Learn The Basics of Nutrition

Goal 2: Understand Carbs, Protein, Fats, and Their General Serving Sizes

Topic 1: Carbs Are Sugar, Sugars Are Carbs

As we found in the last section, carbs are not the enemy. They are actually very involved in the energy we use daily, without carbs our body would go into starvation mode and possibly cause processes to occur in the body that could cause long term damage. Below you’ll find “good” or nutrient dense carbs and “bad” or refined carbs. The ones we want to eat will be your good carbs. Realistically we will have times where we are tempted to consume bad carbs, but consider eating these items in very small amounts. Consider reserving them for special occasions or even a weekend indulgence. Take a look below to get an idea of a Good Carb and a Bad Carb. Later on we will talk about the recommended servings of each of these foods.

Nutrient Dense (Good) CarbsRefined (Bad) carbs

These carbs contain carbohydrates but also provide nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, fiber, protein, and good fats. The fiber allow for a slower absorption rate within your intestines. So not only are you receiving nutrients and protein but you will avoid a sugar rush which is important for diabetic patients to consider.

Whole Grains:
brown rice
rolled oats
whole grain barley
whole grain cornmeal
whole grain sorghum
whole rye
authentic wile rice
100% whole wheat bread
100% whole wheat cereal flakes
100% whole wheat crackers
100% whole wheat pasta
100% whole wheat sandwich buns and rolls
100% whole wheat tortillas
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These carbs contain carbohydrates, but they have been refined, or chemically processed to taste more “sugary”, usually by removing all nutrients from the grain via bleaching or other methods. Although some vitamins and minerals are put back into this food (enriched), protein and fiber are not usually replaced, which causes these foods to be absorbed more like sugar.

Refined Grains:
white rice
white bread
white pasta
french fries
white flour
challah bread
corn flakes
corn tortillas
crackers, saltine
English muffins
flour tortilla
French bread
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Topic 2: Protein Comes In Many Shapes and Sizes

There are so many types of protein! From grains, beans and nuts to meat and dairy protein, talk about VARIETY. There’s a huge misconception that protein is only found in meat, although meat does have the most protein in small portions compared to other foods, it is not the only source. For example, 1/2 a cup of nuts contains about 14 grams of protein and 300 calories which equates to a small meal… And 1 cup of lentil soup contains 18 grams of protein! So don’t be bashful, show love to all the protein containing foods out there. Besides, I recommend you avoid high intakes of meat protein, as this should not be your main source of protein being that it can cause long term problems from cholesterol. We will talk more about this later on. Below you will see the different types of protein to consider, but I want you to focus on the plant protein because this is where we want our diet to shift as we move forward.

Plant Foods Containing ProteinAnimal Foods Containing Protein
Some protein containing grains/starches:
Whole Wheat Bread/Pastas, Quinoa,
oats, potatoes
(with skin), peas
Beans: Lentils, Kidney
beans, pinto beans, etc.
Nuts/Nut Butter:
Almonds, peanuts,
brazilian, sunflower, etc.
Soy Milk
Oat milk
Hemp Protein Powders
Soy Protein Powders
Pea Protein Powders
Egg Whites
Dairy: Milk, Yogurt
Whey Protein Powder
Egg Protein Powder

Topic 3: Would You Like Good or Bad Fat?

Fats have a bad rep, but really it depends. Just like carbs and protein, there are good fats and there are bad fats. Good fats are high in poly and mono unsaturated fats such as Omega 3s. Bad fats tend to be high in omega-6’s (associated with inflammation), saturated fats , cholesterol, and even trans fats (all 3 are associated with heart disease and obesity). Trans fats are not allowed to be put into our food today ( but it is, and is disguised as hydrogenated on ingredients lists…). No matter what fat you eat, if you eat more than your recommended daily intake, they can be a huge contributor to obesity. We will discuss serving sizes and recommedations next. Take a look below at our list of good versus bad fats.

Good FatsBad Fats
Non Hydrogenated Plant Butters
Avocado Oil (HIGH HEAT cooking)
Olive Oil (Low heat and cold food)
Palm Oil
Flaxseed oil
Grapeseed oil
Safflower oil
Dairy Butter
“Vegetable” oil
(contains trans/hydrogenated fats)
Beef Fat/Pork Fat/Chicken Fat

Now not all plant oils are alike! I will keep it simple for you, the above good fats are the highest on the list of oils with low saturated fats and omega 6’s. I recommend Earth Balance Butter which is non hydrogentated, and I also recommend cold pressed Avocado Oil as it has a high smoke point (good for high heat cooking), low saturated fats, and low omega 6s with very high levels of good fats. Avocado oil can be pricey, it is cheapest when purchased in large amounts from Sam’s Club or Costco made by Olivari (cold pressed), Primal Kitchen (cold pressed) or Chosen Foods (Refined) Brands – Olivari seems to be the most affordable. (Read an amazing article by Ava Jane’s Kitchen on refined vs unrefined oils). Olive oil is also great but I recommend this is used for low heat cooking, and salads. The lower the smoke point of an oil the higher chance it has of degradation and producing unhealthy compounds when cooked.

Plant oils that are high in omega 6’s, and that I personally avoid, include: grape seed oil, sunflower oil, corn oil, cottonseed oil, soybean oil, sesame oil, hemp oil, peanut oil, and canola oil.

Coconut oil is high in short chain saturated fats, and there is still not enough information to support its benefit or risk. If I do eat foods with coconut oil, it tends to be plant based cheeses and ice cream. Otherwise I only use this oil for skin and hair.

Topic 4: Determining Serving Sizes

Tricks of the Trade

Did you know if you eat the proper serving sizes daily for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, you wouldn’t have to count calories! This subject tends to instill fear in most of my patients because of the measurements and numbers that seem like quite a bit to remember. Here we will talk about measuring out a proper serving size. On the Planning Page you can sift through the information to determine what the recommended servings are for your age. But I am here to tell you, there are general recommendations you can abide by when you are trying to determine how much of something to eat. For example, 1 banana, 1 peach, 1 plum, 1 apple or 1 orange can be considered one serving of fruit. Therefore, it may make life easier if you consume whole fruits throughout the day, that way you can keep up with your servings. See not too bad right? Take a look at the photo below to see how you can use your own hand to measure out servings!

Measuring The Recommended Grains

Remember carbs should make up about 45-65% of your caloric intake. So that means this section, along with fruits and vegetables, will make up most of your diet! These are the grains I recommend for those who are starting to incorporate whole foods into their diet. There are other ancient grains that can be utilized as well, but it’s best to start slow. Replace white rice with brown rice/quinoa and be creative. Generally 1 serving of grains in each category below equates to 100-200 calories. And you will see 1/2 cup is a general recommendation for all grains. So consider asking for 1/2 cup of grains when you’re at a restraunt. Another wonderful invention is the Portion Control Serving Spoons which you can use to scoop grains and other foods you consume for proper portion control. Search for them at any store for better control over your portions at hone. So, based on the recommended 45-65% intake, you are free to eat any one of these grains for breakfast, lunch, and dinner or generally 3 servings per day. Take a look at the serving sizes below to get an idea of how much you should eat with each meal, you will note, it’s a filling portion.

100% Wole Wheat BreadServing = 1 slice
100% Whole Wheat PastaServing = 2 ounces of pasta
Brown Rice/Black Wild RiceServing = 1/2 cup cooked | 1/4 cup dry = 3/4 cup cooked
Barley (great replacement for rice)Serving = 1/2 cup cooked | 1/4 cup = 1/2 cup cooked
Quinoa Serving = 1/2 cup cooked | 1/4 cup dry = 3/4 cup cooked
OatsServing = 1/2 cup cooked

Note the graphic above, when measuring spaghetti use a quarter to measure 1 serving size before cooking or buy a spaghetti measuring tool on the far right to measure out serving sizes for bulk prepping or for the whole family.

Grams of Protein in Each Serving

This category is very versatile! As we have seen before there are many forms of protein. There is a huge misconception about protein intake in those who eat a plant based diet, which is why there is a blog post dedicated to this topic. So let’s start with some basics, and just as we discussed with the grains, start slow and ease your way to some of the more exotic foods. One thing to consider when embarking on a healthy journey is to keep your animal protein out of the Breakfast and Lunch categories, and consider consuming this type of protein at dinner time. Remember the DRI for protein is 10-35% of your caloric intake, this is a huge range! Although many recommend a low 50-60 grams of daily intake, this is not necessarily optimal. For example, 35% of 1300 calories is about 455 calories from protein which is converted to 113 grams of protein. Therefore protein levels between 80-100 grams is generally recommended by most nutritionists when consuming a balanced diet. Many meat eaters and vegans do not consume protein in this range, so it turns out we are all at risk of being protein deficient… who would of thought? So all of us, vegan or not, should consider supplementing protein in our diet via powders, or seeds. I say shoot for 70-80 grams a day to assure you reach healthy levels, but be sure to follow up with myself or another nutritionist for individualized guidance. Take a look below at each protein and the grams they generally provide. I recommend 6 plant based servings of protein per day and if you are still eating meat, only 1 meat serving at dinner. Generally your meat should only be 3-4 ounces or the size of a deck of cards. You may want to print this page, as it will be useful when creating your own meal plans. See below for general grams per serving for each food.

Plant ProteinGrams/ServingAnimal ProteinGrams/Serving
Whole wheat multigrain bread
4-5 grams | 1 sliceWhole Eggs6 grams | 1 egg (very high cholesterol)
Whole wheat pasta
6 grams | 2 ouncesEgg Whites
(5 grams/ serving)
5 grams | 3tbsp
Generally 1/2 cup is used per
serving because of the low calories in egg whites
Oats (carb>protein)7 grams | 1/2 cupDairy Milk8-10 grams | 1 cup
Brown Rice
3 grams| 1/2 cupYogurt 6-20 grams | 3/4 cup – 1 cup
(carbs are fiber/low)
12 grams | 1/2 cup
24 grams| 1 cup
Chicken26 grams | 3-4 ounces
Pinto Beans,
Chickpeas (Garbanzo),
and Kidney Beans
(carbs are fiber/low)
7 grams | 1/2 cupBeef28 grams | 3-4 ounces
Black beans
(carbs are fiber/low)
8 grams | 1/2 cupPork24 grams | 3-4 ounces
(high fiber)
6 grams | 1/4 cup dryFish25 grams | 3-4 ounces
Nuts12 grams | 2 ounces
Nut Butter8 grams | 2 tbsp
Soy Milk8 grams | 1 cup
Oat Milk3 grams | 1 cup
Chia Seeds4 grams | 2 tbsp
Hemp Seeds9 grams | 3 tbsp
Flax seeds4 grams | 2 tbsp
Tofu10 grams | 1/2 cup
Broccoli4 grams | 2 cups
Peas (high carb)8 grams | 1 cup

Measuring Fats

Measuring fats tends to be easy because generally the recommended daily intake is the same for everyone. Remember the DRI is 20-25%. About 300-400 calories from fats a day is the general recommendation; unless you are eating over 2000 calories per day then you will need more. 300-400 calories can be found in just 3-4tbsp of plant oils. So you can imagine that fried foods, buttered popcorn, and meats pan fried in oil are providing way more of our fat intake than recommeded and therefore increasing calories to very unhealthy levels!

So, my recommendation is if your a meat eater only 2-3 tbsp per day. If you are plant-based 4 tbsp of a plant oil will be perfect for you. Of course consider a nutrition consult for a more individualized plan so accurate levels can be calculated for you.

Now that you have mastered Proteins, Carbs, Fats, and other contents, Take Quiz 2 before moving on to the last section below: Quiz Two

*All of the information here is from the author’s ongoing nutrition education, and continued education via nutrition textbooks, eatright.org, and pubmed research articles that are not biased and have good accuracy. This information is not meant to diagnose or treat any condition. This information is to be read and utilized at your own will, and the author is not responsible for any outcomes that come from utilizing this information. This information may be discussed with and adjusted by your dietitian, nutritionist, or medical provider for a more personalized plan. If you have any questions feel free to contact us via the Contact Page. For sources Click Here.