What Is Good Nutrition?

Nutrition has always been and will always be a hot topic for discussion. Especially with all the different options that are on offer nowadays.

One corner of folks will claim low fat is the way to go. The next guy says it's low carbs. Then a third person says that moderation is the key.

Which one is it!?

The aim of this article is to help educate you about the truth behind foods and what good nutrition consists of -- based on facts -- not opinions, or preferences.

Achieving your ideal body weight and changing your body shape requires that your nutrition and dietary habits be of good, to great standard.

Not average, but consistently good or great.

What exactly is good nutrition?

What does it consist of?

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This article will show you EXACTLY what having good nutrition means and what the criteria for obtaining it consists of.

The following points are from my nutritional studies and certification, from Precision Nutrition. 

They are part of the book, "The Essentials of Sport and Exercise Nutrition".

When it comes to dietary advice and recommendations, I like to deal with facts.

I'm sorry, but I don't care whether or not you "think" your nutrition is good. I want and need facts to back up that claim.

I want to cut through the fluff, show you the truth and also want to give you a clear understanding of whether or not you are ticking the boxes, so that you can actually reach your goals.

Far too often, people let their emotions and perceptions guide them. When in fact, logic will tell you that changes need to be made so that true progress can occur.

Below are the five criteria which must be met for having "good nutrition".

1. Good nutrition properly controls energy balance

Energy balance is the sum of calories in (via food and/or liquids) vs calories out (energy expenditure for daily requirements).

This energy balance will either see you gain weight, lose weight or maintain your current weight, depending on what state you are in on a consistent basis.

Energy balance plays a crucial role in weight gain/loss, but isn't the only factor. It also has to do with the what's happening from a hormonal standpoint and at the cellular level, too.

There are three types of energy balance, which are outlined below.

  1. Positive energy balance.
    • Calories in exceeds calories out, resulting in a weight gain.
  2. Negative energy balance. 
    • Calories out exceeds calories in, resulting in a weight loss.
  3. Neutral energy balance. 
    • Calories in and calories out are balanced evenly, resulting in no change in weight.
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2. Good nutrition provides nutrient density

Nutrient density is the amount of nutrients (vitamins, minerals, fibre and phytonutrients) relative to the total calorie count of a specific food.

What does that mean?

Foods which are high in nutrients per 100 calories, is what I am referring to here. (100 calories is just an example.)

Basically, you want lots of nutrients, without a tonne of calories.

On the other side of the coin, we have what's known as calorie density.

Calorie density = The ratio of calories per unit (grams) of food.

Foods with a high calorie density are usually responsible for creating a positive energy balance and weight-gain. They end up adding lots of calories without all of the benefits of the other nutrients and satiety of fibre.

In terms of following good nutrition principles, ideally, you want to consume foods with high nutrient density and low calorie density.

Examples of high-calorie dense foods

  • Cookies
  • Crackers
  • Butter
  • Bacon
High calorie density foods

High calorie density foods

Examples of low-calorie dense foods

  • Fresh vegetables
  • Broth-based soups
  • Fresh fruits
  • Chicken breast
Low calorie density foods

Low calorie density foods

3) Good nutrition achieves health, body composition and performance goals

This part of the equation takes into account the fact that eating good foods actually has to achieve an end result. You can't just eat foods because they taste good.

Well, you can, but your goals will be negatively affected.

The food choices which you make should encourage and make sure that you are working towards improving three vital areas of your life;

  1. Your health
  2. Your body composition
  3. Your performance

This is known as the "Intersection of Three Goals"

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When you focus too much of your efforts on performance, it may negatively impact your health and/or body composition. Similarly, if you put too much emphasis on your body composition, you might find your health and/or performance decline.

When one, or two area(s) is strong and another is weak, you leave yourself open to problems.

This is why you want to maintain a sense of balance across these three areas, so that you can continue to make sustainable progress 'across the board'.

4) Good nutrition is honest and outcome-based

"I eat really well, but the scales just won't budge."

"My nutrition is really good, but I haven't lost any weight."

"I eat clean, but I still haven't dropped a clothing size."

Sound familiar?

Good nutrition will show results over time. It doesn't (and won't) have an instant impact.

It took time for you to reach the point where you are right now, and it will take time to change that.

With that in mind, if you believe that you are currently doing a good job with your nutrition, you should have some results and proof to back that up.

Facts and data don't lie. They just tell you what's happening.

It's not an opinion. it's the truth.

Below is a quick example of how you can effectively track and measure your progress. In this example, the goal is weight-loss. 

  • Goal = Weight loss
  • What needs to occur = Negative energy balance
  • How to track = Scales, girth measurements, progress photos, body-fat percentage test
  • Is it working?
    • Did the scale number go down? (Yes or No)
    • Have the measurements as a total decreased? (Yes or No)
    • Do you look slimmer in certain areas on photos? (Yes or No)
    • What body-fat percentage are you at now? (Higher, lower or the same)

the responses to these questions are clearly defined. There is no grey area.

You have either met the criteria for your goal, or you haven't. 

If these indicators show that nothing has changed in a positive way, then you need to make adjustments.

If it did indeed show progress, then you carry on doing what you're doing. You have proof backing up your approach and method.

Being honest and assessing what is happening is a crucial piece of the puzzle to getting your nutrition right. 

5) Good nutrition is sustainable for both us and the planet

If you want to maintain your body composition, performance and health goals long-term, then the nutrition strategy that you use needs to be followed long-term. It can't be a token effort or a 4-week challenge type of approach.

This also means that the foods which you consume regularly need to be sustainable for both you and the planet.

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Think of it this way. If every single person ate chicken breast every single day in mass quantities, even though it is nutrient dense and good for us, we may eventually run out of chicken.

So, is it really a good idea to exhaust a food group to the point of no longer being sustainable?

When you think of it like that, adding some variety to your food selections is actually quite a good thing.

You allow your body to receive more nutrients, a full spectrum of amino acids (the building blocks of protein) and also ensure that the foods consumed will be around for a long time.

If you eat a range of different fruits, vegetables, meats, dairy products and nuts on a regular basis, it's likely to be a sustainable way to eat for this and future generations.

There you have it. A definitive guide to what good nutrition is, based upon facts.

My role as a coach is to provide you with accurate and relevant information so that it can guide you to make the necessary changes to your nutrition.

The changes may or not be easy, but they might be essential for you to see the results you want.

This has only scratched the surface of the topic of foods and nutrition, but it should give you something to refer back to if you are in doubt with your food choices and goals.

Hopefully, that can help simplify your approach to nutrition and help you to select the right foods for you and your goals.

If you have any burning questions, or want further help with your nutrition, please feel free to contact me or comment below. I'd love to help where possible.

Until next time,

Follow the good nutrition principles.