"Just Tell Me What to Eat!"
A guide on how and what to eat to improve your health and reach your physique goals.
As a coach, one of the most frustrating things to hear from a person who is not my client is the ineffective meal plan a trainer has them on. This indicates two things to me: 1. This trainer is working outside their scope and 2. This trainer is likely using a cookie-cutter plan that is probably not appropriate for their client.
A lot of people do not realize that unless someone is a Registered Dietician, it is illegal to prescribe a meal plan.
Pictured: a well-balanced meal!
I am strongly against meal plans for non-medical purposes and here's why:
Meal plans create a dependency on someone (the trainer, the RD, etc).
Meal plans don't teach you anything about energy, calories, balance, or nutrition.
Meal plans do not allow for flexibility.
Meal plans are not sustainable.
What/How to Eat Instead
Discovering how to feed yourself so you can achieve your goals and have fun is empowering. But first, we have to understand the major macronutrients or "macros" as they are frequently called.
Understanding that your body needs a balance of all three is critical to meeting your body's energy needs. Most people undereat protein and overeat fat. If you need a place to start, the easiest way is to make sure each meal has a protein source and build around that. Examples of good protein sources are:
From there, add a carbohydrate! Some good carbohydrate choices are:
There are several vegetables I consider "carbs" or "starches" due to their higher carb count. Those veggies are corn, beets, beans, peas, and squash.
For the record: over the last several years, carbs have gotten a bad rap, which is really sad because they are critical to your body's energy needs and its ability to build muscle. Carbs do not make you fat. The over-consumption of anything with calories is what makes you fat since the calories your body doesn't use are stored as fat.
Next, add a fat. This could look like a salad with olive oil or a fatty dressing, butter with your potato or rice, a side of avocado, nuts and seeds on your salad, or some cheese sprinkled on your pasta.
Then, we add in fruit or vegetables, which are technically carbohydrates, but I like to think of them as micronutrients since fruits and veggies are loaded with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
How to Make it Easy
I think one of the things that scares people away from healthy eating is the preconceived notion of "cooking". Not everyone likes, wants, or has time to cook. But you can absolutely eat healthy with minimal effort in the kitchen.
Foods like rotisserie chicken, frozen fish fillets, and cooked/shredded pork or ground meat are easily available for you at the grocery store. Throw in some microwavable potatoes, rice, or pasta, a bagged salad or steam-ready veggies, and you have an easy-to-prepare meal at your fingertips. And if you have a few moments to spare on a Sunday (my favorite day to prep), cut up some veggies, pull the meat off the chicken, pre-wash and dry some fruit, and you can easily have a weeks' worth of meals and snacks prepped and ready to go.
Food is More than Fuel; it's Medicine
Hippocrates said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”. Food is the single most important thing you can control when it comes to your health.
Food is fuel. Through the process of cellular respiration, energy in food is converted into energy that can be used by our body's cells. During cellular respiration, glucose and oxygen are converted into carbon dioxide and water, and the energy is transferred to ATP, or adenosine triphosphate, which is an energy-carrying molecule found in the cells of all living things.
But food is also medicine. Nutrients provide energy for activity, growth, and all functions of the body such as breathing, digesting food, and keeping warm. Food provides materials for the growth and repair of the body, and for keeping the immune system healthy. As you can see, food does so much more than provide us with fuel. Food can promote or worsen health, depending on what you eat, and a nutrient-dense diet of whole foods has been shown to prevent many chronic diseases and may help treat some conditions
A small investment in re-evaluating your diet can have a large return on investment if you can implement healthy habits over the course of a lifetime.