The Healthy Eating Placemat: A Visual Guide To Healthy Eating

QUESTION: Right now we are all bombarded with every kind of vegan or plant-based diet in the world. How would you capsulize Jeff Novick’s recommendations?


I have really been thinking about that lately and how best to describe the principles of a healthy diet, and I think, plant-centered, minimally processed, calorie dilute, low SOS & variety, really sums it all up. It’s not just vegan, vegetarian or plant-based because one could have a pretty bad vegan, vegetarian or plant-based diet. So I like to say “plant- centered” but I also add that it should be minimally processed. I don’t say “whole” or “unprocessed” as not all processing is bad. Processing per se isn’t what’s hurtful, it’s processing that either detracts from the value of the food (i.e., refining) or adds something that is potentially harmful, (i.e., salt, sugar, etc.).


So plant-centered, minimally processed, and then calorie dilute, because so much food has become so calorie dense which is a major contributing factor for obesity and many other diseases. The fourth principle is a diet low in SOS, which is salt, oil/fat and sugar. Even if you have a plant-centered, minimally processed, calorie-dilute diet and you cover it with salt, sugar, and oil, it is not healthy. I’m not going to say none, but low, as it isn’t all or nothing. Last but not least, variety. We want a variety of foods, over time, from each food group. It does not have to be at every meal. People get caught up in the Super-Food concept and the only vegetable they will eat is kale, or the only fruit they will eat is blueberries, etc., etc. However, the best way to insure nutritional adequacy is to consume a variety of foods in each of the food groups.


I think these two set of guidelines sum it all up and are outlined in the graphic below.


The Five Pillars of Healthy Eating:

"A Common Sense Approach To Nutrition"


1) Plant-Centered - Center your plate and your diet around minimally processed plant foods (fruits, vegetables, starchy vegetables, roots/tubers, intact whole grains, and legumes (beans, peas & lentils).


2) Minimally Processed - Enjoy foods as close to "as grown in nature" with minimal processing that does not detract from the nutritional value &/or add in any harmful components

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3) Calorie Dilute - Follow the principles of calorie density choosing foods that are calorie adequate, satiating and nutrient sufficient.


4) Low S-O-S - Avoid/minimize the use of added Salts/sodium, Oils/Fats and Sugars/sweeteners


5) Variety - Consume a variety of foods in each of the recommended food groups.


The Principles of Calorie Density:

How to Eat More, Weigh Less & Live Longer


1) Hunger & Satiety - Whenever hungry, eat until you are comfortably full. Don't starve and don't stuff yourself.


2) Sequence Your Meals - Start all meals with a salad, soup and/or fruit. This way, you fill up on the foods lowest in calorie density and less likely to overeat on foods higher in calorie density

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3) Don't Drink Your Calories - Avoid liquid calories. Eat/chew your calories, don't drink or liquefy them. Liquids have little if any satiety so they do not fill you up as much as solid foods of equal calories.


4) Dilution is the Solution - Dilute Out High Calorie Dense Foods/Meals (The 50/50 Rule) - Dilute the calorie density of your meals by filling 1/2 your plate (by visual volume) with intact whole grains, tubers, starchy vegetables and/or legumes and the other half with vegetables and/or fruit.


5) Be Aware of the Impact of Vegetables vs Fat/Oil - Vegetables are the lowest in calorie density while fat and oil are the highest. Therefore, adding vegetables to any dish will always lower the overall calorie density of a meal while adding fat and oil will always raise the overall calorie density of a meal


6) Limit High Calorie Dense Foods - Limit (or avoid) foods that are higher in calorie density. These include dried fruit, high fat plant foods (nuts, seeds, avocados), processed whole grains (breads, bagels, crackers, dry cereal, tortilla's, popcorn, etc). If you use them, incorporate them into meals that are made up of low calorie dense foods and think of them as a condiment to the meal. For example, add a few slices of avocado added to a large salad, or a few walnuts or raisins added in a bowl of oatmeal and fruit.


In addition, include about 30-60 minutes of activity a day (including some aerobic, resistance and flexibility exercise), aim for a BMI of around 18.5-22 and get enough sleep, rest, relaxation, recreation, fresh air, pure water, etc and enjoy life!



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