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Article updated: 5/2/2011 7:44 AM

Balancing those five basic food groups

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By Mark Trapp Joshua Steckler

Although there seems to be an endless variety of foods out there, we teach our clients five basic food groups -- protein, fats, fruits, vegetables and starches.

Fruits, vegetables and starches all fall under the macronutrient carbohydrates, while protein and fats make up their own respective macronutrients.

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Good eats

If we break down a sample meal plan for the day, a 1,600-calorie diet would look like this. How does a random day from your diet compare?

Breakfast at 7 a.m.
Omelet
2 eggs
1 ounce shredded cheese
cup spinach
cup chopped tomato
1 protein, 1 fat, 2 veggies

Snack at 9:30 a.m.
5 ounces plain Greek yogurt
cup blueberries
1 tbsp. flax oil
1 protein, 1 fruit, 1 fat

Lunch at noon
Salad
4 ounces chicken breast
1 cup chopped romaine
cup black beans
cup brown rice
avocado
1 protein, 2 veggies, 1 starch, 1 fat

Snack at 3 p.m.
1 scoop whey protein
1 apple
1 tbsp. natural almond butter
1 protein, 1 fruit, 1 fat

Dinner at 6 p.m.
6 ounces salmon
1 ounce crushed walnuts
4 asparagus spears
cup red peppers
1-2 protein, 1 fat, 1 veggie

It's a proper balance of these three nutrients -- protein, fat and carbohydrates -- that will keep you healthy and nourished.

Let's take a look at these nutrients and how to fit them into your daily diet.

Protein is a building block for muscle. Therefore, if you want a toned and lean body, you need to eat protein consistently throughout the day to support muscle growth. Eggs, beef, chicken, turkey, fish and whey are all excellent forms of protein.

Fat is the most underrated macronutrient. Most people avoid fats because of their high calorie content, but the truth is, fats are vital in our diet and without them, there is a tendency to eat too many calories from carbohydrates. This leads to spikes in blood sugar and weight gain. Focus on eating natural fats such as olives, avocado, nuts and coconut.

Fruits are easy to understand, but remember that a variety of fresh fruit is the way to go. Fruit provides natural energy and an abundance of nutrients. Don't be afraid of the "sugar" in fruit. To my knowledge, no one has become overweight by eating too much fresh fruit.

Vegetables are too often neglected and overlooked. If you look at the ratio of nutrients to calories, vegetables like broccoli, spinach, asparagus and zucchini will flood your body with nutrients, but not drown you with excess calories.

Starches should be limited because of their sugar content and the effect they have on blood sugar. A spike or drop in blood sugar will support storage of body fat. Bagels, cereal and bread might be common staples in your diet, but they provide a lot of sugar with minimal nutrients. Limit these types of starchy foods and get more carbohydrates from fruits and vegetables.

Remember, a healthy balance of these five food groups is a sensible way to not only ensure a variety of nutrients but also to control your weight as well. Give your diet the thought it deserves. Your body will thank you!

Joshua Steckler and Mark Trapp are co-owners of Push Fitness, a personal training studio in Schaumburg specializing in weight loss, muscle toning and nutrition. Contact them at PushFitnessTraining.com.

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