enhancement and injury prevention. She is also the founder and head certifying instructor of Kettlebell Kickboxing and has contributed to Self, Shape, Fitness Rx, and Epoch Times.

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