What is a Nutritional Plan?

Nutritional-PlanA healthy eating and nutritional plan will help you lose or maintain body weight and lower your risk for heart disease, stroke and chronic health conditions.

In order to start a nutritional plan, you need to understand the three major nutrient groups: fats, proteins and carbohydrates. Then, you need to know how much of each of those nutrients you need to eat. You can then set up a nutritional plan using foods you like, using the percentages you need for each nutrient. This may sound complicated but actually becomes easy once you understand the basic food groups.

Fats – Not all fats are bad, nor are fats the sole reason for excess body weight. While some types of fat are bad for you, other fats are an essential part of healthy nutrition. Fat comes in several varieties: saturated fats, unsaturated fats (both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated) and trans-fats. Which are good for you?

  • Saturated fats are found in animal and some vegetable products. They are responsible for cholesterol and should be eaten in moderation.
  • Unsaturated fats, including polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats are necessary for proper functioning of the body. Essential Fatty Acids include Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids and are found in fish oils and olive oil. Fatty acids promote joint lubrication.
  • Trans-fats are man-made and chemically altered fats that have no nutritional value and produce the greatest health risks. Hydrogenated and partially-hydrogenated oils are high in trans-fats. Many cooking oils and fried foods contain trans-fats.

ProteinsProteins build and maintain muscle tissue and provide a number of essential amino acids required for bodily functions. Muscle fibers are constantly breaking down, even when you’re not exercising and protein consumption is essential to repair and maintain muscle. Protein can be obtained from meat and a number of vegetable sources and dairy products.

Carbohydrates – Carbohydrates, or carbs, are the primary source of energy for the body. When your body needs fuel it will use the available carbohydrates first, and convert and store carbs as fat. While many weight loss programs completely eliminate carbohydrates, carbs are necessary for energy and most metabolic functions from breathing to your heart beating.

A nutritional plan, (A balanced, healthy diet) should consist of:

carbohydrates (around 50%), a moderate amount of lean protein (30%) and minimal fats (20%). If you need to lose weight, decrease your carbohydrates and fat intake, and increase your proteins. If your goal is to gain weight and muscle mass, increase proteins and decrease carbs and fats. Nutrients have different caloric values. One gram of carbohydrates = 4 calories, 1 gram of proteins = 4 calories and 1 gram of fats = 9 calories.

Your healthy nutritional plan should include:

Carbohydrates from vegetables, grains, starches (potatoes), legumes and fruits. Proteins are best obtained from animal sources, lean meats, eggs and dairy products. The best sources of fats are fish oil and cold-pressed vegetable oils, such as extra-virgin olive oil.

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