Health and Nutrition 101: A Fresh Start This Fall


Gina Cousineau

By Gina Cousineau

Every time I’m in a situation where people find out I’m a nutritionist, they want to ask me very specific questions about differing diet approaches. Last week was no different.

As I was preparing for elbow surgery, from overuse, the pre-op nurse asked me about a diet regimen a doctor was using. He is an ultra-athlete and does something called “intermittent fasting” paired with “fat adaptation.” He tells her how great he feels, making her then wonder if she should be doing the same thing.

When the anesthesiologist arrived, he immediately asked me about my thoughts regarding low-carbohydrate diets, though he assured me he was a moderation type of guy.

My responses start with my own questions. What is your goal? How is your current diet plan working for you? And regardless of the question(s) posed, my answer will be based on science, evidence and experiences with hundreds of clients over the years.

So, let me share once again my perspective on diet and lifestyle strategies. And since autumn is upon us, perhaps now is the time that you make the move to treat your body with self-respect and improve your health by altering these four areas in your life:

U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently updated the Nutrition Facts label found on foods and drink packaging. Graphic: Courtesy of the FDA

Food/Nutrition

While there are individual foods that are incredibly nutrient-dense, there is no one particular superfood that will save you on its own. 

It is best to incorporate a large variety of wholesome foods daily, including wholegrains and legumes; lean proteins (both animal and plant); fruits and vegetables; low-fat and non-fat dairy (including non-dairy sources); healthy fats (including nuts and seeds); and dried/fresh herbs and spices.

My recommendations regarding “foods to avoid” completely or severely limit:

1. Soda and other sweetened drinks (including diet versions);

2. All non-nutritive sweeteners (including saccharin, NutraSweet, Splenda, Stevia, etc.); and

3. Highly processed foods that can live on a shelf for years on end.

Fitness/Exercise

No one is asking you to join a gym or run a marathon, but we are simply asking that you move your body most days of the week for about 30 minutes. For most individuals, this can happen by simply walking out of your front door. 

This advice comes from every major health organization around the world, and can be a game-changer in terms of improving your health and aiding in weight loss. 

Sleep/Relaxation

The consensus on how much sleep is acceptable ranges somewhere between six to eight hours a night. If you continue to find yourself lacking in sleep, it would behoove you to see a medical professional to discuss options to improve sleep, which can add years to your life.

It is also imperative that you find time for rest and relaxation throughout the course of your day and week. Whether it’s reading a few pages in your favorite book, watching a show, or chatting with a friend, all promote rest and relaxation in your life.

Joy/Happiness

Many people lack joy and happiness due to their extremely busy schedules. Finding pleasure could be as simple as eating a lovely meal at the kitchen table with your family. 

While this requires some planning, there is no reason, as a family, not to set your week up for success by penciling in these activities.

Starting with a weekly meal plan, setting bedtimes, taking advantage of exercise that can happen in your community, and participating in these activities with friends and family, will help improve both your health and that of your family. 

Gina Cousineau sees clients virtually and in person out of her San Clemente office. Her extensive education with a BS in dietetics and MS in integrative and functional nutrition, chef training, and 30-plus years as a fitness professional, allow her to help clients lose weight and improve their health. You can reach her at [email protected], 949.842.9975, and on Instagram and Facebook @mamagslifestyle.

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