“If you could eat perfect, even if it was only for one day, what would that one day look like?”
This question has bugged me ever since I started learning about health and nutrition from Men’s Health magazines back in high school. It became somewhat of an obsession of mine. I figured that if you could just design the perfect meal plan for a single day, you could simply repeat that same meal plan day after day, until you reach your desired goal. It seemed so simple.
But In order to design the perfect day of eating, we need to first define what it means to eat perfect.
Balanced Diets and the USDA
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) would like us to believe that the perfect day of eating is the one that balances all the major food groups… grains, dairy, fruits, vegetables, and protein.
But who created food groups in the first place?
I mean most people know these 5 food groups as the ONLY 5 food groups, but has it always been this way? A little research shows that not too long ago (1943) there were actually 7 food groups, instead of the 5 we know.
Today, people are seen as crazy, unhealthy, or unbalanced if they avoid grains or dairy, but no one says anything if they choose to avoid butter or margarine, which made up their own food group less than 70 years ago! And before that time, there were NO food groups! The 5 that we are accustomed to today are actually a very new concept.
I understand that food groups are used to simplify healthy eating for the American public, but do the US government and the USDA really have our best interests at hand? I would have to say no.
First of all, it baffles me that the organization (USDA) that controls our production and supply of food, is the same organization that tells us what foods are healthy to eat. That’s a pretty big conflict of interest if I have ever seen one.
After researching the Paleo diet and seeing other resources out there, I am convinced that the USDA food guidelines have much more to do with balancing our wallets than they have to do with balancing our health. The food groups may be better explained as a way of telling us how to spend our money to keep all industries happy, not how to improve our health. Especially when things like corn, soy, and wheat are among the major subsidized crops of the US Government.
Talking to other Paleo-ers, many of them have referred to former advice of doctors or nutritionists that they received where they were advised that they should NEVER exclude any food groups completely. Some “professionals” even calling this practice “dangerous!” I have to think that our bodies somehow lived without grains for two million years so that should stand for something.
Should food groups be divided to help us eat better? Or is it actually hurting us? How can we make sure we are eating a balanced diet?
How I Define the Perfect Day of Eating.
Our knowledge of nutrition is evolving on an almost daily basis, so it’s difficult to definitively say what constitutes a balanced and perfect diet. But instead of looking at some arbitrary concept such as food groups, I think we can take a slightly more scientific approach. While still not perfect, the recommended daily intakes (RDI) of vitamins and minerals appear to be a much broader measure of what makes up a healthy diet. And if we could meet all those quotas with real foods only (without the use of multi-vitamins, supplements, or fortified foods), I think that would make for a pretty darn perfect day of eating.
Let’s take a look at what I consider to be a fairly perfect Paleo day of eating, and see how it stacks up.
The Perfect Day of Eating.
3 Cage-Free Eggs cooked in Grass-fed Butter (technically dairy, but the only kind worth using regularly)
2 Baked Chicken Thighs
1 cup steamed Spinach
Salad of 1 ½ Cups Arugula, 1 Can of Wild Salmon, ½ Avocado, handful of sliced Almonds, and Olive Oil-Balsamic Vinaigrette)
Paleo Spaghetti (made with 1 ½ cups Spaghetti Squash, ½ lb grass-fed beef, ½ can tomatoes, garlic, onions, oregano, and olive oil)
Microwaved Sweet Potato (made with 1 medium sweet potato, coconut oil, cinnamon, and 10 pecans)
173 grams of Protein or 31% of total calories
103 grams of Carbs or 17% of total calories
136 grams of Fat or 52% of total calories
But more importantly….
BAM! This screen shot from Cronometer shows that my perfect day satisfies and exceeds the recommended daily intakes for every single vitamin and mineral! And I did it without the help of any grains, dairy, or supplements!
While I will admit that this is not a flawless system, it is probably the best we have for measuring the strength of any given diet. Next time someone tries to tell you that a Paleo diet is unbalanced or just another fad diet, point them in the direction of the perfect day. When you focus your diet on quality meats, fish, eggs, vegetables, fruits, and nuts, every day starts to look like a perfect day.