Are you ready to make a nutritional change?
‘Tis the season right? With the holidays well behind us now and New Years Resolutions already failing apart, today we focus on how to make healthy nutritional choices. Dr. Matthew Perchemlides of Riverside Natural Health Center, shares his Diet Blueprint, which aims to help his patients make healthy, lifelong nutritional choices. We love that he recommends the 80/20 model of success – aiming to make healthful choices 80% of the time giving room for “life to happen.” Amen.
Medical Disclaimer: This article is not written to provide medical advice, professional diagnosis, opinion, treatment or services to you or to any other individual. The information written in this article is intended for general purposes only and is not a substitute for medical or professional care. You should not use this information in the place of the advice of your physician or other healthcare provider. Dr. Matthew Perchemlides is not liable or responsible for any advice, course of treatment, diagnosis, or any other information, services, or product you obtain by reading the information in this article or through this site.
Most of us have been tempted by the promises of fad diets and before and after pictures in weight loss ads. We are too busy to make our diet a priority, which is why too often and understandably we turn to less healthy “convenience foods” or overly restrictive diets that promise fast results. Even more than poor diet, extreme stress has a deleterious effect on our overall health, so if improving your diet has to take second, third, or last place right now, try to avoid feelings of guilt or self-blame, knowing that this alone will go far in improving your health. But when you feel ready to make a change, here are some nutrition principles to help guide you.
While optimal nutrition is personal and individualized, I developed the following “diet blueprint” to help my adult patients make healthier choices by simply “plugging whole foods into” its sections. The blueprint is customizable for individuals with allergies or health conditions that require special nutritional consideration. The blueprint is based on a whole foods diet, which simply means that the ingredients are names of real food as opposed to ingredients processed in a lab or factory. Real food is raised on a farm with sustainable practices, grown in a garden, or foraged from the land. It doesn’t come from a laboratory or factory, though it might be “finished” in a processing facility that maintains the integrity of the food. Whole foods are ingredients that my two-year-old could easily name.
Daily, an adult between the ages of 24-64 should consume:
5 or more servings of vegetables
3-5 servings of fruit
3 servings of protein
3-6 servings of grains
4-6 servings of nuts and seeds
1-2 servings of oils/fats
Half your body weight in ounces of water (or water flavored with fruit, herbal tea or a healthful broth)
Let’s talk about specific foods, their benefits, and serving sizes….
We’re talking about fresh or lightly cooked vegetables here. As much as we may wish potato chips or veggy snap pea crisps counted, unfortunately they do not. One serving size of vegetables equals one of the following:
1 cup of raw green leafy veggies like spinach
1/2 cup of raw, non-leafy veggies like broccoli
½ cup of cooked vegetables
½ cup of fresh vegetable juice.
One serving equals one cup of fresh or frozen berries or one piece of fresh fruit.
Not all protein sources are equal. Optimally, meat would be pasture-fed, free-range, and local, free from antibiotics and added growth hormones, and organic when possible. It’s always wise for adults to minimize animal sources of protein to below 50 grams daily and maximize plant-based proteins. Examples of serving sizes in the protein category are:
4 ounces of chicken or turkey (35 grams of protein)
6 ounces of fish, though fish intake should be limited to 3 servings per week of wild caught, cold water fish that is relatively low on the food chain. (40 grams of protein)
1 cup cooked legumes
6 ounces of seitan
2 egg (12 grams of protein)
4 ounces red meat, limited to 3 times per week (40 grams of protein)
6 ounces non-GMO tofu or tempeh
1/2 cup whole soy bean.
1 cup of milk, yogurt or cottage cheese (8 grams of protein)
1 ounce of hard cheese (10 grams of protein)
¼ cup queso fresco (8 grams of protein)
Dairy should also be pasture fed, antibiotic free, synthetic hormone free, pesticide free, GMO free, and preferably local. Limit dairy to 1 -2 servings per day.
Whole grains and pseudo-grains:
Many of us have received the message from various fad diets that carbs are unhealthy and that avoiding them can lead to rapid weight loss. Eating a diet that is low in simple carbohydrates such as sugar, corn syrup, candy and other sweets, white bread, white rice, and white pastas helps to regulate weight and decrease inflammation. But it is not healthy to avoid all carbs. Avoiding complex carbohydrates makes us more hungry and more likely to turn to unhealthy options to fill the void. They are also an important source of fiber, a nutrient that helps to flush out toxins and regulate estrogen levels. Complex carbs are also an important source of B- vitamins, Vitamin E, selenium, zinc, copper, magnesium, and protein. Among the most important roles of complex carbs is regulation of blood sugar. When you keep blood sugar stable, you support an active metabolism, promote healthy weight management, reduce inflammation, help with appetite signaling (feel hungry when you really need food, don’t feel excessive cravings), maintain high energy during the day and contribute to restful sleep at night. Yep, all that from complex carbs. My favorites are the pseudograins: quinoa, chia, teff, amaranth, and millet, all of which are high in protein, high in fiber, high in trace minerals and are considered sustaining power foods around the world. The following are equivalent to one serving size.
1 slice of whole wheat or rye loaf bread
½ cup of cooked grain or ½ cup of cooked whole grain pasta
1 ear of corn or 4 1 ounce tortillas
1/2 cup cooked pseudo-grains like quinoa, millet, amaranth, teff, or chia
Nuts and Seeds:
¼ cup nuts or 1/8 cup seeds equals one serving.
Some oils can be used for cooking but some are healthier eaten raw. Organic, cold-pressed flax oil, high in lignans, is one example of an oil that is best for salad dressing and dips, but not for cooking or baking. Use organic, cold-pressed olive or coconut oil for cooking or eating raw. Coconut oil can even be a replacement for shortening in frostings or spread on toast with a little salt.
Fat is not all bad but some really is. Saturated fats from animal foods and trans fats, also called “hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated”, have deleterious effects in our bodies. Picture a pan after you have cooked bacon in it. That thick, greasy cake left over in the pan is saturated fat. Not only does saturated fat increase our risk of obesity, but it also raises, LDL the type of cholesterol associated with cardiovascular disease. Saturated fat creates inflammation and tissue irritation within the blood vessels and within the matrix of other body cells, which leads to a cascade of events that makes an occluded vessel more likely, resulting in a rise in inflammatory factors which contribute to cancer formation and progression. Hydrogenated fats have a similarly deleterious effect in our bodies. Because they are created in a laboratory, like other processed foods, the body sees these as foreign and does not know what to do with them. We cannot break these fats down appropriately in our digestive systems and, as a result, large, rigid fat molecules remain in our cell membranes, where they impede energy production, stop our own anti-inflammatory process, and contribute to obesity, fatigue, chronic pain, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. Hydrogenated fats have proven so harmful that they have been banned from New York City restaurants and the FDA has mandated that they be listed on food labels.
Good fats include Omega-3 fatty acids, specifically the subtypes EPA and DHA. These are nutrients worth going out of your way to feed yourself and your entire family. They come from cold-water fish. flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, walnuts, and leafy greens. These fats build the brain and eye structures of a growing infant, help regulate hormone levels, reduce inflammation, and support optimal metabolism. They are so important that I recommend supplementation even on an optimal whole foods diet.
In the midst of our busy lives, it is difficult to get any healthy eating regimen down to an exact science. If you’re following Pareto’s 80/20 principle and are aiming to be successful at least 80 percent of the time, then you are likely to be eating healthfully while still leaving some room for “life to happen”.
I tell my patients that a simple way to ensure that they are getting it right most of the time is to eat a veggie, a complex carbohydrate, and a protein at each meal, nuts and fruits in between meals for snacks, and a protein-rich snack before bed. Breakfast might consist of an egg fried in olive or coconut oil over a piece of whole grain toast with a generous side of cooked spinach or broccoli. Lunch might be a leafy green salad with fresh chopped vegetables, a scoop of cooked millet, and sliced turkey, garnished with cheese, and dressed with some flax or olive oil. Dinner might be lentil vegetable soup over a scoop of quinoa. Two hours after each meal would be an ideal time for a handful of nuts or seeds with fruit. Finally, an hour before bed have 10 grams of protein from seeds, nuts, or nut butter, or a small pea or rice protein shake.
If you’d rather not mess with measuring, a general rule is to fill your plate halfway with veggies, a quarter with grains, and a quarter with protein.
It won’t be exact but it will get you close.
Eating a whole foods diet also doesn’t mean you can’t make meals interesting with sauces and seasoning or with intricate recipes. It does, however, mean that when making sauces and following intricate recipes, you should remember to keep their ingredients to simple whole foods. For example, if you make a casserole or crock pot meal for dinner, be sure that most of the meal consists of veggies, and that the rest includes a protein and complex carbohydrate , or supplement accordingly with side dishes. It is also a very healthful practice to flavor meals with a generous amount of spices, especially turmeric, thyme, oregano, rosemary, and black pepper.
It may be hard to believe that such a simple diet plan can actually be medicinal.
But it is a well-researched fact that when a person consumes the recommended number of servings per day from, vegetables, fruits, proteins, whole grains, nuts and seeds, and fats, their body reaches a critical mass of bulk nutrients and concentrated phytonutrients that will have a protective and, in some cases, a disease-reversing effect on health. This is why I use this blueprint regularly as a long-term maintenance diet for my patients with cancer, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, weight loss needs, fertility problems, endocrine anomalies, and for those who are generally trying to reach optimal health and vitality.
Simply put, when following this blueprint your body will have too much healthy food in it to have much room left for unhealthy choices, you will supersaturate your system with the nutrients your body needs to operate optimally, and your cravings for sugar and stimulants will drop off. Regular meals and snacks from whole food sources will prevent blood sugar crashes that lead to spikes in the stress hormone cortisol, will regulate your appetite, and will prevent calories being stored as fat. Balancing our diet according to the blueprint will lead to hormone regulation, better immune function, and healthy maintenance of the neurotransmitters that help regulate our moods, thoughts, and emotions.
Filled with essential nutrients and in the absence of being burdened with toxins, our bodies can unlock and use the mechanisms for self-healing we were all born with.
Recipe: Homemade protein balls. This is an excellent snack for in between meals or before bed
In a food processor or high-power blender (Vita-mix) combine ½ cup nuts of choice, ¼ cup seeds of your choice, 1 scoop of chocolate protein powder with only whole foods ingredients (choose organic, GMO free, and plant based when possible), and ½ cup of a dried fruit. Blend until it is a thick paste. Scoop out and roll into balls with your hands, roll in a plate covered with shredded-coconut or cacao powder and enjoy.
Bio: Dr. Matthew Perchemlides, ND, FABNO, MSN, BSN holds a degree in Naturopathic Medicine, as well as a Masters in Human Nutrition from the University of Bridgeport College of Naturopathic Medicine. He also has a degree in nursing from Boston College. Before Dr. Perchemlides became a Licensed Naturopathic Physician, he worked as a Registered Nurse in multiple areas, including pediatrics as well as all areas of adult medicine. After graduating first in his medical school class, Dr. Perchemlides went on to complete a naturopathic oncology residency with Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Tulsa, OK, earning a specialization in naturopathic oncology. Dr. Perchemlides provides primary care to adults and children as well as specialized naturopathic care in the areas of oncology and chronic disease. He practices naturopathic medicine in Middlebury, VT as a member of the natural health cooperative Riverside Natural Health Center.
ⓒ 2016 Matthew Perchemlides & MiniBury, LLC. All rights reserved, materials may not be reproduced in any form without the permission of both author and publisher.