Best Exercises To Do While Pregnant

MyPlate Illustrates Concepts of Balance, Variety, and Moderation

Very basic tools illustrating the concepts of balance, variety, and moderation are presented through the U.S. Dietary Guidelines and include the MyPlate icon. Available on the United States Department of Agriculture’s website, MyPlate is a great visual for a healthful eating approach. As shown in Figure 6.1, MyPlate graphic breaks the plate into three components with specified proportions. Fruits and vegetables comprise one-half of the plate, and whole grains and lean protein options comprise one-fourth of the plate each (the MyPlate graphic does not specify whole grains and lean proteins, just grains and proteins, but this is a great opportunity to educate individuals on the benefits of making whole grain and lean protein choices).

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Athletes can be educated on how to use this template as a way to gauge their own meals. For athletes with low-to-moderate activity, the proportions of MyPlate are appropriate. Athletes with moderate activity levels will better meet their energy needs with proportions of one-third each fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins; for athletes with high levels of training a plate comprising half whole grains, one-fourth vegetables, and one-fourth lean proteins is needed in order to meet their increased energy needs. These plate visuals can be a great tool for athletes to assess balance of food groups as well as proportionality of these nutrients wherever they go.

Nutrition Implementation: Translating Numbers to Behaviors

Providing athletes with the fundamentals of weight loss and educating them on what their daily intake should be is one thing; it is a completely different skill to be able to assist athletes in implementing the knowledge that has been imparted. Helping athletes make sense of the numbers and how they translate to behaviors is essential for successful adoption of nutrition recommendations.

Chapter 2 demonstrates assessment of energy needs, and Chapter 4 breaks down the specifics of carbohydrate, protein, fat, and fluid recommendations. This information can be compiled into an individualized nutrition plan that provides the recommended macronutrient and fluid amounts specific to the athlete. Athletes can be taught how these nutrients are balanced appropriately, are consumed from a variety of food sources, and to apply the concept of moderation to their food choices. The next step is to teach athletes how to execute these recommendations in a practical and meaningful way.

Supporting athletes in successful implementation of dietary practices can be accomplished in a number of ways. Some sports dietitians have preestablished meal plans at different calorie levels, and these can be tweaked and changed to meet an individual’s specific macronutrient needs. Using preestablished meal plans can be a helpful way to simply demonstrate what healthful dietary patterns look like. Some athletes simply have no idea what a “healthy” daily intake looks like, and preset meal plans provide this visual even if the athlete does not follow that specific plan. Some athletes need significant dietary changes, which can be assessed from baseline data such as a food journal or a 24-hour dietary recall or both. Take, for instance, a high school or college athlete who eats a lot of fast food and consumes very few fresh foods. If very few of their existing behaviors are healthful, a preestablished meal plan that is customized to one’s likes and dislikes can be a useful approach. Other athletes may be relatively close to meeting their needs or are already engaging in healthy behaviors. In these cases, the athletes’ current dietary patterns are analyzed for nutrient and energy content, and can then be adjusted and modified to meet their specific nutrient needs. Other times, a combination of approaches can be used such as creating and strategizing meal ideas for an athlete who skips breakfast.

The closer the practitioner can incorporate the athlete’s current daily intake into their suggestions, the more likely the recommendations will be successful. Nutrition plans that resemble typical daily intake face fewer obstacles because there is some familiarity for the athlete. This illustrates the importance of a thorough nutrition assessment and a familiarization with an athlete’s usual dietary habits. Dietary preferences, dislikes, allergies or intolerances, and potential religious practices or food ethics are all relevant to developing a nutrition plan that is customized to the individual.

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