Nutrition Confusion? 3 Simple Tips Make It Easy!

Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Weighs In

   It happens all the time when I'm out at an event or speaking to a community group about food, nutrition, and health--invariably I get the question that goes something like this: "I understand that I need to eat healthy, but my life is so busy that I kind of slack off. Isn't there an easy way to do this?"

   Food is a big part of our lives, so knowing how to quickly and easily navigate some nutrition basics can save a lot of time AND make you feel and perform better. Plus, once you demystify the data, you can put some quick go-to strategies in place so that when your life gets hectic, your nutrition isn't derailed. Here are three simple tips to help you navigate the nutrition confusion, and a few strategies for keeping it together when things get busy:

  1. Don't neglect your protein! There is a substantial body of evidence that shows nutrients such as protein can help satisfy your hunger and maintain a healthy weight, build and maintain muscle, and fuel a healthy and active lifestyle.* Right there you've dealt with some biggies. Lean protein is crucial, so here are some lean protein examples to keep handy; you can take it a step further and arm yourself with a couple of quick, easy recipes for each one so you have a go-to when you're in a hurry: 95% lean ground beef ; lean beef steak like Top Sirloin or Strip Steak ; baked lean pork chop; roasted chicken breast or leg, skin removed; or smoked/cured lean ham. Eggs and seafood are also great sources of protein.
  2. You've heard it before, but seriously, pay attention to the fruits and veggies! Sometimes it's easy to slack off here, especially if your kids are picky eaters . But introducing a variety of fruits and veggies pays big nutritional dividends, develops healthy habits, and spares you the dinner melt-down. You can do quite a bit of kid-friendly stuff with veggies !
  3. Pay attention to what is going into that shopping cart! If you think about your strategy before you go to the grocery store, you'll have a plan, a list, and less chance of loading your shopping cart with too much sugar, too many "filler foods" (think chips, crackers, cookies) and not enough meal-time basics to get you where you need to be when the troops are hungry. And if you keep some of the basics around, you can throw together something like a wrap as a grab-and-go option when the kids need something on their way to practice.

   A little pre-planning and some handy recipes go a long way. Just don't get confused by fad diets; good nutrition is part of a healthy lifestyle, and there's no short-cut!

James Winstead is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist with the California Beef Council and the Nevada Beef Council, and is Community Outreach Chair of the California Dietetic Association's Northern Area Dietetic Association (NADA). He can be reached at james@calbeef.org .

*Footnotes 1-6
1. U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010. 7th Edition, Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, December 2010. Available at: http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/Publications/DietaryGuidelines/2010/PolicyDoc/PolicyDoc.pdf.
2. Westerterp-Plantenga MS, et al. Dietary protein, metabolism, and body-weight regulation: dose-response effects. Int J Obes 2006;30:S16-S23.
3. Paddon-Jones D, et al. Protein, weight management, and satiety. Am J Clin Nutr 2008;87:1558S-61S.
4. Paddon-Jones D, et al. Role of dietary protein in the sarcopenia of aging. Am J Clin Nutr 2008;87:1562S-6S.
5. Wolfe, R. The underappreciated role of muscle health and disease. Am J Clin Nutr 2006;84:475-82.
6. Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. 2010. Report of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010, to the Secretary of Agriculture and the Secretary of Health and Human Services. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agriculture Research Service, Washington, DC.



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The California Beef Council was established in 1954 to serve as the promotion, research and education arm of California's beef producers, and is mandated by the California Department of Food and Agricultural Code.

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Introducing a variety of fruits and veggies pays big nutritional dividends, develops healthy habits, and spares you the dinner melt-down. You can do quite a bit of kid-friendly stuff with veggies!
James Winstead, RDN