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There are plenty of fads, diets, and pre-packaged meal plan options available – yet, obesity is on the rise. Why? Simple. Diets don’t work. Fads fade. Meal plan options are temporary and can become expensive over time. Because we make basic nutrition more complicated than it really is, I wanted to provide you with a simple plan.

Here is a 3-point plan to optimize your daily nutrition.

1. Frequency – Aim for 5-6 small meals approximately every 3 hours (ex. breakfast, AM snack, lunch, PM snack, dinner). Plan each meal in your schedule so you make time and actually follow through. Eating smaller, more frequent meals throughout the course of the day helps improve your metabolism and prevents dramatic swings in your blood sugar levels. These swings can lead to scarce eating coupled with binges and uneven energy levels through the day. They can also result in your body becoming more insulin resistant which inevitably leads to weight gain and fat storage.

2. Quality – This is by far the most important component to your nutrition both in terms of achieving optimal health and maintaining a healthy weight level. Eat a base of vegetables, fruits, lean proteins, fish, nuts and whole grains. Include some form of protein and fiber with each meal. Avoid processed and packaged foods. Plan ahead and make your own snacks and lunches to take during the day to avoid eating out. If you do stop at a restaurant or fast food spot, make healthy choices.

3. Quantity – Most people primarily focus on this area, and although important, the key is to follow the first two principles. If you follow these principles, you don’t have to worry as much about the quantity. This does not mean that you eat everything in sight until you are stuffed – it simply means that if you focus on fresh, nutrient-rich foods as opposed to calorie-dense, non-nutritive foods, you can eat more and worry less about total quantity. When you focus on frequency and quality, your food intake is spaced out throughout the day and comprised of healthier and less calorie-dense options. You still want to control portions, but you can eat lots of fresh veggies, fruits and proteins. And in doing so, you can maintain healthy nutrition and weight!

Author, Devon Dohony, is Merritt Athletic Clubs Regional Group Fitness Director. If you are interested in speaking with a Registered Dietitian and Nutritionist, contact Diana Sugiuchi at our Towson club (410-821-0160).