“you are what you repeatedly do”
Making a meal of it
Setting up good food habits is the whole point of this article. Habits become effortless and this is definitely your desired result.
Leaner people have lean eating habits. Having a firm grasp on what foods to eat, the required portions sizes and being able to apply that knowledge WILL set you up for the rest of your life, not just for the next six weeks.
So what and how much should I eat?
The what part is up to you and how much depends on your desired outcome but let’s give you the options. These are called your Macronutrients or Macros for short.
First you have protein. Protein is not your stereotypical gym junkie’s best friend, but also an essential part of a healthy diet. Essential means absolutely necessary for good health in humans and must be taken into your body through your diet. Your body requires protein to create the big things you can see like your skin and muscles, and it is also required to create the things you can’t see like cells, hormones and DNA.
It’s also the most satiating of the 3 macronutrients which means it gives you the feeling of fullness more so than the other macros. Which is very handy when you are trying to take in less calories. Foods which contain the greatest amount of protein come in the form of meat, dairy, eggs and protein powders.
Next up are carbs. These are your grains, fruits and vegetables. Funnily enough though also the current villain on the diet scene. Cutting carbs out of your diet is the quick answer that’s handed out for weight loss. The truth is there isn’t anything called an essential carb (sorry potatoes) but most people perform and function better with at least a moderate intake of carbs.
Fruits and vegetables contain high levels of vitamins and minerals, which will keep you from becoming victim to crazy things like scurvy and rickets. So eat lots of them. A lot of these are “almost free” sources of food. Meaning they have a very small amount of calories and are a great option for snacking on if you are limiting those calories. These as well as grains are a great source of carbs and should make up the bulk of your carb options. The healthy carbs like the ones above will provide you with steady energy throughout the day and contain fibre which… I think we all know what fibre does by now.
Meanwhile the not as healthy carbs such as potato chips, pastries and fruit drinks are the foods that are very easy to overindulge on.* These foods have far more calories with far far less of the fibre and other nutrients that the whole food sources contain. Eating these foods seem to make you more hungry than when you started. For these reasons the majority of your carb intake should be of the whole food variety. If health, body composition and performance are important to you that is.
* if minding energy intake, beware of liquid calories. Sugary drinks and especially alcohol can throw a good day out of whack and lead to further unnecessary eating.
Last up is Fat. Fat used to be enemy number one but the truth is fat is a necessary part of a healthy diet. The omega 3 and omega 6 fats are also essential to good health and must come from your diet. Fat is used in the body for absorbing certain nutrients, producing hormones, as well as a slow energy source. Also as you know, one of fat’s biggest roles to play is to be stored for future use when calories are reduced.
Having a rough idea about how much you need and what type of fat to eat or avoid will help you make more informed decisions when it comes to your eating. This is important because as well as making food taste delicious they contain twice as many calories as the other 2 macros.
There are 3 types of fat that you should know about;
- Saturated fat
- Polyunsaturated and
Saturated fat comes mostly from animals and some plants like coconut and palm. Monounsaturated fats come from plant sources such as avocado, olives and nuts. Polyunsaturated fats are usually the ones associated with salmon, tuna and other cold fish but is also found in nuts and seeds. To keep things simple it’s best to aim for an even spread of these fats throughout your day or week.
*Avoiding Trans fat as a rule is a good option. Any plant based oil made solid or partially (eg margarine) by hydrogenation will contain trans fats. This causes the chemical structure of the fats to change in a way that the body can’t use. Basically poisoning the body
In the final installment of Nutritional Basics I tell you just how to put all this information together on your plate. . .