In my role of helping my clients with their nutrition I’ve found some common issues that most of them face.
Let’s face it. There’s a lot of information out in the media, some good, some bad, some downright false, but one thing that I think most people would agree on is that we could eat better than we do.
And when I have that conversation with folks it usually leads to a discussion on what exactly does it mean to eat “better”?
The truth is, there is no one set answer. It all depends on the person and their current eating habits. While not universal, it’s pretty safe to say most Americans eat far too many carbohydrates (especially sugar) and don’t focus on their overall nutrition and health needs. In other words, too much junk food and not enough real food.
A recent study I read from the University of North Carolina found nearly 60 percent of older adults who were admitted to the hospital were found to be either malnourished or at least showed some signs of it.
The study didn’t find that they weren’t eating enough necessarily but that they weren’t eating enough of the right foods. In short, they were eating enough calories but the food they were consuming didn’t actually nourish the body. In my experience that’s true for many American adults. Sadly, it’s true also for many children.
In working with folks I’ve identified three things most people don’t consume enough of in their diet, things that can help them not only live longer but have a happier and healthier life.
Protein — When I work with folks this is one of the biggest nutrition weaknesses I see. Protein is essential to our health and well-being. It helps us to build muscle, maintain our bones, and skin and helps us make the enzymes, hormones and other things we need to survive.
The USDA recommends the average person to get between 10 to 35 percent of their calories in protein each day. Yet, I see many who don’t even hit five percent.
Most people I have found build their meals around carbohydrates.
Instead most Registered Dieticians I know recommend that you build your meals (including snacks) around protein.
What kinds of protein? Things like lean meats, fish, beans, lentils, and eggs. For those that struggle to meet their needs perhaps it’s appropriate to add a protein smoothie or shake.
Fiber — Several studies have shown that Americans don’t’ consume anywhere near enough fiber in their diet. This is problematic as fiber is crucial to our digestive process and a lower risk of heart disease.
Generally it is recommended that men eat 30 to 38 grams of fiber each day and women about 25 grams. Yet on average most Americans eat less than 15 grams each day according to the Institute of Medicine.
And with our, eat on the go mentality and tendency to snack it only seems to be getting worse.
How can you add more fiber to your diet? The best way is to consume real food especially fruits and vegetables (no juicing). Choose whole grains such as brown rice, oatmeal, bulgur and quinoa instead of refined things like white rice. And when buying bread skip the processed white bread and opt for one that is made from those whole grains.
Water — Yes. Water. But wait you say, water is something we drink it’s not a nutrient. Au contraire!
The truth is water is THE most important part of our diet. Without it we die. In fact we can survive for as many as three weeks without food but if you have no water for three days you’re a goner.
And many studies have shown that Americans are dehydrated, chronically dehydrated with as many as 75 percent of us not drinking enough fluid and water.
This can lead to a host of problems including: fatigue, headaches, joint pain, ulcers and high blood pressure just to name a few.
So, how much should you drink?
Again it depends on the person, there is no set number but a generally accepted rule of thumb is to consume half your body weight in ounces of water each day.
In other words a 200-pound person should be drinking 100 ounces of water each day.
And to answer the question many of you are thinking…. Yes you’ll be in the bathroom every hour at first but your body will adapt and ultimately thank you with better health.
There are a host of other things we American’s could do to improve our health and well being by eating better but start with these three.
They can go a long way toward giving your body what it needs to survive and thrive and once you’ve done that you can focus on improving in those other areas.
Dan Romand is co-owner and trainer at Full Circle Fitness-NY in Albany and Saratoga Springs.