Eating healthy: sounds like it should be simple, right? Well, maybe on the surface.
Once you dive in, read a few articles, and look up some scientific studies you find it can get a little complicated – this new study says this is bad for you, then a week later that same thing can supposedly kill you, but what about that new thing that is better than anything else…and, before you know it, you’re left staring at a strawberry wondering whether or not its going to be the last thing you ever eat.
With all the diet and nutritionally complexity in the world, where does a person start?
My advice: start small and keep it simple.
I’m going to walk you through eight simple tips that, if incorporated into your everyday eating habits, will have you eating healthier, feeling better, and kicking ass in 2018.
Eat real food
Real food: fruits, vegetables, meats, dairy, seafood, nuts, seeds, whole grains, herbs and spices, beans, and beverages like water, coffee, and tea.
Processed food (the kind of stuff we don’t call “real” food that should be avoided except for the occasional indulgences): processed meat and processed seafood (deli meats, jerky, etc.), ready-to-heat entrees, ready-to-heat, refined grain products, sweetened beverages (sodas, fruit drinks, energy drinks, etc.), and cooking additives (mayo substitutes, margarine, bottled dressings, condiments, etc.).
Somewhat processed foods (these aren’t as bad as processed, but should still be kept out of the diet for the most part): canned fruits and vegetables, fruit juice and wine, canned meat and seafood, and cooking additives (mayonnaise, cooking oil, salt, sugar, butter, etc.)
The quickest test: consider how long the shelf-life of the food is. If you can find it in the back of your fridge in a year and it’s not going to kill you to eat it, its not the real food that should dominate your diet. The longer the shelf-life it has, the more processed it is.
Keep your carbohydrates complex
Complex carbohydrates can be found in foods like 100% whole-grain breads and pasta, brown rice, starchy vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, low-fat dairy, and fruits and vegetables.
Always go for these over the simple and refined grains – white flour, table sugar, etc.
Keep your protein lean
A general rule of thumb: the less legs the protein source has, the leaner and better it’s going to be for you. That means chicken and turkey is better than beef, pork, or lamb, and seafood trumps chicken and turkey.
If you’re into protein supplements pre- or post-workout, here are a few things to keep it should have:
- A good protein source
You want something like whey because it’s quickly digested and absorbed into the bloodstream. Whey is also rich in branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs). Ideally, the supplement you choose should have at least 15g of protein per scoop.
- It’s low in fat and cholesterol
You want something with less than 2g of total fat and less than 100mg of cholesterol per scoop.
- Low total carbohydrates
Your protein shake isn’t a place you should be stocking up on carbohydrates; find a supplement with low total carbohydrate levels – 5g or under is best.
Good, healthy fats (yes, that’s a real thing)
There’s this myth out there that eating any fat at all is going to cause you to gain fat. This just simply isn’t true; good fat (and the right amount of it) is an essential part of a healthy diet – it’s an energy source, it keeps skin and hair healthy, it helps absorb vitamins, and it’s a source of essential fatty acids that your body needs to function.
Good fats typically come from vegetables, nuts, and fish. And if you’re cooking, opt for healthy oils such as olive or grapeseed.
Diversify your colors
Dieticians and nutritionists will tell you to “eat a rainbow” of foods. That’s because color is a quick and dirty indicator of different foods having a different makeup of vitamins and minerals; therefore, the more different colors you eat the more different vitamins and minerals you’re incorporating into your diet.
Mix in dark, leafy greens, bright red berries, white onions… you get the idea. Color even works for protein too. Different colored protein sources have different micronutrient makeups; so mix up your protein too.
Cover your bases at every meal
Carbs, protein, fat, fruits and vegetables; get a portion of each on your plate at every meal and you can be reasonably confident you’re not depriving your body of anything essential.
Minimize, or completely cut out, unnecessary sugar
Yes, there are different kinds. Good sugar is sugar in its natural state – it’s harmless and found in fruits, vegetables, and dairy.
Unnecessary sugar is added to foods during processing to add flavor, texture, and color.
Stick to the real stuff: it’s better for you.
Be a good snacker
In my experience, people have a much easier time with planning and eating healthy at mealtime. Where their nutritional goals fall apart is with snacks.
You can avoid getting sucked into the nutritional abyss in a couple of ways:
- Arm yourself with good snack options (minimally processed)
Fresh fruit, unsweetened dry fruit, roasted nuts, dark chocolate, trail mix, popcorn, mozzarella sticks, baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, whole-grain crackers, yogurt, celery sticks, bell pepper sticks, hard-boiled eggs, cucumber slices.
There’s also some supplemental snack options out there that can come in handy when life gets a little hectic and preparing a good, nutrient dense snack simply isn’t an option.
These are beneficial because they tend to be nutritional, a good source of protein, and help curb your appetite so you don’t end up grabbing something unhealthy to curb a craving.
- Meal/snack replacement shakes
Meal replacement shakes are designed to satisfy your hunger: they have a wide range of essential nutrients, are rich in proteins, and contain carbohydrates. Because they have all these things they’re quite helpful in curbing hunger and preventing you from reaching for unhealthy snacking options like processed foods.
Nutrition doesn’t have to be complicated.
Abide by this guide and I’m sure you’ll be giving your body everything it needs to dominate all aspects of your life in 2018 – nothing extra.
Let me know what you think in the comments, and if you’d like some more advice, please contact me; I’d love to hear from you.
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