Eating Right During Stressful Times … and For Life – Macronutrient Balance

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June 8, 2020

Let’s start with a quick review!  

The foods that we eat are made up of macronutrients, micronutrients, and phytochemicals. Macronutrients include carbohydrates and dietary fiber, proteins, and fats. Almost ALL foods are a combination of these macronutrients. It is important that we do NOT categorize foods by their dominant macronutrient. Foods are foods…. each with their own unique nutritional value.

Here are “FOOD” examples – 

Dairy:Popular dairy foods include milk, yogurt and cheese. These foods are made up of carbohydrate, protein and fats. But not always. There are many dairy foods that have reduced fat or no fat including skim milk or fat free yogurt. 

Legumes – Beans and Peas:Beans are often considered a protein but they are actually a combination of carbohydrate and protein. Naturally low in fat or fat free they are an excellent source of nutrition including fiber. 

Fruits and Veggies:Recently, fruits and some vegetables have gotten a bad rap because they fall into the category of carbohydrates. This is unfortunate as fruits and vegetables are an extremely valuable source of micronutrients and fiber. Yes, some are high in sugar but these are naturally occurring sugars, NOT added/processed sugar. Also keep in mind that there are fruits and vegetables that are good sources of protein like edamame, corn, potatoes, asparagus and brussel sprouts to name a few. And good sources of healthy fats like avocado, olives, coconut and soybean products such as tofu.

Meats, Fish and Eggs:Chicken, beef, lamb, shellfish all fall into this category but are more widely called “proteins”. These foods are actually a combination of protein and varying levels of fats. Salmon and certain cuts of steak may be high in fat while chicken or pork may be much lower. 

Grains:Similar to fruits, grains including breads and cereals have been controversial with the influx of popular protein-based diets. Good news is that we do not need to be afraid of and restrict grains! Whole grains are the healthiest grains because they are one of the best sources of fiber which is so essential for a healthy digestive system. Wheat is the most commonly consumed whole grain, but there are many other types of healthy grains, such as spelt, barley, oats, and quinoa.

Nuts and Seeds: Often forgotten about because they don’t fit into a traditional food group category, nuts and seeds are an excellent source of nutrition. They are a combination of carbohydrate, protein and healthy fat.

Oils: This is probably the only food group that is strictly only one macronutrient… 100% fat! There are many types of oils each with their own unique balance of fats (saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated).

To create a healthy diet, we need a wide variety of FOODS from all food groups. For a sound balance of nutrients, I recommend the following breakdown of macronutrient intake:

50-60% from carbohydrates

20-25% from protein

20-30% from fats

25-35 grams of fiber

Here are a few additional simple healthy eating guidelines:

–       Everybody’s body is different and our intake needs to be based on personal preferences and tolerances.

–       As I shared above, be careful NOT to categorize foods as a macronutrient especially if it leads to restricting entire food groups.

–       Use an online food journaling program like to learn the value of the foods you choose and how they fit together to create well-balanced eating. 

–       Look at the bigger picture of overall nutritional value from a full days’ worth of foods or even over an entire week rather than one specific food or one meal. 

Upcoming topics will include:

Anti-inflammatory foods

Healthy Microbiome

Building Healthy Eating Patterns – hunger and fullness, portions, timing and snacking, and

Managing Cravings – Mindful Eating – sugar, emotional eating and confrontation strategies. 

For specific questions, please email Jody Miller at [email protected].

Tags: nutrition, macronutrients, micronutrients, fiber