It's FOOD time! I'll be honest....this is my BIGGEST challenge. I like food. I like to eat. I think one of the reasons I became a trainer was to learn how to workout and justify my diet. Little did I realize at the time that you can't exercise a bad diet away!
Let's talk about what eating healthy actually is. I'm not going to give you a quick fix, fad, eat only lemon juice and cabbage diet. What you'll learn is long term healthy eating habits that you AND your entire family can put into practice right now.
First, let's get a few basics out of the way -
1. You have to EAT to be healthy. Anorexic skinny isn't the goal.
2. Yes, you can have a cookie. ONE. Not 6 or the whole box or a giant piece of cake everyday.
3. Yes, it's hard to cut junk food out of your diet. But you will feel SO much better, it will be worth it.
4. Veggies. Get over it, you have to eat them.
What IS eating healthy? Boiled down, it's giving your body what it needs to perform at it's best. A variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, lean proteins and complex carbs. Sounds simple enough but figuring it out on a daily basis and then actually doing it are something else.
In general, you should be eating about 50-60% of your daily calories from complex carbs, 20-30% from protein and the rest from healthy fats. I do NOT expect you to do this math. I just want you to understand where nutrients should be coming from.
I suppose the easiest way to get you started is to list healthy foods -
Fruits and Veggies - all of them. More veggies than fruit. Fruit is healthy, but remember that it does have sugar in it and too much can be bad. 2 servings of fruit a day are sufficient. 2 servings of veggies are recommended each day but truly, I try to err on the side of too much for these. Truly, how can too much broccoli, spinach, carrots, bell peppers, brussel sprouts, etc be bad for you?
For those of you that just can not stand veggies - stick 'em in a smoothie. If you combine greens (spinach and kale are a personal fave), carrots, celery, cucumber, apple, blueberries, pineapple - guess what? You just taste the fruit.
Protein - not all proteins are created equal. Some are VERY high in unhealthy fats (peanut butter, anyone?) while some, like some fish, are high in healthy fats. And the way you cook your protein can affect it's healthy attributes as well. Fried chicken may be high in protein but any benefit is lost given the high saturated fat content. Focus on lean proteins - chicken breast, turkey, low fat beef, fish. Also, legumes, beans, soy, tofu, quinoa, oatmeal, artichokes (what??), nuts, and chia seeds are just a few of the non-meat sources of protein. Check out this list from One Green Planet - Non-Meat Protein
Carbs - carbs have gotten a bad rap over the last several years but they are ESSENTIAL to your well being. Did you know that carbs fuel your brain? Yes, your BRAIN. Try going super low or no carb and you will start to hallucinate (true story....I tried it once). Carbs ARE created differently though. A twinkie carb (SUGAR) is not the same thing as an oatmeal carb. Your goal with carbs is to get them as close to their original form as possible or eat them as naturally occurring (fruit, veggies). Look for the key words "whole grain", meaning the food is made from the entire grain. The processed carbs (typically thought of as the white carbs) - breads, pastas, crackers, many cereals, most junk foods - have little redeeming value from the carbs they include. The majority of carbs in these foods is sugar. And I'm pretty sure we all know by now that sugar is not our friend. Another goal with carbs is to multi-task. Many healthy carbs also contain fiber, which helps keep you regular and feel full. This is a short list of some healthy carbs from Food Network - Healthy Carbs
Fats - another food that has gotten a bad rap. It's hard to believe but we actually need fats in our diets. According to the American Heart Association - "Dietary fats are essential to give your body energy and to support cell growth. They also help protect your organs and help keep your body warm. Fats help your body absorb some nutrients and produce important hormones, too. Your body definitely needs fat." However, like carbs, not all fats are created equal. Good fats are monounsaturated and polyunsaturated (omega 3's) and Bad fats are trans fats and saturated fats. By simply reading your foods' labels, you can identify which fat is in the food. Again, if you stick to fresh foods (fruit, veggies, lean protein sources, complex and whole grain carbs), you will by and large avoid the bad fats. Fish is an excellent source of Omega 3's, particularly salmon. A short list of foods with healthy fats are avocados, chia seeds, nuts (almonds and walnuts!), natural almond butter and extra virgin olive oil. A longer list of foods with healthy fats in them is provided by WebMd - Healthy Fatty Foods
Hopefully, you aren't completely confused and frustrated. One thing I've noticed over the years being a trainer is that most people know how to eat pretty healthy. They just don't. Let's be honest - eating unhealthy, processed foods is just easier. They are so available, so many are convenience foods. This is your challenge - to have the willpower to say no to convenience and say YES to your health.
I'm going to bold and cap this - FOOD IS THE MOST UNDERUTILIZED ANTI-ANXIETY DRUG, WEIGHT LOSS PILL, DISEASE CURE, AND OVERALL CURE ALL.
By giving your body the fuel it needs, you can fix SO many things. You'll feel better, sleep better, be sick less often, may eliminate lifestyle related diseases such as Type II diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, situational depression, insomnia, and so many more.
Now, what to eat? Let's talk menu option.
Breakfast - a few of my faves -
- Cereal. Yes, I know I said earlier that many cereals are bad for you. However, there are a few that are good for you. And they're easy! Cheerios, Grape Nuts, Kashi Go Lean, Bear Naked Granola, Nature Path's Smart Bran cereal are just a few.
- Oatmeal. Not the pre-packaged, just add water variety. Seriously, go read the label. It's ALL sugar. Grab some real oatmeal, unprocessed, in the big canister. You can add yogurt, fruit, nuts, chia seeds to make it yummy. Here is 5 Overnight Oats recipes from Chocolate Covered Katie - Overnight Oats
- Eggs. I am not an egg fan. It does make high protein breakfasts hard. However, a plate of scrambled eggs with veggies mixed in is AWESOME. What about omelettes? Add all sorts of fresh veggies, lean proteins and you have a great breakfast. A recipe my son loves are these little frittatas, here's a list of 10!
- Toast. I know, toast is just...toast, right? Here's how to make it SUPER healthy. Start with wicked good bread - whole grain! Then top! Try these - Healthy Breakfast Toast Options.
- Pancakes. Whoa, healthy pancakes? Yep. Top with fruit for a yummy breakfast treat. Healthy Pancakes.
That is a LOT of breakfast options. Grab your plan and fill in breakfasts for the month. Tip - you can pre-make many of these options and freeze them. Just pull them out of the freezer in the morning, heat and you're ready to go!
Snacks. I am a notorious snacker. I tend to graze all day. Not so good if I lose track of what I'm doing! But if you stick to healthy options, this can actually be really, really good for you! It is recommended that you eat 5-6 times per day! So snacks are essential.
Some of my faves -
- Raw veggies. I'll just sit and eat carrots, celery and bell peppers. Add some hummus and you have a FABULOUS snack.
- Nuts, cheese and dried fruit - an ounce of nuts, cheese and dried provide protein, omega 3's, vitamins and fiber. All good stuff!
- Your breakfast options. Double down on your meal prep and have a breakfast taco, yogurt parfait or pancake with almond butter as a snack!
- Rollups. Low fat, low sodium deli meat and sliced cheese (mozzarella is a great choice!) rolled up make great, easy snacks.
- Go simple. Grab a protein drink or bar. Sometimes convenience wins out! These are my fave Protein Drinks and Bars.
Lunch. I'm HORRIBLE about lunch. I tend to just grab a protein shake and roll. However, since we're discussing New Years Resolutions, I will get better about this. What are some healthy, EASY options? Many of these can be popped into kids' school lunches so HEY double duty!
- Sandwiches. Oh, the ubiquitous sandwich. So many varieties. PB&J, turkey, BLT. Healthy choices - start with whole grain bread. Add as many veggies as you like. Use lean, low sodium deli meat. Then add condiments SPARINGLY. Hummus is a good choice as well as mustard. No mayo. Sorry.
And PB&J's can actually be good for you too! Again, choose whole grain bread. Add natural almond butter and either all natural jelly or low sugar jelly. And you can have a BLT! Just use low sodium bacon.
- Wraps. All the things you put in a sandwich, only in a wrap! Use corn tortillas or low carb flour. Add lots of greens! Also, you can go the casserole route with these. Yes, casserole. Add browned ground turkey, black beans, corn, bell peppers, fresh pico and a little low fat shredded cheese and you have a mexican casserole wrap!
- Salads. So simple for lunch. Tons of greens, veggies, lean proteins, maybe some fruit. Watch the dressing. Stick to olive oil, lemon juice or balsamic vinegar. And guess what? Take your salad and put it in a tortilla. Portable and easy to eat.
- Green Protein smoothie. I legitimately love these. My hubs thinks they look weird. Probably but SO healthy and fresh tasting. In mine, I take a big handful of greens (spinach and kale are my favorites), carrots, celery, cucumber, apple, blueberries, pineapple, protein powder, chia seeds and however much water and ice I need. It makes a TON so I definitely feel full! Here are more Green Smoothie recipes.
- Pizza. YES, pizza! But you have to make it yourself. And I'll be honest - this is a bit of a treat. But if you are kicking butt on the workouts, it's OK! Here's your CRUST. Then start topping! Add pasta sauce, pesto, even low sugar BBQ sauce, low fat mozzarella, fresh veggies and lean proteins. YUM!
On to dinner. This is where the fun happens. I love to cook so I enjoy digging around for healthy recipes. First, let me give you this link - Whole Life Health and Fitness - my pinterest page. TONS of recipes!
That's FIFTEEN dinners. With leftovers, that could get you through an entire month!
Go grab your plan. You should have your cardio workouts planned, your resistance workouts planned and now, you can fill in meals. Every. Single. DAY. I want you to know what you are doing for a workout, when you are doing, what you will be eating and when you will be eating it. Plan, plan, plan. It is absolutely the key to success!!!