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Part-time Foodie: Macronutrients


Macronutrients: 
The biggest building blocks of food and
why they’re not all friends

As a part-time foodie, full time wife, hopefully future mother and somebody who’s creating my job as I go, nutrition is… difficult. I have the time, but not always the energy and concentration. Plus… I don’t like to cook. Every time I’ve go into my kitchen determined to find something healthy for lunch, I feel like I’m wandering in circles. I keep going but I loop back to the same place - confused and undereducated.

I know the rules, I know the don’ts, but I don’t know the hows, or the do’s. It all gets a little crazy and frustrating. So for us, here, I’m backing up. Knowing whether a recipe is healthy or not is 95% useless unless you know why. Knowing whether a recipe is healthy by looking at the list of ingredients is empowering. So let’s get started.


Macronutrients are defined as the primary nutrients that humans (or living beings generally) need to survive. There are three macronutrients that humans need: fats, carbohydrates, and protein.

  • Fats: Fats are the body’s preferred source of energy*. Healthy fats promote brain growth and health, help you absorb other vitamins and minerals (micronutrients) and should be 15-20% of our diets*. Fats do not make you fat! Healthy fats can be found in foods like avocados, almonds, olives. *An asterisk indicates external resources at the end of the post.
  • Carbohydrates: Carbs include all sugars, healthy and unhealthy. Carbs are converted into glucose (good) and fructose (bad). Carbs fuel your body (via glucose) but can also have negative effects on your blood sugar, and cause weight gain (via fructose.) Carbs are found in most fruits, veggies like carrots and cauliflower, and legumes.
  • Protein: If fats are fuel, and carbs are an alternate fuel source, then protein is the mechanic that keeps your body running. Protein is essential for cell building and repair, for immune systems, hormones, and building muscle. Your body can build most proteins, but there are 9 which it cannot, all of which are present in meats (and more difficult to find on a strictly vegetarian diet.) Protein is found in raw greens like kale and spinach, and in meats and seafoods.
There’s more to each of these specific macronutrients, and I intend to blog about each of them in turn. However, for now what we need to know is how they work together. You may be left thinking that each of them is necessary together for a balanced meal, however, fats and carbs do not work well together. Ultimately, they are both sources of fuel. If two sources of fuel are consumed together, one will be used while the other will be stored - as fat. Moreover, if your cells and muscles are already fueled by one source, then when insulin trucks around the body trying to distribute the sugar, there will be no need for it. An excess of fuel can lead to other problems, such as insulin resistance and prediabetes.


So, eating fats and carbs together is ok occasionally, but typically it’s best to separate them. Instead of pairing fats and carbs with each other, pair them with protein. Instead of eating extra energy, you’ll be eating one macronutrient to physically fuel you, and one to build and strengthen your cells, and overall your body.

Given that information… what do we eat?! 

There are some really great solutions to focusing a meal around fat and protein, or carbs and protein. (For more recipes, follow Trim Healthy Mama on Pinterest.)

Smoothies

Smoothies can be an excellent way to combine a lot of macro and micronutrients, and a simple way to focus on either fats or carbs. I typically build smoothies out of basic but variable ingredients: 1 cup liquid, 1 serving whey or plant-based protein powder. Depending on the flavor, I’ll add a handful of greens, some fresh or frozen fruit, and ice. Below are the foods I use in my smoothies.

Carb Smoothies: 1 c. milk, almond milk, water or other liquid base. 1 serving protein powder (whey or plant based). 1 handful dark greens, usually spinach (if you use kale, you may need a sweetener). 1 cup fresh or frozen fruit. 

Fat smoothies: 1 c. almond milk, water, or low-carb alternative. 1 serving protein powder. 1 handful dark greens. ½ of an avocado. ½ cup frozen fruit.

My favorite, a low-carb chocolate peanut butter smoothie, includes: 1 c. almond milk, 2 tbsp cocoa powder, ½ frozen banana, ¼ c. peanut butter (sugar free, if I can find it), ½ tsp vanilla, and 4-5 ice cubes.


Another simple fat and protein based meal that I love is cooked chicken and sauted vegetables. Sauteing anything from green beans to brussels sprouts in a healthy oil is easy and versatile, so it’s one my husband and I cook frequently. Don’t worry, I plan to do a post about vegetables later!

For breakfasts, we usually eat scrambled eggs (fat and protein together!). Occasionally we’ll mix in some onions, peppers, or even a few tiny chunks of cream cheese for the last minute in the pan.

Macronutrient research: https://www.naturalbalancefoods.com/community/dietary-needs/what-are-macronutrients-micronutrients/

Fats and Carbs research: Trim Healthy Mama by Serene Allison and Pearl Barrett. Insulin and diabetes research: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diabetes/types/prediabetes-insulin-resistance

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