Today, I’m going to dive into the topic of food groups, define a few key terms, and discuss how some people make the mistake of cutting out an entire food group from their nutrition plan (actually, most people don’t really have a thought out and logical nutrition PLAN, they eat reactively to their environment, habits, and social trends).
You are bombarded by a lot of contradictory information each day, but much of the challenge comes from a poor understanding of the basics of nutrition. This includes confusion about the definitions of a few key words. So, that’s where we are going to start. First, we will talk about macronutrients, we will briefly touch on “good” foods vs. “bad” foods. We will finish up with a couple simple strategies that you can use to simplify your choices.
Macronutrients are simple, but they are often confused with “food groups”. There are only THREE macronutrients, and you are already aware of them. They are carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. There is a massive debate on how much of each macronutrient to have. You can read more about the metabolic typing approach to adjusting your macronutrients here and here. We won’t go into too much detail in this post about this sub-topic, other than to say “everyone is unique, and your needs are constantly changing. So, there is no ‘perfect’ macronutrient ratio for everyone at every time”.
Food groups are very subjective and there are many ways to categorize food (all of which fall under one or more of the macronutrients. Here are a few of the different food groups that people typically think of: Fruits, vegetables, meat, poultry, dairy, seafood, nuts, seeds, chocolate, red wine, etc. You may have even heard the joke that bacon is its own food group! Who am I to argue about that!
As you see, food groups are very subjective, but macronutrients are not. This is where the confusion often happens. While it may be fine to avoid a certain food group such as candy/processed sugar, nuts, meat, etc., everyone should be consuming all 3 macronutrients on a daily basis…or ideally at each meal.
Social and marketing influences often dictate many decisions in this area. How many times over the past couple decades have you heard terms like “Carbs are bad”, “Fats are bad”, or “Fats are good” (they often seem to contradict each other, and create more confusion in consumers). This leads to diets trends such as the “Low Carb”, “Atkins”, “Ketogenic”, and other diets based on demonizing specific foods or groups of foods.
I will write another post shortly about “good” vs. “bad” foods, but for this post, I will just say that while you may avoid categories of food such as wheat, dairy, meat, etc, as mentioned above, you should still be eating all 3 macronutrients on a daily (and per meal) basis.
The reasons for avoiding a specific food or group of foods varies widely. They may include religious, ethical, health, social, allergies, intolerances, personal tastes, and many more. While those are up to the individual to decide, I will say that many people make these decisions without fully understanding the health impact of their choices. The best advice I can give you on this topic is to do think about WHY you are eliminating a certain food (or group), and do some research (including speaking with trained professionals) about the health implications of your choice. That way you can make an informed decision, rather than reacting impulsively to sometimes faulty information, or to follow a social trend.
So, to wrap up, and make sure you have a solid take-away from this post, I want to summarize the most important strategies about food groups and macronutrients that you need for a balanced (and customized) approach to healthy eating.
- Eat daily from all 3 macronutrients (carbohydrate, fat, and protein), but ideally at every meal
- It’s fine to avoid specific categories/types of food (but not macronutrients). If you choose to do this, understand the health implications of your choice, and what adjustments you may need to make to ensure you get all the nutrients your body needs to thrive!
- It’s also helpful to determine if you are allergic or intolerant to any foods so that you can avoid any potential issues. A simple blood test at an allergist, naturopath, or related practitioner can provide you this information.
Hopefully this helps clear up some of the confusion around food groups, and eliminating them from your nutrition plan. What are YOUR biggest fitness or nutrition challenges? Post your comments below and I will add my 2 cents worth!
Yours in Health,
FRESH! Wellness Group