These guidelines take the guesswork out of a perfect day of eating
What to eat for any given meal can be a tough decision, with all of the conflicting nutrition advice out there. (Carbs are bad! Whole grains are good! But gluten is bad! And what about fat?) Joel Fuhrman, MD, advises on how you can plan your meals so that they contain all of the best stuff and less of the bad!
“First, I recommend taking the focus off of macronutrients (fat, carbohydrate, and protein), and shifting the focus to micronutrients (vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytochemicals),” he says. “It is not the ratio of carbohydrate, protein, and fat that determines our health.” He believes it is better described with the equation Health=Nutrients/Calories. In other words, for excellent health, focus on foods rich in nutrients for their number of calories.
The easiest way to achieve this balance, he says, is through a diet based around whole plant foods. He’s not saying you need to go vegetarian or vegan (meat- and dairy-free). But if you focus on nutrient-dense foods (think: “nutritarian”), they will displace some of the others. “Whole plant foods, because of their high micronutrient and fiber content, help to blunt your appetite and suppress food cravings,” he says. “You will be eating for optimal health, and your body will find its ideal weight automatically without calorie-counting, hunger, or deprivation.” All fruits and vegetables are good choices but you can remember which foods have the highest nutrient-to-calorie ratio with Dr. Fuhrman’s G-BOMB acronym: Greens, Beans, Onions (and garlic), Mushrooms, Berries (and pomegranate), and Seeds. Here, Dr. Fuhrman’s guidelines for an ideal day of eating:
- 1-2 servings of fruit: “Berries and pomegranate are the fruits richest in micronutrients and anti-cancer compounds,” he says. “So try to include them often.”
- Omega-3 fatty acids: Try walnuts, flax, hemp, or chia seeds. Your body can’t make these essential heart- and brain-healthy nutrients, so make an effort to include them in your diet. Blend them into a smoothie or serve them on top of your morning cereal.
- Whole grain (optional): You’ll get a healthy dose of B vitamins and filling fiber. Try oatmeal or whole-wheat toast.
- Vegetables: Go for a big serving of veggies midday and you’ll be on right track for nutrient-calorie balance. Try a big bowl of steamed vegetables, a stir-fry, or a large salad.
- A healthful source of fat: Healthy whole-food fats like olive oil and safflower oil are important—they help your body absorb nutrients from greens and also work to keep your heart healthy. Try Dr. Fuhrman’s website for some healthy seed- and nut-based salad dressing recipes.
- Beans: Fuel yourself midday with some filling plant-based fiber and protein. Try some beans on top of a salad or in a bowl of vegetable bean soup on the side.
- Fruit for dessert: Satisfy any sweet cravings with another nutrient-dense food.
- Vegetables: Begin with a vegetable dish like a salad or raw vegetables with a healthy dip.
- Vegetables, and more vegetables: Stay on the H=N/C track with a vegetable-based main dish. Dr. Fuhrman suggests cooked greens, onions, and mushrooms (recognize the G-BOMBS?) served over wild rice or squash, or some steamed vegetables topped with a nut-based cream sauce.
- 1–2 ounces of animal products: Limit animal products to act more like a condiment in your meal, not a main source of calories, he recommends. Think a healthy chili atop a sweet potato with a big salad on the side.
- Fresh fruit or a fruit-based dessert: As with lunch, fruit can round out your meal to satiate any lingering cravings. Try a berry sorbet or apple cinnamon crisp.