The Helping Hand Approach to Eating (Quality)

Dr. Shawn Talbott (Ph.D., CNS, LDN, FACSM, FACN, FAIS) has gone from triathlon struggler to gut-brain guru! With a Ph.D. in Nutritional Biochemistry, he's on a mission to boost everyday human performance through the power of natural solutions and the gut-brain axis.

Want to feel better than you’ve ever felt?

Here’s another excerpt from my 10th book, The Secret of Vigor – How to Overcome Burnout, Restore Biochemical Balance and Reclaim Your Natural Energy

Some of the most popular New Year’s resolutions every year are:
*Lose Weight
*Get in Shape
*Reduce Stress
*Get Healthier
*Win the Lottery

The Secret of Vigor can help you with 4 out of 5 of the most popular resolution goals, so I’ll be posting excerpts from the book for the next several weeks – so please stay tuned for each installment.

If you simply can’t wait, then you can certainly get a copy at or at your favorite library or bookstore.

The Helping-Hand Approach to Eating
Over years of working with countless people, I have developed an approach to eating that is designed to be as easy and low stress as possible. I call this method the “Helping Hand”—a simplified approach to choosing foods that involves no “counting” of calories, fat grams, or carbohydrates.

Instead of all those calculations, you learn to balance your intake of carbohydrates, protein, fat, and fiber in a way that considers the quantity of food and, even more importantly, the quality of those foods. Specifically, quality refers to what you eat, and quantity refers to how much you eat.

With this approach, you do not have to stick to eating only certain items from a long list of “approved” foods (because all foods are fair game), and you also don’t have to worry about avoiding other foods on some “banned” list (because no foods are prohibited).

Below you’ll see the details on this approach, which I have used with thousands of clients and shared with readers in my other books. Here’s how it works.

Quality: What to Eat

Step 1—Consider Carbohydrates
General rule: Foods that are more “whole” (in their natural, unprocessed state) are preferred choices.

Carbohydrates are not “bad” in and of themselves, but the form of carbohydrate that you choose will determine your body’s biochemical response and your likelihood of being able to effectively control inflammation and repair/rebuild damaged tissues. Here are some examples of this principle in action:

* A whole apple is less processed than applesauce, which is less processed than apple juice—so the apple is the best choice, the applesauce is moderate, and the apple juice is least preferred. In general, all whole fruits and vegetables are “good” choices.

* Whole-grain forms of high-carbohydrate foods are always preferred over forms that use highly refined grains. (Think “whole grain” or “whole wheat” instead of Wonder Bread.) When choosing breads, pastas, and crackers, always look at the ingredients list for “whole-grain flour” or “whole-wheat flour” instead of products that simply state “wheat flour,” which indicates a more highly refined product rather than a whole-grain product.

* When you can’t look at a label (such as when eating out), choose grain products that are thicker, chewier, and heartier—such as “peasant breads,” with added seeds, nuts, and fruits—rather than “fluffier” and “softer” breads, which indicate highly refined grains.

Step 2—Provide Protein
General rule: Any form of lean protein can be used to “complete” a refined carbohydrate.

Protein and carbs are the “yin and yang” of nutrition: They have to be consumed together for proper dietary balance (which falls apart when either one is excluded or inappropriately restricted).

* Leaner sources of protein are always a better choice than fattier cuts (choose 96 percent lean ground beef instead of 85 percent lean).

* A bagel for breakfast is not necessarily a “bad” carbohydrate, but it is not the best choice, especially if it is made from refined, white flour instead of whole-wheat flour. Your bagel can be made “better” from a biochemical standpoint by adding some protein—perhaps in the form of smoked salmon or a scrambled egg.

The combination of virtually any protein with a refined-carb food balances the meal into one with a better overall metabolic profile, meaning that your body will handle the calories more appropriately.

Step 3—Finish with Fat
General rule: A small amount of added fat at each meal is a “metabolic regulator.”

A bit of added fat—in the form of a pat of butter, a dash of olive oil, a square of cheese, or a small handful of nuts—helps slow the postmeal metabolic imbalance (that is, a rise in cortisol and blood sugar), which in turn helps you control appetite and enhance fat burning throughout the day.

* Your choice of pasta as a side dish (but not as a main meal—see quantity discussion in the next section) is an “okay” choice, but you can make it a better choice by selecting whole-grain pasta (instead of the typical highly refined forms) and by topping it with a delicious olive oil, garlic, and basil sauce. Even better, mix some fresh vegetables into the sauce to further boost the nutritional content of the entire meal.

* Your child’s lunch of white bread with grape jelly is a biochemical disaster (you might as well inject sugar straight into her veins and fat into her adipose tissue), but you can boost the nutritional content and her body’s ability to metabolize her sandwich by adding a bit of peanut butter, insisting that she wash it down with a glass of skim or 1 percent milk, and switching to whole-wheat bread (a tough switch with many kids, but well worth the try).

Step 4—Fill Up with Fiber
General rule: Choosing “whole” forms of grains, fruits, and vegetables (as recommended in Step 1) will automatically satisfy your fiber needs.

Like fat, fiber helps slow the absorption of sugar from the digestive tract into the bloodstream. In this way, fiber can also be considered a “metabolic regulator” to help balance cortisol and blood-sugar levels at each meal or snack.

The fiber content of whole foods also provides a great deal of “satiety”—that is, foods high in fiber make you feel fuller for longer, so you are less likely to feel hungry and less likely to feel stressed out as a result of your hunger. Whole-grain, fiber-rich foods also contain a wide array of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory phytonutrients, such as lignans, to further protect tissues from damage.

Next up – the “Quantity” aspect of the Helping Hand Approach to Eating…

About the Author

Exercise physiologist (MS, UMass Amherst) and Nutritional Biochemist (PhD, Rutgers) who studies how lifestyle influences our biochemistry, psychology and behavior - which kind of makes me a "Psycho-Nutritionist"?!?!

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

Solve the 3 Main Sleep Problems
and Improve Your Sleep Quality
without Drugs or Synthetic Melatonin