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Tracking Macronutrients: Forget About the Numbers

Alright, alright, now don’t freak out. Yes, macronutrients are important but we tend to get caught up in the numbers. The numbers can make things more difficult.

The amount of macronutrients can vary based on many things – Are you sedentary? Are you working out every day for at least 30 minutes? Are your workouts primarily cardio or weight lifting? Do you have kidney disease? Do you have diabetes?

Unfortunately, I cannot generalize how many grams of carbohydrates, how many grams of protein, and how many grams of fat each of you need but I can tell you this – The American diet is VERY carbohydrate heavy.

If we shift our mind set and try eating more balanced meals the macronutrients will fall into place, without actually having to count them, or “get caught up in the numbers”.

What Are The 6 Major Food Groups that Help Balance Your Macronutrients?

  1. Protein Foods
  2. Vegetables (non-starchy)
  3. Fruit
  4. Dairy
  5. Grains
  6. Oils

Now, how do we go about this, without “counting” the numbers exclusively?

First off, we should know what the BEST or BETTER choices are from each food group so you can build a meal. This doesn’t mean we can’t stray from these lists or “treat” ourselves.

If the majority of the time we are eating more well-balanced meals, you will likely start seeing the results you want; the number on the scale decreasing, using less insulin, being able to fit into those pants again, more energy, etc.

Choose an item from each food group and follow the portion size recommendations.

The Best Foods for Building Macronutrient Meals Are:

Protein Foods (3-5 ounces, per meal depending on your activity level):

  • Lean beef or pork (no more than 10 g of fat per 3.5 serving)
  • Seafood
  • Chicken or turkey without the skin
  • Beans and lentils
  • Eggs

If your beef or pork has the word “loin” it, it is one of the leaner cuts. The best methods for cooking sources of protein would be roasting, baking, boiling, or grilling. Avoid frying.

Vegetables (1 cup – unlimited, per meal):

  1. Broccoli
  2. Cauliflower
  3. Lettuce
  4. Kale
  5. Spinach
  6. Zucchini
  7. Carrots
  8. Brussels sprouts

With vegetables the list can go on and on it is easier to remember the starchy list (peas, corn and potatoes). You will want to lump those vegetables in with grains as they act like a carbohydrate when broken down in the body.

Fruit (1-2 servings, per day):

  1. Apple
  2. Grapes
  3. Pineapple
  4. Banana (1/2 equals a serving)
  5. Blueberries
  6. Raspberries
  7. Blackberries

Again, the list can go on and on. But remember fruits act like a carbohydrates when broken down in the body. This doesn’t mean it is a “bad” food but you may want to look at it differently depending what health or nutritional goal you are striving for.

Dairy (2-3 servings, per day):

  1. Yogurt (low in added sugar)
  2. Milk (Skim or 1%)
  3. Cottage cheese (Low-fat)
  4. Cheese (Low-fat)

Grains (1/2 cup per meal, limit between meals):

  1. Whole grain pasta
  2. Quinoa and other “ancient grains”
  3. Brown Rice
  4. Whole grain bread
  5. Oatmeal

You should shoot for ALL your grains to be whole grain. If that goal is too high for you starting out, start with at least HALF of your grains from a whole grain source.

Oils (5-6 teaspoons):

  1. Olive oil
  2. Canola Oil
  3. Margarine or spreads that list liquid vegetable oil as first ingredient

Healthy Snacks Between Macronutrient Meals

If you are going to reach for a snack between meals first ask yourself; Am I truly hungry? Am I bored? Am I thirsty? Do I need to go for a walk?

If you do decide you are TRULY hungry the best snacks to reach for include a protein source (15-30 grams).

High Protein Snack Ideas:

  1. Peanut butter and celery
  2. Mozzarella Cheese stick with ¼ cup unsalted almonds or walnuts
  3. Low-fat/Low-sugar Greek Yogurt
  4. 2 hardboiled eggs (spice it up by adding mustard and <1 T low fat mayonnaise)
  5. Low-fat Cottage Cheese
  6. Vegetables and Hummus
  7. Rice Cake with peanut butter

Do you have more questions about macronutrients in your diet? Talk with one of our CHI Health Dietitians!

Jenna Roeding, RDN, LMNT, MMN
Jenna Roeding, RDN, LMNT, MMN

Jenna Roeding RDN, LMNT, MMN is a Registered Dietitian at CHI Health. She plays volleyball in her free time, both on the court and in the sand. She enjoys helping others create achievable nutrition goals, whether they are in the acute or outpatient setting.  Nixing any media driven false nutrition information is what she finds helps create lasting nutrition focused lifestyle changes in her patients.

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