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Gina Cousineau

By Gina Cousineau

As New Year’s resolutions fade away, it is about this time of year that prospective clients ask me what is the best “diet” choice. Before answering this weighted question, I have to ask them what their goal is, as without this question answered, it is impossible for me to respond.

Establishing objectives when looking for a nutrition approach that can be sustainable for the duration is crucial to your success. Most come to me with the goal of losing weight. While reducing body fat can improve health and certainly help with your aesthetics, the benefits of shifting your food selections can go so much further than just the number on the almighty scale.

Today, we sit in an obesity pandemic and health crisis caused by the foods we eat and the lack of movement we make. While the excuses are plentiful, the bottom line is, we are too busy and too confused by what is best when it comes to nutrition, as well as about how to embark on a healthy lifestyle that can not only improve our health but inject joy in our lives.

Each year, the “Mediterranean diet” ranks No. 1, according to U.S. News & World Reports “Best Diet Rankings,” based on sustainability, likability, practicality and more.

To help my clients choose more wholesome foods using this approach, I have designed a “healthy plate visual” to help make food choices easy and enjoyable.

Most of my clients seem to prefer a “sweet” breakfast option, so using a variety of no-added-sugar fruit choices, both fresh and frozen, I like to include a fruit serving at this meal.

It is possible to make a delicious and nutritious breakfast by pairing a wholegrain/starch option (whole wheat/grain bread, whole oats, a low-sugar, high-fiber cereal) with a protein/fat source (nut butter containing nuts and salt only, eggs, Greek yogurt, low-fat milk, soy milk, or pea beverage). I love knocking off a calcium serving as well.

Options such as oatmeal cooked with 1% milk, dates (when cooked, they taste like caramel), and topped with chopped walnuts, or a bowl of Greek yogurt, muesli, nuts, and berries can be a wonderful start to your day. If you prefer savory, think wholegrain avocado toast topped with over-easy eggs, sliced tomato, and a side of blueberries.

I encourage my clients’ lunches and dinners to incorporate a half-plate of non-starchy vegetables with their lean protein (animal or vegetable), starch/whole grain, and healthy fat options.

Tossing onions, peppers and zucchini into your chili paired with lean ground turkey and beans, topped with avocado or cheese, makes for a meal everyone in the house can enjoy. Or simply provide a “bowl buffet,” where you offer quinoa or brown rice as a base, coupled with grilled chicken or tofu, fajita-style veggies roasted with olive oil, in addition to avocado, cheese and salsa as toppings; this allows everyone to participate in making a healthy plate.

Snack options are usually picked based on desires, not nutrient needs. I encourage clients to pick a fiber, fat and protein when making snack selections. Since calcium is a nutrient of concern for all, I suggest a high-protein, calcium-rich food (dairy/non-dairy) combined with a serving of fruit and wholesome fat.

Picture a smoothie with soy milk, frozen bananas, peanut butter, and cocoa powder or cottage cheese, topped with chopped apple, roasted pecans and a sprinkle of cinnamon to quell that afternoon sweet tooth.

Healthy habits can begin with one meal or snack at a time. Not only can we impact our own future with a wholesome nutrition game plan, it can impact the future of those we love.

Gina Cousineau, aka Mama G, sees clients in person and virtually out of her San Clemente office. Her extensive education with a BS in dietetics and MS in integrative and functional nutrition, chef training, and more than 30 years as a fitness professional, allow her to help clients with finding a practical nutrition that works for their lifestyle. You can reach her at, 949.842.9975, and on Instagram and Facebook @mamagslifestyle.

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