Many people have no idea what healthy food consists of. I have made a few guidelines of how much you need to eat of what and will also show what foods you should eat.
Please note that the guidelines I handle will be enough for a lot of people on average. This does not mean that it is actually enough for every individual, so keep that in mind! I have come up with 8 groups of nutritious foods and added the amount of portions I think you will need, what foods are in the group and what nutrients the foods will deliver.
In this group you will find some of the following products: whole bread and pasta, brown rice, (sweet) potatoes, legumes, muesli, oatmeal, amaranth, quinoa and more.
This group supplies proteins, complex carbohydrates (starch), fibers, vitamins and minerals. Foods from this group will be a big part of your diet. Popular weight loss diets often say carbohydrates are bad and make you fat, but we need a lot of carbohydrates for optimal health and it is a great way to get lots of nutrients.
In this group you will find some of the following products: basically every vegetable you can think of is good for you. Eat a wide variety of fresh, frozen, canned vegetables or even vegetables from a jar*.
This group supplies complex carbohydrates, a various amount of vitamins and minerals, water and fibers. They are low in fat and low in calories.
Choose different vegetables every day to benefit from all the different health promoters that these foods contain. You do not have to eat all portions in just one meal. You can spread it throughout the day, so eat some vegetables at breakfast, some carrots as part of a snack, cooked vegetables at dinner and some raw vegetables with a bread meal.
* Whenever you eat vegetables or legumes from a can or jar, you should make sure to wash them and drain the water. This will get rid of the excessive sodium that is often added to those products.
In this group you will find some of the following products: Bananas, apples, grapes, cherries, pears, strawberries, black currant, kiwi, oranges, tangerines, etc.
Name a fruit and it is probably full of nutrients. Try, again, to get some variety in your choices of food and try out something new every once in a while.
This group supplies simple carbohydrates, but with lots of vitamins, minerals and fibers. Try to consume fruits around your workouts and for breakfast to avoid possible negative effects of the fruit sugars.
Be careful with canned fruits which often have a lot of syrup or sugar added. Fresh fruits are your best bet!
Do not eat too much fruit as this can cause diarrhea due to the fruit sugars. More than 4-5 pieces of fruit a day (400-500 grams) is often unnecessary and can bring with some negative effects for some of us.
In this group you will find some of the following products: milk, cheese, yoghurt, cottage cheese, curd, kefir and more.
These products will supply: calcium, phosphorus, some sodium, animal proteins, various vitamins (in some countries milk is fortified with vitamin A and D).
A big problem with milk products is that most people can not digest the milk sugar. Indigestion of milk sugar (lactose) is called lactose intolerance in which a person can not digest lactose. A lot of people are also allergic to milk products (because of the protein). However, most of us still need a good amount of calcium.
If you do not consume milk products make sure to get calcium from other foods like: fortified products like soy milk, fortified orange juice, salmon, mackeral and sardines (especially the bones), sesame butter and a bunch of vegetables. Some people with lactose intolerance can, however, eat cheese (low in lactose) and yoghurt (negative effects of the intolerance are fought off by bacteria in yoghurt).
Always choose the leanest possible product if it comes to dairy products. Milk, cheese, yoghurt, cottage cheese, kefir and curd should all be eaten in the leanest version (preferably 0% fat).
In this group you will find some of the following products: olive oil and other oils to cook with that are high in unsaturated fats and low in saturated fats (see nutrition label). Also margarines and baking oils with low saturated fats (less than 15 grams saturated fat per 100 gram / ml) and if possible, fortified with vitamin A, sometimes D and omega 3 fatty acids.
These products will supply: a lot of calories, unsaturated fats, vitamins and essential fatty acids (omega 3 acids to name one).
Use these products in moderation, but do not shy away from them. Use oil or a baking product that is not processed to cook your meat, fish or vegetables and put some fortified margarine on your bread. Fats are needed to use the vitamins A, D, E and K from your nutrition. Without an adequate amount of fat you will get shortages of those vitamins which will have bad responses on your health!
Products in this group include: all sorts of meat, poultry, fish and other seafood. Eggs and meat replacing products like soy beans, tofu, vegetarian burgers, etc.
These products supply: high quality animal proteins (in case of meat, poultry, fish and eggs), high quality plant proteins (in case of vegetarian products), some vitamins, lots of minerals (like zinc and iron) and calories.
Choose lean products like chicken or turkey breast, lean cuts of meat from all kinds of animals (pork meat often has a bad name, but contains as much fat as other lean meat if you pick the low fat parts of the animal!).
A good meat replacing product always contains some zinc and especially iron.
You will not need to eat excessive amounts of meat or animal products in order to get enough protein. Protein from vegetarian products like bread, legumes, vegetables, nuts and seeds will also deliver a good amount of protein. Proteins from different sources will complete each other (see ‘nutrition’ for more information).
Products in this group include: water and tea. Everything you drink delivers water, but rather choose low calorie drinks without added sugar like plain water and tea.
These products supply: water. Depending on what you drink it also contains sugar, calories, artificial flavours etc.
Preferably drink water and tea without anything added or some lean milk (see group 4: dairy). Drinking 1 liter of cola will give you tons of calories and no nutrients (this is called ‘empty calories’).
In some countries it might not be safe to drink tap water. You could boil the water before drinking or you could buy bottled water which is usually more expensive. Try to find out whether your drinking water is safe or not and never drink water out of tap in a foreign country! If you are from America, do not drink water out of tap when you are in Spain and also be careful with salads and ice-cream you eat if you are there on a holiday!
Products in this group include: nuts and seeds, peanuts, peanut butter, nut butter, dried fruits like raisins or apricots.
These products supply: A wide range of nutrients depending on what product you take. All of the listed foods are high in fiber, vitamins and minerals and calories. Nuts and seeds are high in good, unsaturated fats and dried fruits are high in simple carbohydrates and minerals (like potassium and some iron).
Eat products out of this group when you already have enough products out of the first 7 groups and simply need some more calories or nutrients. They are healthy snacks full of nutrients and calories.
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