Back to the Basics


By Grace Iberle, RDN, LDN, CHC, CPT

Eating healthy isn’t rocket science and shouldn’t be overly complicated. Keeping it simple can help to create a sustainable eating routine. Let’s skip those quick fix diets and instead focus on lasting lifestyle changes. The goal is to fuel our bodies with whole foods through building balanced meals.

Aim to fill

  • Half your plate with fruits and vegetables

  • Quarter of your plate with starches

  • Quarter of your plate with protein

  • Plus a small amount of healthy fats.

This is a general recommendation, if you’d like more individual recommendations, such as you’re training for a marathon, reach out to your LifeStart Registered Dietitian. Let’s focus on the basics - macronutrients.


Carbs are our main fuel source. For meals and snacks, we want to focus on making at least half of our grains whole grains. Whole grains have more fiber and protein compared to their processed counterparts. They also promote intestinal health.

Carbohydrate Sources:

Grains, Rice, Pasta, Fruits, Vegetables, Amaranth, Buckwheat, Kamut, Millet, Muesli, Oatmeal, Popcorn, Quinoa, Sorghum, Spelt, Teff, Barley, Tortillas

Carbohydrate Recommendations:

  • Experiment with different whole grains - mix it up from the go-to rice and quinoa!

  • First Ingredient should list “Whole ________”

    • This shows majority of the product is a whole grain

  • Try different starchy vegetables. If you include starchy vegetables on your plate, that counts towards your starch quarter.

    • Potato, Corn, Peas, Parsnip, Plantain, Pumpkin, Butternut Squash, Beetroot

  • Minimize processed grains

  • For pre/post workout snacks - focus on simple carbs such as fruit, refined grains, and liquids


Focus on consuming protein in all meals and snacks. It not only keeps you feeling full for longer, but it helps to stabilize your blood sugars giving you a more even release of energy. Protein is found in every cell, tissue, organ and promotes growth while repairing and rebuilding tissues. It’s essential for our immune system and keeping our cells healthy.

Proteins are made up of amino acids. We have nine essential amino acids that we must consume through our diet. Animal proteins, such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy, are complete proteins, meaning they contain all nine essential amino acids. For plant based proteins, soy, quinoa, amaranth, and buckwheat are also complete proteins. Other plant based proteins, such as legumes (beans, peas, lentils), grains, nuts, seeds, are incomplete proteins because they are lacking one or more essential amino acids. It’s important to eat a variety of plant based proteins to consume all nine essential amino acids.

Protein Sources:

Meat, Poultry, Seafood, Eggs, Dairy, Legumes, Soy products, Nuts, Seeds

Protein Recommendations:

  • Focus on meat and dairy that are low in saturated fat

    • A fun reminder “Less legs, less fat!”

      • Unless you are eating game meat such as venison or bison, that rule does not apply

  • Aim for 2-3 meatless, protein rich meals per week (focus on plant based proteins!)

  • Aim for 2-3 servings of fatty fish per week


Of all the macronutrients, fat has the most calories per gram so portion control is important. Since it has higher calories, it keeps you feeling satiated for longer. It’s necessary to absorb fat soluble vitamins and is also how we store energy. Choosing the proper fats can also help to fight inflammation.

Fat Sources:

  • Unsaturated Fats “The Good” - Focus on incorporating these regularly

    • Plant based liquid oils, Nuts, Seeds, Avocado, Olives, Fatty fish - salmon, herring, tuna, mackerel, lake trout, sardines

  • Saturated Fats - “The Bad” - Limit these

    • Animal sources such as meat and dairy, Tropical oils

  • Trans Fats - “The Ugly” - Avoid these

    • Processed foods made with partially hydrogenated oils, Fried foods, Baked goods, Stick margarines

Fat Recommendations:

  • Incorporate whole food, plant sources of fats into your diet daily

  • Limit sources of saturated and trans fats

Whether you’re dining out, cooking at home, or choosing options from a buffet line, focus on building a balanced plate.

1/2 vegetables and fruits, 1/4 starches, 1/4 protein, small portion of healthy fat!