Question:

Hi, my name is Jordan, I am a new member of LA Fitness and I also have a personal trainer. He thought it would be a good idea to contact you to get some pointers on how I should eat. I am lost when it comes to that. I am 377 lbs., 5’4”, and 31 years old. Also, what should I look for when eating food? Calories? Fat? Sugar? Thank you!

– Jordan

Answer:

I’m so glad you reached out! It can be overwhelming navigating thousands of food choices and not knowing where to start. Try following these steps to begin:

For overall wellness, increasing vegetable intake is usually step one. Veggies are low-calorie and high nutrient-dense foods that you can eat a multitude of ways – as an entrée, side dish, snack, raw, juiced, oven-baked, and pureed in soup or sauce. For an equivalent 100 calories from starch or animal meat/milk, you can get nearly an equal amount of protein from vegetables. Aim for 3-5 vegetables daily.

Step two would be to choose the healthiest foods in other groups – raw fruit, whole grain products, lean meats, and plant fats. Examples would be a whole apple vs. applesauce, baked potato vs. French fries, baked fish vs. fish sticks, and avocado vs. cheese. You don’t need a formal education to identify wholesome choices, though reading labels can help you determine which choice within a food group is lowest in calories, fat or sugar, based on your personal health goals.

Next, balance food groups to get the nutrients you need by making ¾ of your intake from vegetables, grains, beans, fruit and nuts/seeds, remaining ¼ from animal sources. Shifting from a ham & cheese 3-egg omelet to a spinach & mushroom 1-egg scramble in a whole wheat tortilla with salsa exemplifies this balance.

Portion control is step four. You need to pay attention to the actual amount you eat! A couple tablespoons of unsalted nuts are adequate, a bowlful is too much. A few ounces of pork tenderloin are good, a half-pound is excessive.

That’s enough to get you started without getting too detailed or bogged down in ‘food rules’ that can de-motivate you. Keep following us for helpful nutrition and healthy living advice!

– Debbie J., MS, RD

This article should not replace any exercise program or restrictions, any dietary supplements or restrictions, or any other medical recommendations from your primary care physician. Before starting any exercise program or diet, make sure it is approved by your doctor.

Some questions have been edited for length and/or clarity.

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