The Tao of Balanced Energy: Nutrition, Exercise, and Spirituality
Follow the Path to Well-Being
What is “The Tao of Balanced Energy”?
Tao is a concept from Chinese philosophy. It means ”the way' or “the path.” It can also mean” the doctrine” or “the principle.” Taoism is a spiritual practice which emphasizes balance and living in harmony with nature.
Life requires two types of energy or “chi”—the physical and the emotional.
Physical energy requires a balance between intake and outgo, or in other words, nutrition and exercise.
Emotional energy requires a balance between self- directed energy, like spirituality and meditation, and other-directed energy, like relationship to family and community.
The Tao of Balanced Energy is the way to an overall healthy lifestyle.
What is the Role of a Healthy Diet?
A balanced diet is not a weight-loss diet, but it will help you lose excess pounds. It can also help you decrease the risk of cancer, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and other chronic health problems.
The basics are:
Replace energy-dense foods with less-energy dense foods
Choose “whole” foods in their natural state
Eat sensible-sized portions
Let’s take these one by one.
Replacing Energy-Dense Foods with Less-Energy Dense Foods.
Energy-dense is just another way of saying high calorie. You want to limit foods with high levels of fat and sugar.
Your meal should be about two-thirds plant–based foods—whole grains, vegetables, beans, fruit
Avoid red meat—eat lean chicken, fish, and eggs if you choose to eat animal foods for protein
Eat limited dairy, and choose low-fat dairy when you do
Avoid foods with added sugar and limit “natural“ sugar
A Produce Market Display
How Much Sugar is Too Much Sugar?
One teaspoon of sugar equals 4 grams and 16 calories.
For women, the recommended amount of sugar is six teaspoons a day (24 grams, about 100 calories).
For men, he recommended amount of sugar is nine teaspoons a day (36 grams, about 150 calories).
The average American is consuming 22 teaspoons of sugar a day (88 grams, about 350 calories).
Read the labels for everything you buy. You'll be surprised how much sugar you will find where you least expect it.
Look on the internet for the sugar content of fresh fruit and vegetables. This sugar counts towards your quota, too.
Thee are some zero calorie sweeteners. Although they have no calories, they perpetuate the cravings for "sweets."
- Artificial sweeteners (Sweet 'n Low, Equal) have 0 calories, but they are chemicals, Avoid them.
- Stevia (sold as Pure Via and Truvia) has 0 calories and it is 300 times sweeter than white sugar. It's made from the leaves of the stevia plant. A little goes a long way.
Are Some Sugars Better than Others?
Although there are some differences in the chemical compositions of the various sugars, for our purposes today, sugar is sugar.
Brown sugar and raw sugar are slightly less refined than white sugar, but otherwise the same.
Honey has 22 calories per teaspoon, but is sweeter and denser than white sugar.
Agave syrup has 20 calories per teaspoon, but it is 1 1/2 times sweeter than white sugar. it is refined from the agave plant.
High fructose corn syrup is particularly bad because it is pure fructose, and it is metabolized differently. Avoid it. It is the least expensive sweetener so it is found in many processed foods. Read the labels and look for alternatives without this ingredient.
Sugar Content of Some Common Foods
Amount of Sugar
12 ounce can of soda
Add a splash of juice to seltzer
8 ounces fruit-flavored low-fat yogurt
Plain Greek yogurt (6 grams from naturally-occurring lactose) (Add your own fruit, if desired)
1 TBSP ketchup
Look for reduced sugar ketcup
8 ounce glass of orane juice
Try 2 oz serving with added water
1 Nabisco Newtons Fruit Thin cookie (about 2 grams)
8 Teaspoons of Sugar
Choose Whole Foods in Their Natural State.
Whole foods have fiber and phyto-nutrients. The fiber helps you to feel full and aids with good digestion and elimination.
Eat three cups of whole grains per day. There is a great variety to choose from-- brown rice, barley, quinoa, millet, oatmeal, kasha, bulgur, farro, and others. They have a delicious nutty flavor and a chewy texture, unlike white rice which has no taste at all.
Eat a half-cup serving of beans about three to four times a week. Try lentils, garbanzo beans, kidney beans, white beans, black beans, lima beans. Beans, like whole grains, provide fiber and nutrients.
Eat three to four servings of vegetables a day. Choose sweet potatoes over white potatoes, but if you are eating white potatoes leave the skin on—that is where most of the nutrients are.
Eat a rainbow colored variety of vegetables each day. Include a variety of leafy vegetables for salads. You should have three to four servings a day.
Include three to four servings of fruit in your diet each day.
Avoid juice. When fruits and vegetables are juiced, the fiber is left behind. The fiber is an important part of these foods.
Avoid Foods with Nitrites and Nitrates
Sodium nitrites and sodium nitrates contribute to cancer. If you enjoy bacon, sausage, ham, you can find uncured nitrite/nitrate-free versions of these products. They are more expensive, but cancer is not cheap either. Check the ingredient list of any deli items you buy. I have found nitrites/nitrites in sliced turkey and smoked salmon.
Eat Sensible-Sized Portions
In general, Americans do not understand what a serving size is. Restaurants like to pile our plate so high, we have started to think that those plates represent normal serving sizes. They do not. A serving of meat for instance is 3 to 4 ounces, about the size of an ordinary deck of playing cards.
The chart below gives some examples of serving sizes.
1 medium piece
1 golf ball
1/2 cup cooked
Meat/ Poultry/ Seafood
3 oz. boneless cooked (4 ounce raw)
deck of cards
1/2 cup cooked
1/2 tennis ball
1 inch cube
Ready to Eat Cereal
1/4 cup to 1 1/4 cup (Check label)
Try to Cook from Scratch as Much as Possible.
Supermarket convenience foods are often made with hydrogenated fat/oil which is another cancer-causer. If you see hydrogenated anything on the label, don’t buy it. Convenience foods are often loaded with sugar, salt and chemicals.
There are some convenience foods that are minimally processed. Read the list of ingredients. Don’t trust the food just because it says ”fat-free”, “whole-grain”, “100% natural” or “organic.”
Some convenience foods can be used to help you make a nutritious meal in less than 15 minutes. I use "Seeds of Change" pre-made whole grains. It takes only 90 seconds in the microwave compared to 30 to 60 minutes to cook from scratch. I also like the "Tasty Bite" beans in an Indian-spiced sauce. I always have several bags of these in my panty.
Here is one my favorite quick and easy recipes.
Quick and Easy Fish, Rice, and Salsa Dinner
Fish with Brown Rice and Salsa
- 1 bag Seeds of Change Brown Basmati Rice, (or other variety of grains)
- 2 Hake Loins, defrosted
- 2 tsp Montreal Steak Seasoning
- 2 tsp olive oil
- 1/2 cup Jarred Salsa
- 1/4 cup canned black beans, drained and rinsed
- 1/4 cup frozen corn, cooked
- Put a little olive oil on the bottom of a tin foil cooking tray. Rub the remainder of the olive oil on the fish. Sprinkle the seasoning on top of the fish. Put tray with fish in a toaster oven set to broil at 400. Cook until done about 10 to 12 minutes.
- Mix salsa corn and beans together and set aside.
- Just before the fish is ready, remove corner of the rice package, and stand the package in the microwave. Microwave on high for 90 seconds.
- Remove cooked rice from package. Put half the rice on each of two plates. Place one fish loin on each plate. Arrange one half cup of the salsa mixture over the fish and rice.
- Serve with steamed broccoli or other green vegetable.
- Note: I buy the Hake Loins at Costco. If you can't find them, substitute a similar firm-fleshed white fish, like sword fish steaks.
- Serves two.
Another Quick and Easy Dinner
Sausage with Lentils and Rice takes only about five minutes.
Slice two Aidell's Chicken and Apple Sausage into 1/4 inch "coins." Fry in a little olive oil until brown.
While the sausage is browning, put a packet of Seeds of Change rice in the microwave to heat for 90 seconds. Follow package directions.
Remove the rice from the microwave and put a packet of "Really Tasty" lentils in sauce in the microwave for 90 seconds. Follow package directions.
Mix rice, lentils, and cooked sausage together.
If desired, dice two carrots, steam them in the microwave, and add them to the mixture.
Serve with a side salad.
What is the Role of Exercise?
Exercise means physical activity. You should aim for a minimum of 30 minutes of moderately vigorous activity a day. Moderate activity is activity that quickens your heart rate, produces a sweat, but still leaves you with enough breath to talk. If you are able to tolerate vigorous activity, so much the better.
Exercise burns off some calories, but more importantly. it tones the body and regulates metabolism. The best time to exercise is early in the morning. Exercise about a half hour after a light meal. The food will fuel your body.
Exercise can reduce hunger and fatigue.
Why is exercise is so strongly correlated with better health? Here is one of the lesser known reasons for that. Your lymph nodes are packed tightly with white blood cells called lymphocytes and macrophages which are very important to your immune system. Activity helps gets these cells circulating throughout the body so they can do their job.
What is the Role of Emotional Energy?
Mens sana in corpora sano is Latin for a sound mind in a sound body. Emotions affect our physical body, just as the health of our body affects our emotions. We have all seen how mental stress can cause or worsen illness.
Humans are social animals and we need to live in community with others. However, we also need time to be alone and commune with our inner self. Meditation has been shown to have beneficial effects on health.
We also need to cultivate “mindfulness.” Mindfulness is giving our full attention to whatever we happen to be doing at the moment. It is “living in the moment.” It is the opposite of multi-tasking which fragments out attention so that we do not fully experience anything.
This essay is Part One of a three part series. The sections on exercise and emotional energy got short shrift in this essay. You can see a more detailed explanation of exercise and spirituality by clicking on the links below.
You might also like to read Dr. Robert Lustig's book about health and food inThe book was the basis for a movie, Fat Chance: Beating the Odds Against Sugar, Processed Food, Obesity, and Disease. Fed Up
© 2014 Catherine Giordano