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  • Writer's pictureClaire M. Burnett

"In Defense of Food"

Updated: May 30, 2020

Because we've made this way too complicated...

So earlier this week, I went on a rant about nutrition and how unreasonably complicated the industry has made it.

In summary, here's what I said:

1. The industry has created confusion around nutrition for monetary profit.

2. There is no one size fits all diet; everyone will have different dietary restrictions and needs.

3. GENERALLY speaking, if you can grow it, you should eat it; aka avoid artificial sugars and preservatives. Eat more natural foods.

Most nutrition experts agree that healthy adults can get virtually all the nutrients they need from a balanced diet; but not every body is the same. This post is to address those of us that operate in the overarching majority of the population.

Your next questions are probably:

1. What is a balanced diet? and

2. How do I know if I'm a unicorn?

What is a balanced diet?

A balanced diet is one that gives your body the nutrients it needs to function correctly. To get the proper nutrition from your diet, you should consume the majority of your daily calories in:

· fruits

· vegetables

· whole grains

· legumes

· nuts

· lean proteins

The average person needs to eat about 2,000 calories every day to maintain their weight. However, a person’s specific daily calorie intake can vary depending on their age, gender, and physical activity level, whether they want to lose or gain weight, etc. Men generally need more calories than women, and people who exercise need more calories than people who don’t. Don’t know your caloric intake? Try a generic calculator.

GENERALLY Speaking, the following are examples of daily calorie intake based on United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) guidelines:

· children ages 2 to 8 years: 1,000 to 1,400 calories

· girls ages 9 to 13 years: 1,400 to 1,600 calories

· boys ages 9 to 13 years: 1,600 to 2,000 calories

· active women ages 14 to 30 years: 2,400 calories

· sedentary women ages 14 to 30 years: 1,800 to 2,000 calories

· active men ages 14 to 30 years: 2,800 to 3,200 calories

· sedentary men ages 14 to 30 years: 2,000 to 2,600 calories

· active men and women over 30 years: 2,000 to 3,000 calories

· sedentary men and women over 30 years: 1,600 to 2,400 calories

The source of your daily calories is just as important as the number of calories you consume.

You should limit your consumption of empty calories, meaning those that provide little or no nutritional value. The USDA defines empty calories as calories that come from sugars and solid fats, such as butter and shortening. According to the USDA, Americans consume empty calories most often in:

· bacon

· sausages

· cakes

· cheese

· cookies

· doughnuts

· chips

· energy drinks

· fruit drinks

· ice cream

· pizza

· sports drinks and sodas

· white bread (refined grains)

Now: The part that messes most people up:

"How much of each food group should I eat per day?"

Ok, let’s rewind for a second and make sure we’re still on the "DUMMIE" track.

So far we’ve:

1. Acknowledged we should stay away from preservatives as much as we can and stick to whole foods.

2. We’ve identified what whole foods are vs empty calories.

3. We’ve determined what our average caloric intake would be based on whether or not we’re sedentary or active, male or female.

Still tracking with me? Ok!

Now we all know those people who eat nothing but salad. And I personally think they’re super annoying and that does NOT have to be you!

So how do you know how much to eat of each food group? Again, generally speaking, here’s a guide.


***This can obviously vary based on a host of different reasons, but again, we shouldn't be deviating drastically from this unless we have massive HEALTH-related dietary restrictions.

How much is a “serving”?

Bread, Cereal, Rice, and Pasta Group (Grains Group)—whole grain and refined

· 1 slice of bread

· About 1 cup of ready-to-eat cereal

· 1/2 cup of cooked cereal, rice, or pasta

Vegetable Group

· 1 cup of raw leafy vegetables

· 1/2 cup of other vegetables cooked or raw

· 3/4 cup of vegetable juice

Fruit Group

· 1 medium apple, banana, orange, pear

· 1/2 cup of chopped, cooked, or canned fruit

· 3/4 cup of fruit juice

Milk, Yogurt, and Cheese Group (Milk Group)*

· 1 cup of milk** or yogurt**

· 1 1/2 ounces of natural cheese** (such as Cheddar)

· 2 ounces of processed cheese** (such as American)

Meat, Poultry, Fish, Dry Beans, Eggs, and Nuts Group (Meat and Beans Group)

· 2-3 ounces of cooked lean meat, poultry, or fish

· 1/2 cup of cooked dry beans# or 1/2 cup of tofu counts as 1 ounce of lean meat

· 2 1/2-ounce soyburger or 1 egg counts as 1 ounce of lean meat

· 2 tablespoons of peanut butter or 1/3 cup of nuts counts as 1 ounce of meat

***Now listen. If you don’t get every serving of everything every day, you’re not a heathen! But this is what we should be aiming for.

In my case, I’m aiming for 9 servings of grains, 4 servings of veggies, 3 servings of fruit, and 2 servings of protein. Now keep in mind, we can get these servings in one plate! For example: I could get all of my fruits and veggies in at breakfast. (Huge fan of juicing.) Also, If I’m working out, I’d more than likely want to get some protein and grains in beforehand. Not a rule, just a suggestion. (Your body will break those down and use it as fuel for energy.)

***Some of you might be wondering why serving sizes matter.

Sugar is sugar is sugar is sugar. It doesn't matter if it comes from strawberries or a snicker bar. Now obviously, the snicker bar has way more preservatives in it, however, eating a bowl full of strawberries is no "healthier" than eating a bag full of dark chocolate.

How do you know if you're a unicorn!?

1. Are you training for a special athletic event that requires an increase in your normal physical activity?

2. Are you pregnant?

3. Are you lactose intolerant?

4. Do you have IBS, IBD, Ulcerative Colitis or other digestive health issues?

5. Do you work out more than 5 days per week?

6. Do you have Celiac disease?

7. Are you going to war?

These are just a few examples where your nutrition may need to change from the above suggested norms; but even so, not drastically from the very basic nutritional principles I’m identifying.

What about Eating Out?:

Same rules apply…but this is super hard to “measure.” It’s hard because you don’t know what your food was prepared in, you can’t control the serving size, etc. But, if we go back to our very basic rule: WHOLE FOODS. If you can grow it, eat it. Stick with foods that aren’t fried, vegetables, whole grains, and proteins.


Learn to listen to your body. The mind and the gut are connected. In fact, it’s called the “Mind-Gut” connection. Your body knows what’s good for it and what’s not. If you learn to listen to your energy systems, and pay attention to how you feel, you will largely know what you need.

Some things to pay attention to:

1. What does it feel like to be hungry? Some dietitians and nutritionist describe hunger in 3 levels, with level 3 feeling like you're "starving." If you can learn to identify your levels, you can distinguish the difference between when you're actually hungry or maybe just thirsty.

2. What does it feel like to be thirsty? Dehydrated?

3. What does it feel like to be full? Tip for "smart eaters": CHEW SLOWLY. It takes your brain about 20 minutes to realize you're even eating.

What About Cheat Days?


I don’t believe in depriving myself during the week because then it creates a mentality of looking forward to one day a week and usually overdoing it. But I do believe in maintaining a largely healthier diet so that when I do want to indulge in those empty, yet tasty calories, I don’t have to feel bad about it. There's nothing wrong with a cheat day. Nutrition is personal and if I haven't reiterated over and over again, what works for me doesn't have to work for you.


I’m not a nutritionist. I’m not a registered dietitian. I’m just a girl who’s been surrounded by enough of those professionals to know that there are a rare few who’s diets need to be AS COMPLICATED as the industry has made them. But don’t take my word for it. Do your own research.

Hope you found something useful.


Coach B


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