"Personalize Your Plate" For an Individual Approach to Nutrition
Spring is in the air, and with the warmer weather come thoughts of outdoor activities and vacations. At the same time; however, a lot of people start thinking about dieting and getting ready for the swimsuit season, possibly more so this year than ever. As things begin to open up and people are able to start socializing again there might be an emphasis on quickly taking off that “Quarantine 15”. Before you rush off on the latest and greatest diet trend, however, it might be more beneficial, and healthy, to listen to your body.
March is National Nutrition Month® with this year’s theme being Personalize Your Plate, there are a variety of reasons why this can be the most successful, and healthiest, choice around. Besides our personal taste in food, there are many other factors that contribute to different dietary needs.
One of the easiest differences to see is the fact that people of different ages need different nutritional choices. It makes perfect sense that a baby and a teenager have different nutritional and energy needs, but there are many other factors besides age that keep a one-size-fits-all approach from working.
Genetics - something else we can blame our parents for
Gender - no matter how unfair, in general men burn more calories than women
Economics - some foods and diets are simply more costly than others
Ethnicity - different cultures and available resources
Personal beliefs and choices - vegetarian
Food allergies and intolerance
Stress levels - we’re all still trying to navigate this pandemic!
In addition, physical activity, the time of day you eat and the number of meals you consume also can play a role. The possibilities are endless. Our bodies process food differently when we add together all of these factors. It becomes simply impossible to say any one diet is healthy for all.
There is an abundance of information out there to help us better understand calories and weight loss, but too much information can also lead to confusion. It’s also hard to overcome the ideas that have been pushed upon us in the past, such as ...Fat is bad!...No, carbs are bad! Eat less! Move more!
Unfortunately, fast results, restrictive food plans, lists of what you can and can’t eat diets might seem to be the easiest way to go when you don’t know where to start. In reality, once you begin, they may not be that easy and chances are they are not helping you form lifestyle changes that you would be willing to keep throughout your life. In short, they don’t teach you how to live your life after the “diet” is over.
Another factor to consider is what elimination diets can foster. Taking certain food groups or nutrients out of a diet can lead to malnutrition or important gaps in nutrition without the proper education. This type of dieting can also contribute to disordered thinking when it comes to eating, leading a person to fill “food shaming” for their choices.
With all of these factors to consider, it is important to realize that everyone’s food choices won’t, and shouldn’t, be the same. Food not only keeps us alive, but in our current society, it has become an enjoyable experience that we share with others. Without endorsing any diet, take the time to study and make some informed food choices and habits that work for you, not your best friend, both currently and throughout your life. If it is an option for you, consult your doctor, dietitian, or nutritionist for individual help. There are apps and food ordering services available as well, just don’t get locked into a certain belief or idea that someone else is selling. It’s ok to pick and choose from different areas as you fix your “plate”.