Have you ever heard the saying “you are what you eat?” We can take pills all day, however medications often are a quick fix if we are not fueling our bodies properly. Eating healthy can promote weight loss, improve brain function, prevent medical conditions, like heart disease and diabetes, and boost mood or energy level. Nutrition is a key part of our health but getting enough sleep, exercising daily, and drinking plenty of water play an important role as well. 

Let’s take a look at some lifestyle changes you can make to improve your overall health. 

Macronutrients and Micronutrients 

There are two categories of nutrients: macronutrients and micronutrients. Macronutrients include carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Micronutrients include vitamins and minerals. The body needs larger amounts of macronutrients and smaller amounts of micronutrients to work properly.1 

Carbohydrates, or carbs, are broken down into glucose (sugar) during digestion, providing the fuel your body and brain need to function. We know that foods high in starch contain a lot of carbohydrates, such as potatoes, pasta, and bread, but we often forget that fruit and dairy contain carbs.1 About 45 to 65% of your daily calories should come from carbohydrates. Every 1 gram of carbohydrate equals 4 calories.2 

Proteins build and repair body tissues, help carry out bodily functions, transport nutrients, and keep your immune system strong. Protein-rich foods include legumes (beans, peas, lentils), nuts, whole grains, and lean meats. The amount of protein recommended daily depends on how active you are. Individuals that are sedentary or get very little exercise, need less protein than an athlete or bodybuilder.1 Every 1 gram of protein equals 4 calories.2 

Fats often get the reputation of being “bad” but fat provides your body with energy and transports fat-soluble vitamins. “Good” fats are unsaturated or loosely packed and are mostly liquid at room temperature. Unsaturated fats may help decrease inflammation and lower your risk for cardiovascular disease. Foods high in unsaturated fats include fatty fish, olive oil, avocados, and walnuts. “Bad” fats are trans fats and saturated fats. Saturated fats are tightly packed and are mostly solid at room temperature. These fats may increase bad cholesterol and your risk for heart disease. Foods high in trans and saturated fat include processed foods, red meat, butter, cheese, and coconut oil.3 About 20 to 35% of your daily calories should come from fat. Every 1 gram of fat equals 9 calories.2 

Portion Distortion 

Over the last 40 years, the size of portions have drastically increased, creating a culture of “portion distortion.” For example, a regular soda, 20 years ago, was 6.5 ounces and 85 calories versus 20 ounces and 610 calories today. Supersized portions are now considered the norm. When preparing meals, it is important to consider serving sizes, as stated on food labels. One helping or plateful does not always equal one serving size.4

Controlling portion sizes is only a hand away!5 

The Plate Method

One strategy to control portion sizes is the plate method. Using a 9-inch dinner plate, draw a “T” with the top starting half-way down the plate. Fill half of the plate with non-starchy vegetables, including salad greens, broccoli, or brussel sprouts. Fill one-quarter with lean protein such as chicken, turkey, fish, or eggs. The last quarter should include grains or starches, including potatoes, pasta, or rice. If you do not want to include grains or starches, double your serving of non-starchy vegetables.6

Basal Metabolic Rate and Total Daily Energy Expenditure

Basal metabolic rate (BMR) is the amount of calories your body needs to carry out basic activities such as breathing, digestion, and brain function. To calculate BMR, online calculators can be used that factor in sex, age, height, and weight. 

A common question is, “If I eat fewer calories than required by my BMR, will I lose weight?” It is important to remember that BMR is what your body needs to simply function. It does not take into account the calories needed to walk, talk, work, or exercise. If using your BMR as a guide for weight loss, you need to also calculate your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE). TDEE is the total of your BMR multiplied by an activity level factor. In order to lose weight, you need to consume fewer calories than your TDEE. A safe way to calorie restrict, is reduce intake by about 200 calories per day for a week or two, then adjust accordingly.7 

Activity LevelTDEE
Sedentary: little or no exercise; desk jobTDEE = 1.2 x BMR 
Lightly active: light exercise; sports 1-3 days per weekTDEE = 1.375 x BMR 
Moderately active: moderate exercise; sports 3-5 days per weekTDEE = 1.55 x BMR 
Very active: heavy exercise; sports 6-7 days per weekTDEE = 1.725 x BMR 
Extremely active: very heavy exercise; physical job; training twice daily TDEE = 1.9 x BMR 

Reasonable Weight Loss Goals per Week 

If you have ever tried to lose weight, you know how difficult and slow of a process it may be. It’s human nature to want immediate results, however studies have shown that individuals who lose weight steadily (1 to 2 pounds per week) are more successful at maintaining their weight loss. 

In order to lose one pound per week, you should consume 500 fewer calories per day or 3,500 fewer calories per week.8 


The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week, with 2 days of muscle-strengthening activities, such as resistance or weights. This includes exercises such as brisk walking, riding a bike, hiking, or pushing a lawn mower. If you’re doing moderate-intensity activity, you should be able to talk but not sing.9  


Drinking plenty of water each day is important, since the human body is 60% water and our blood is 90% water. Water keeps our blood the right thickness to carry oxygen and nutrients throughout the body, as well as regulates bowel movements, prevents skin wrinkles, boosts energy levels and controls hunger. A good rule of thumb to follow is the “8 x 8 Rule.” You should drink at least 8 ounces of water 8 times each day. Individuals that are active, in warmer climates, have a faster metabolism, or weigh more may need more water throughout the day.10 


Sleep and nutrition work side by side. Healthy dietary choices can help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer, while research has shown that individuals lacking sleep, tend to consume foods high in sugar, fat, and calories. Who hasn’t binged on chips, candy, and soda during a late night? Adults need at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night. Sleep helps clear waste that has built up in your brain during the day, allowing you to wake with a fresh mind. Long-term sleep deprivation has also been linked to certain medical conditions including obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and poor mental health.11 Quality sleep starts with healthy sleep habits or good sleep hygiene. Tips for good sleep hygiene are: 

There are many great resources online that can help you in your journey! Here are some of our favorites: 





  1. Nutrition Basics [Internet]. Pullman (WA): Washington State University; [cited 2021 Marc 22]. Available from: https://mynutrition.wsu.edu/nutrition-basics
  2. Mawer R. Healthy Eating – A Detailed Guide for Beginners [Internet]. Healthline Media; 2016 July 5 [cited 2021 Mar 22]. Available from: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/healthy-eating-for-beginners
  3. Pietrangelo A. What’s the Difference Between Saturated and Unsaturated Fat? [Internet]. Healthline Media; 2019 Dec 11 [cited 2021 Mar 22]. Available from: https://www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/saturated-vs-unsaturated-fat#saturated-fat
  4. Scinta W. The History of Portion Sizes: How They’ve Changed Over Time [Internet]. Tampa (FL): Obesity Action Coalition; 2016 Apr 28 [cited 2021 Mar 22]. Available from: https://www.yourweightmatters.org/portion-sizes-changed-time/
  5. What is a Serving [Internet]. Dallas (TX): American Heart Association; 2017 Jun 30 [cited 2021 Mar 22]. Available from: https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/caregiver-support/what-is-a-serving
  6. Diabetes Meal Planning [Internet]. Atlanta (GA): Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; [cited 2021 Mar 22]. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/managing/eat-well/meal-plan-method.html
  7. How to Use BMR to Hack Your Diet [Internet]. InBody; 2018 Mar 15 [cited 2021 Mar 22]. Available from: https://inbodyusa.com/blogs/inbodyblog/49311425-how-to-use-bmr-to-hack-your-diet/
  8. Healthy Weight, Nutrition, and Physical Activity: What is healthy weight loss? [Internet]. Atlanta (GA): Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; [cited 2021 Mar 22]. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/losing_weight/index.html
  9. Measuring Physical Activity Intensity [Internet]. Atlanta (GA): Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; [cited 2021 Mar 22]. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/measuring/index.html
  10. How Much Water Do you Need Daily? [Internet]. Cleveland Clinic: HealthEssentials; 2020 Aug 6 [cited 2021 Mar 22]. Available from: https://health.clevelandclinic.org/how-much-water-do-you-need-daily/
  11. Foley L. Why Do We Need Sleep? [Internet]. Sleep Foundation; 2020 Sep 11 [cited 2021 Mar 22]. Available from: https://www.sleepfoundation.org/how-sleep-works/why-do-we-need-sleep
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