Nutrition advice is about as ubiquitous as breathing. We’ve all sought it out at some point, just as we’ve all doled it out from time to time. Don’t deny it.
So why does something as simple as eating seem so complicated? Why are there conflicting guidelines? How are we supposed to know what’s healthy and what isn’t?
It’s time to cut through all the crap and deliver what’s taken me years of research and personal experience to figure out. It’s not complicated. It’s not complex. Healthy eating is very simple and can be summed up in a few nice equations.
Fat + Protein > Carbohydrates
You’ve probably heard of the Keto Diet by now. If not, you don’t have an Internet connection or have no friends in Crossfit. The gospel preached by Keto is that carbs are bad so basically avoid nearly all of them as much as possible. That’s over simplifying, but not far off.
But here’s the thing. Our bodies need carbohydrates. However, those of us who are children of the 80’s and 90’s will recall a Food Pyramid that recommended a trillion servings of grains each day. Just because we need carbohydrates, doesn’t mean we need a steady diet of bread and rice.
All you need to do is eat more fat and protein than carbohydrates. That’s literally it. I don’t care if your split is 51–49 or 90–10. Just get more calories from fat and protein than you do from carbs and you’re good.
Do you want to go full Keto and practically eliminate carbs? Go ahead. Do you want to try the Starch Solution and eat a ton of carbs? Great, just keep them to under 50% of calories. The important thing to keep in mind is that if you eat something high in carbs, you need to balance it out with something high in fat and/or protein.
Some refer to this as counting macros. Call it whatever you want. Just look at the food labels, or if eating produce, look it up online or on an app, and check out the nutrition information. You can find the fat, protein and carbohydrate levels of basically every food on earth whether it’s in a package or not.
Find those levels, and focus on getting your fat and protein higher than your carbs. That’s the first equation.
Plants > Animals
Not so fast Vegans, I’m not saying avoid all animal products. What I’m saying is that you should get more calories from plant sources than animal sources. Again 51–49 split or 90–10 split, you do your thing however you want to.
What’s important here is to make sure you eat a lot of plant based foods. Americans eat a lot of meat, eggs and dairy products. That’s fine. Just make sure you eat more plant foods than animal foods.
That might mean eating more plant based foods than you currently do. It might mean eating less animal based foods than you currently do. Whatever the case, just make it happen. One easy way is to try out whole plant food supplements, such as Pranin, Organixx or Balance of Nature.
And a quick note on dairy…it’s probably not a great choice. Lots of research suggests this, as well as my own experience. Dairy is known to cause inflammation (not a good thing). Many people around the world can’t tolerate dairy.
If you want to keep your milk, yogurt, cheese and ice cream then feel free. But personally I feel like limiting it is helpful to overall health, just as keeping all animal sources of food limited to less than half of calories is good for you.
Whole Foods > Processed Foods
The confusing part here is what constitutes “processed” exactly, as nearly everything available to eat is processed to some degree. Use your own judgment. Fruit snacks in a pouch are inferior to a bowl of strawberries. That’s obvious.
But what about frozen strawberries versus fresh strawberries? That’s not so black and white. So use your judgment. If you can get things in their freshest, organic form, then do it. If not, settle for the least processed foods available.
Another note about dairy…it’s all highly processed. That’s another reason to avoid it in my opinion.
Ultimately you’re not going to avoid all processed foods. That’s just a fact. So be sure you eat more whole foods than processed foods.
Variety = Good
This is a pretty straightforward equation. Eating nuts is good if you eat walnuts, almonds, pecans and other nuts, not just one type. Eating vegetables is good if you eat more than just spinach. To get a variety of vitamins and minerals your body needs, you have to eat a variety of foods.
Try eating things of all colors. It’s a good indicator that the nutritional profiles are different.
That’s literally all there is to it. You can try fads in meal timing like Intermittent Fasting if you want. You can try diets that rely heavily on some foods while excluding others.
As long as you are abiding by these four equations, you’ll be doing just fine. “But what about eating out?” Just do your best.
“But what about counting calories?” If you are eating a lot of plant based foods high in fat and protein that are minimally processed from a variety of sources, you won’t need to count any micros or macros. This essentially takes care of itself.
It really is the simplest eating plan that anyone can follow and implement.