We’re helping you focus on what matters most with your nutrition. Below, we’ve highlighted the five most important elements of nutrition for your health.
We’ve ordered them from least important to most critical.
If you take only one thing away from this article, take this: It’s very easy to get sidetracked in the world of nutrition. When it comes to food, simple is better—just as it is with fitness training.
Read on to learn more about where your focus should be.
5. Nutrient Timing and Supplementation
Nutrient timing and supplementation are the least meaningful aspects of nutrition for the general population. Most people can achieve their health and fitness goals by focusing on food quality and long-term sustainability.
Timing and supplementation often distract us from the elements that really matter, and people sometimes “get lost in the weeds.” A healthy, balanced diet usually provides all the nutrients a person needs. If we get enough energy through well-planned, wholesome meals with a wide variety of foods, we’re well on our way to winning. No special powers or pills needed.
The caveat to this is nutrition for athletes. Timing certainly becomes more important, and supplementation can have more of an impact for the highest levels of performance. But even for athletes, these aspects don’t matter if you don’t focus on the four items below first.
4. Diversity of Food Intake
If we’re sourcing nutrient-dense, high-quality foods, there is some benefit to diversifying our intake within the food groups. This relates to the idea of “eating the rainbow”—a broad spectrum of colourful vegetables and fruits. Similarly, different types of lean meat and plant-based protein can have benefits.
Grocery shopping with a list and preparing your meals at home allows you to play with different ingredients and benefit from the different vitamins and minerals provided by a diverse intake.
If you like to cook or try new dishes, you can find all sorts of ways to eat healthy foods you’ve never tried before. For some, this novelty helps keep them interested in healthy eating.
3. Food Inclusivity
Optimal health is supported by choices from all the food groups (barring allergies, and sensitivities), and the inclusive approach offers the best chance to ensure our nutritional profile is balanced.
Inclusivity is also important with regard to less nutrient-dense foods. Some people will classify foods as “good” or “bad,” but moralizing food is a slippery slope that can have a significant effect on our physical, emotional and mental health. The restriction cycle that often results from moralizing foods makes adhering to any nutrition protocol difficult. It can lead to disordered eating, and other poor health outcomes.
With inclusivity, people are able to create plans that allow them to eat the foods they like and accomplish their goals. I’ve found these plans usually lead to greater long-term success than harsh, restrictive diets that ban certain foods.
2. Energy Balance, Macronutrients and Food Quality
These three elements can be considered of equal importance. Once we have established that we can adhere to our nutrition plan, we need to determine our energy requirement. How much energy do we require to optimize our health and performance?
This total energy requirement must include adequate protein intake, and it will need to take into account the best ratios of carbohydrates and fat based on our goals and personal preferences.
We also want to learn how to achieve an “80/20 balance” with food quality. Most of our food should come from whole food sources—80 percent of it. And the rest can be foods that are less nutrient dense. This relates to the point above: by prioritizing food quantity but practicing planning and inclusivity, we give ourselves a great chance for long-term success.
1. Adherence and Sustainability
The most important element of any nutrition protocol is simply personal adherence. If it’s a practical, science-based nutrition approach and you enjoy it, you can sustain it. And if you can sustain it, you will succeed.
The best plan is one you can stick to. Too often, we see the cycle of yo-yo dieting begin right here. Choosing to eliminate an entire food group, excessive caloric restriction detoxes and cleanses might help someone in the short term, but they almost always fail. In fact, research suggests these more extreme plans are very likely to end badly.
It’s the same with fitness: If you hate running, you’re not going to stick to a running program. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get fit another way. If you apply the same principle to eating, you can create a plan that works for you. Then you follow it and accomplish your goals while enjoying the amazing foods you like.
More than anything else, your plan must be something you can stick to. And we can help you create one!
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