These simple guidelines take the guesswork out of eating healthy, from breakfast to dinner and every bite in between.
Carbs are bad! Whole grains are good! But gluten is bad! And what about fat?
With all the conflicting nutrition advice floating around, it’s a wonder we eat anything at all. Joel Fuhrman, M.D., author of the New York Times bestseller The End of Dieting, is determined to make it easier to eat more of the good stuff and less of the bad.
“I recommend taking the focus off of macronutrients [fat, carbohydrates, and protein] and shifting it to micronutrients [vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants],” he says. “It’s not the ratio of carbohydrates, protein, and fat that determines our health.”
Dr. Fuhrman believes in this 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. That doesn’t mean you need to go completely vegetarian or vegan (meat- and dairy-free). But if you focus on nutrient-dense foods, 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,” Dr. Fuhrman says. “You will be eating for optimal health, and your body will find its ideal weight without calorie-counting, hunger, or deprivation.”
You’ll also have more energy for everyday activities and your favorite workout. (Be sure to check your SilverSneakers eligibility for free access to gyms and fun fitness classes. Already a SilverSneakers member? Find a location near you.)
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.
How does that translate into your meals? Here are Dr. Fuhrman’s simple guidelines for an ideal day of eating.
1 to 2 servings of fruit: “Berries and pomegranate are the fruits richest in micronutrients and anti-cancer compounds,” he says. “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 include them in your diet. Blend them into a smoothie, or sprinkle them on top of your morning cereal. Keep in mind that a little goes a long way when it comes to healthy fats.
Whole grain (optional): You’ll get a dose of B vitamins and filling fiber. Try oatmeal or whole wheat toast.
Vegetables: Go for a big serving midday, and you’ll be on the right track for nutrient-calorie balance. Think large bowl of steamed vegetables, stir-fry, or salad.
Healthy fats: Good 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 drizzling or misting 1 tablespoon of olive oil on a salad or cooked vegetables.
Fruit for dessert: Satisfy any sweet cravings with another nutrient-dense food. For variety, pick up delicious seasonal fruits that are on sale at your local store.
Vegetables: Begin with a salad or raw vegetables with a healthy dip.
More vegetables: Stay on the right side of Dr. Fuhrman’s equation with a vegetable-based main dish. He 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 to 2 ounces of animal products: Treat them like a condiment—not a main source of calories, Dr. Fuhrman says. 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.