Friday, May 8, 2015

Nutrition - Top 5 Things to Remember

by Dr. Iva Lloyd, ND

It really should not be this difficult to figure out how to eat. Yet for many individuals, it is an ongoing struggle. Part of the problem is that food and eating have been driven more by media and marketing lately than research or common sense.

Although there are a lot more factors impacting the quality of food, the basics of how to eat healthy and how to ensure that you get the required nutrients from food have remained the same for years. They are:

#1: Eat Primarily To Be Healthy

To a large degree, many people associate food and eating with socializing or cravings, more so than with health. Too often food choices are made based on convenience, calories, colour, design and taste versus the nutritional value of the food.  It is very rare to find a cooking show or any food advertisements that highlight the nutritional value of the food, and often when they do it is more marketing than it is fact.

Food is the fuel for the body. It is the building block for every muscle, cell, tissue and fluid within the body. The saying "You are what you eat" is quite true.

The social aspect of eating is important, yet I encourage you to make the nutritional value of food as the most important quality. To eat for health involves following the other 4-guidelines and it involves listening to your body. If a food causes you gas, bloating, acne, diarrhea or other physical symptoms, it is probably not the best thing for you to eat.

#2: Eat From All The Food Groups

One of the most common trends right now involves people avoiding a specific food group, such as grains, vegetables or fats. This is especially true for younger children who are fussy eaters. Every food group has its value and the different food groups are not interchangeable.

It is virtually impossible to achieve overall health if you completely remove one of the main food groups. Healthy eating, at its most basic, involves eating food from all the different food groups. These different food groups include:

  • Protein
    • sources of complete protein include meats, eggs, dairy, nuts and seeds
    • incomplete sources of protein include legumes (beans), rice and some grains
    • required for structural component of cells and tissues, hormones, enzymes, immune system and basic building block of DNA. 
  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
    • include pears, apples, berries, grapes, bananas, oranges, etc.
    • provide the body with the required vitamins and minerals, especially the vitamins, which are required for every cellular function.
    • provide needed fiber for the body
  • Grains
    • include rice, wheat, oats, rye and other grains 
    • provide needed fiber and other nutrients
    • whole grains are healthier than refined grains (in other words - "avoid white flour and processed foods made from white flour")
  • Fats and Oils
    • good sources include nuts, seed, fish, butter and plant-based oils such as avocado oil, coconut oil, olive oil.
    • choose unsaturated fats and oils and avoid trans fats (mostly in processed foods)
    • oils are essential for joint health, healthy skin, brain function and many other essential bodily functions.

#3: Ensure Proper Portions of Each Food Group

The ideal portion for each food group is roughly the same for everyone. It is based on the nutrients that the body requires to function, repair, build and support health. The guideline is:

  • Breakfast: 1/2 carbohydrates, 1/4 lean protein, 1/4 fruit
  • Lunch: 1/2 vegetables, 1/4 lean protein, 1/4 starch (grains or starchy vegetables)
  • Dinner: 1/2 vegetables, 1/4 lean protein, 1/4 starch (grains or starchy vegetables)
  • Snacks, if needed, should be focused on vegetables, nuts and seeds. As much as possible, avoid snacks, especially for children, that are mostly grains or sweets.
  • You also require adequate water and the consumption of healthy fats and oils each day.
There are some health conditions that may require a different ratio of the food groups. Your naturopathic doctor will tell you if you require different portions of the food groups.

#4: Eat Regular Meals

Eating regular meals is required to balance blood sugar, to sustain energy and to assist with metabolism. The body functions better when it can count on you eating on regular schedule.

Ideally, most adults should eat three meals a day.  Snacks are primarily required for growing children, active younger adults and those individuals that require additional support balancing blood sugar. Older adults, and those that have difficulty digesting food, may require smaller meals, more frequently throughout the day. Some other general guidelines:

  • Keep the timing of your meals as consist as possible.  It can vary within a week, i.e., you always eat late two nights of the week, but week-over-week, try and maintain a schedule that the body can rely on.
  • Avoid "unconscious eating".  You know, the snacking that happens when you are bored or reading.  Many extra calories can be attributed to "unconscious eating".
  • Stop eating at least two hours before bedtime.  The body needs sufficient time to digest the food.  Late eating and unconscious eating are probably the two biggest factors associated with weight gain. Eating late is also associated with insomnia, disrupted sleep and heartburn.
  • Eat breakfast. Some people never eat breakfast and they seem to do just fine, but the majority of people will have more energy, will think better and will be more productive, if they eat breakfast AND if the breakfast is balanced (i.e,, has healthy grains, protein and fruit). 
  • For many reasons - weight, blood sugar, balance mood and nervous system, overall health - do NOT start or end your day with sugar.  

#5: 75% Whole Food

Ideally 75% of the food you consume should consist of whole foods. Whole foods include fresh fruits and vegetables, using the raw forms of grains and legumes (i.e., cooking rice from scratch) and choosing non-processed meat.

Packaged food generally will contain more additives, more salt or more sugar- things you don't want!
As much as possible avoid the following:
As much as possible choose foods that are;
  • Local. Food that is locally grown will be fresher and will have higher nutritional value. The nutritional value of fruits and vegetables decreases the longer the time between when the fruit and vegetables are picked/harvested and when they are consumed.
  • Organic. Organic food will always have less pesticides and herbicides and will not have added hormones or antibiotics.
There is a difference between healthy food and food that is healthy for you. Each person has their unique constitution and health concerns.  If you are allergic or intolerant to any foods, you are best to avoid them. If you are unsure of the foods that you react to, ask your naturopathic doctor for a blood test to determine the foods your body reacts to.

Nutrition provides the needed building blocks for health. If you would like to learn more about what you can do to eat for health, work with your naturopathic doctor.  To learn more about nutrition, checkout  

Check out our website for a number of additional handouts on food and healthy eating. Including handouts on acid-alkaline diet, energetic properties of foods, food introduction schedules for infants, and many others.

2015 Guide to Health Series

Check out the other topics on our Guide to Health Series. Each month we will he highlighting the top five things you need to know about each topic. The topics that will be covered include:

January - Water
February - Breathing
March - Movement
April - Sleep
May - Healthy Eating
June - Hygiene and the Ability to Eliminate Toxins
July - Alignment and Posture
August - Alkaline lifestyle and personal care products
September - The Power of the Mind
October - Time Spent Outdoors
November - Addressing Environmental Factors
December - Healthy Relationships

As part of our Guide to Health Series, we will be offering in-house seminars on each topic. If you are unable to attend our seminars, we will be providing video highlights of some of the seminars on our website.

If you have any questions about nutrition that you would like us to address, please contact us at 

Let us know if you are joining us on the Guide to Health Series by sending us an email or by hitting the "like" logo on our blog.