Fresh. Fit. Focused.: The Basics of Good Nutrition


Melissa Schmitz, Staff Writer

As easy as nutrition may seem, many people struggle because they don’t know the basics. So consider this a crash course.



(4 Calories/1 gram)

These simple sugars are the basis of all the food you consume (between 60-70% of your diet is recommended). The difference between those “bad” and “good” carbs when it comes to breads and grains can be determined by color. White carbs are refined (bad) and brown carbs are usually labeled as “whole” (good). Fruit and vegetables are carbs, as well. But remember, sugar content in fruits can be quite high so try to stick with more vegetables. Veggies are high in fiber, so they’ll fill you up, too!

Examples: Bread, Fruit, Vegetables



(4 Calories/1 gram)

Proteins are broken down into amino acids and reformed again into muscle, which generates heat within the body. It’s very important to eat protein ASAP up to 2 hours after every workout for muscle repair. Most people can distinguish protein from other foods, but it is important to be wary of certain protein sources, because red meat and nuts are also very high in fat (though the nuts have good fat, it still contributes to your overall calories, so be mindful about your intake!).

Examples: Red Meat, Chicken, Fish, Tofu, & Nuts



(9 Calories/1 gram)

The most feared among all nutrients, lipids form the fat you can grab on your belly and the fat surrounding your internal organs, holding in excess energy and keeping you warm. However, fat also composes cell membranes and insulates neurons for proper functioning. It is important to learn about fat, because many people think no body fat is an attainable goal. Which it is, if you want to die. Everyone must have fat in his or her body, but the key is to focus on “good” fat. If it comes from McDonald’s or from a wrapper, it’s probably bad. But as a rule of thumb, animal fats are saturated (bad) and fats from plants are unsaturated (good). If you’re unsure, just check the nutrition label.

Examples: Nuts, Oils, Candy, Fast Food


(7 Calories/1 gram)

An often forgotten way of gaining weight is through drinking, which contributes nothing to nutrition. Alcohol can be very damaging to one’s health, also, so in order to keep oneself within a good blood alcohol level, limit yourself to one glass an hour with food, followed by at least one glass of water. As fun as drinking can be, it is important to remember the toll it takes on the liver. If you’re drinking red wine, which contains antioxidants, the “healthy” daily limit is 1 glass for women and 2 for men. But let’s be honest… there are no health benefits of drinking more than a couple glasses per night, especially if you choose beer or hard liquor over wine.

Examples: Any liquor, wine, or beer.

Calorie Types

If you thought calories were only limited to the nutrients above, think again! It’s not just the type of macromolecule you’re eating, but the ratio of nutrients to calories, as well. For more, I suggest looking into the Glycemic Index (Information is available at the cafeteria).


  Empty Calories

These do not contain any (or only scant) essential nutrients. Just junk you don’t need, and most of this junk is fat. These are especially bad because they give you a quick burst of energy and once it wears off, you’re eating again. These calories are the most common eaten when people gain weight, especially when living a highly sedentary lifestyle.

Examples: Fast Food, Candy, & White Carbs


    Full Calories

You guessed it. Full calories are full of nutrients and energy! These calories burn efficiently and hold a lot of energy, so after you eat them you usually don’t crave more for a while. Full calorie foods also tend to be lower in calories, so you can eat more and not feel as guilty! (This is especially good for people trying to lose weight!)

Examples: Veggies, Brown Carbs, most “healthy” foods