What to Eat Wednesdays: Are Nutritionally Perfect Days Possible in an Imperfect Life?

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If you’ve followed this blog at all, then you know that over the last seven months or so, I’ve become a much healthier eater (and drinker, hello, water and club soda, cheers!). Alas, though, it’s a good thing I’m not aiming for perfection as there are still too many French fries and corn chips and not enough greens for my habits to qualify as anything more than “much improved.”

Sometimes, it’s consideration for my fellow dining mates. (Hey, friends, want a bite of my salad if I get one instead of fries? Hell, no! Okay, will you eat some of my fries if I get them? Hell, yes! Okay, then!) Sometimes, it’s just lazy choices — forgetting to ask the server to swap the fries for a salad. And perfection is hard when you have to eat a few dinners out each week for your partner’s work events or can’t make it to the store to pick up seven kinds of veggies to zoodle for dinner. But even as I write this, these start to sound like rationalizations more than absolute reality…

In truth, though, I really don’t want to aim for perfection — “really great” is close enough in my book. Still, as this challenge moves along, I thought it would be fun to try for a couple of “nutritionally perfect days” this week: days loaded with a rainbow of organic produce (mostly veggies, with berries in there, too); grass-fed beef or wild-caught fish (or shellfish…am I up for raw oysters for dinner?); organic dairy; some highly nutritious organic grains.

But this gets my mind racing with all sorts of questions that I struggle to answer: What is nutrition perfection? How many servings of each major food group (veggies and fruits, proteins, dairy, grains) do I need? Is an avocado a fruit or a fat? What the heck actually constitutes a serving, anyway? (This always screws me up, since I tend to eat overly large portions of everything.)

For years, I’ve been suspicious of the USDA’s nutrition guidelines. They seem to fly in the face of common sense and what we generally know about good nutrition (the skeptic in me can’t help but think they’re heavily weighted by lobbyists). I decide to construct a perfect day based on Harvard University’s School of Public Health guidelines because, well, it’s Harvard (and a former employer of mine) and because HUSPH developed this because it, too, was wary of the lobbying efforts behind the USDA campaigns.

The problem with the Harvard info, though, is that it breaks down what to eat simply as a plate: produce as half the typical dinner plate, protein on one quarter, and grains as the other quarter. What the hey??? While this is more helpful than having to measure out every ounce or gram of meat and beans (where do beans fit in, you ask? Proteins), it’s really easy to heap that stuff up. Come over to our place for dinner soon and you’ll see what I mean.

That’s why I turned to this article, on SFGate.com, which was an eye-opener. See, with the possible exception of melons, I generally tend to think that ‘one whole’ of a fruit or veggie is a serving. A pear, an apple, a celery stalk, a carrot. So, I’m blown away by the article which, in addition to leading me to believe that I need about nine servings of fruits and veggies daily, tells me that an apple is actually two (or three) servings. What??? I suppose it’s sort of good news — this means I likely get more servings of produce in each day than I thought. But it’s no wonder that I still battle a bit of bulge despite eating relatively healthfully and walking our dog at least five miles daily.

Given all this, here’s an overview of what I should eat each day to ensure something close to nutrition perfection (assuming that these things are either raw or cooked in healthful ways):

  1. Proteins: Primarily grass-fed, organic, wild-caught, free-range. About 80-85 grams daily (a little higher than average recommendations but as Doc tells me, hair needs protein). But what does that look like? I found this on Instagram, diagraming 30 gram servings of various foods in ways that I can relate to (I will never get nutrition right if I have to worry about grams). So, a little less than three of these daily (while I’ll likely never eat five eggs at once, I can do the math — about six grams per egg — and thus, can figure this out so it works better for me). Also, the gelatin I eat sometimes fits here, too, at six grams per tablespoon (and I aim for two daily).
  2. Fruit: I’ll plan on a cup of berries daily or a 1/2 cup berries and a 1/2 of another fruit (on days when I eat the gelatin, the berries or other fruit will be in that).
  3. Veggies: Here, I don’t think serving sizes count as much as the number and variety of servings — the more colors I hit on, the better. If I load my plate with Brussels sprouts and red peppers and eggplant and yams, I think I’ll be okay, as long as I get at least as many servings as I aim to (hello, 7-9).
  4. Dairy: Here, too, I found that 1-2 servings daily is all that’s recommended and I tend to knock that off by breakfast (1/2 cup plain whole-milk yogurt, 1 cup kefir with dried unsweetened coconut…but where does the coconut fit in??? Arghh!).
  5. Grains: According to SFGate.com here, I should aim for 2 1/2 ounces of whole grains daily. I don’t eat wheat, barley or rye and I avoid most gluten-free baked goods. But I can eat rice by the bucketful. The article tells me 1/2 cup of cooked rice or oatmeal or quinoa or the like counts as a serving. Suffice it to say that when I eat oatmeal with eggs scrambled into it some mornings, I usually make 3/4 cup uncooked oatmeal (so, about 2/14 cups cooked) with 2-3 eggs. Yeesh…

Already, I’m thinking that a nutritionally perfect day may leave me starving…but what if it just leaves me feeling good? Nourished? What if I aim for 2-3 ‘nutritionally perfect’ days a week? Could I fit even more comfortably in my clothes? Feel even better?

I think it’ll be fun to try. I’ll update during the week to let you know how it’s going.

Updates:

I hadn’t planned on it but decided to make Thursday my first attempt. Totally unprepared, which set me into a panic at first, but it went all right (though likely not perfect): Fruits and veggies: Rocked a variety with arugula, carrots, red onion, vidalia onion, mushrooms, summer squash, spinach, cauliflower, mango, and raspberries. Edamame, too, though that may be a protein. Proteins: Eggs, yogurt (protein and dairy), organic pork, and Vegan Smart (wasn’t planning on including this but was short on protein, short on time, and since Doc had approved this as part of my regimine, I thought it would be okay). Grains: One cup of brown rice. So, technically low on grains. Dairy: Organic kefir and organic whole-milk yogurt. Also went a little over with a tablespoon of butter (to sautee veggies and scramble eggs) and a tablespoon of half-and-half in my morning tea. Fats: Olive oil, walnuts (and the previously mentioned butter).

Lessons: While it’d be best to be prepared for this, I shouldn’t use that as an excuse. By going for a scrambled egg and veggie dinner, I used up both fresh and frozen veggies that I had on hand, got quality proteins. Also, I’m learning that I subconsciously move through life with a scarcity mentality and thus, feel moments of panic about food (and money, and other things). That may be key to my oversized portions. I’ll try to be conscious of that and reassure myself that there’s plenty of food, I’ve never gone hungry (for which I’m very grateful) and I can always go back for more if I really need it.

{Photo credit: Pixabay.com from Pexels.com, thank you!}

{Note: These are my own experiences with applied kinesiology, which clearly aren’t meant as medical advice for anyone else. But I know a lot of friends and family members are grappling with a huge variety of autoimmune issues and other ailments, so I’m happy to share my experiences. And if this is your first visit and you’d like to follow chronologically, click here. Otherwise, enjoy!}

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