I have been getting so many questions lately about nutrition. What to buy at the store, what to avoid, how to prepare healthy and simple meals, and lunch preparation. In my experience, nutrition is just about as specific to my clients as their workouts themselves. What works and sounds good for one client, does not necessarily translate to another. I am sure you have all felt that when looking into different ways of eating. Additionally, for those who have a way of eating that they really believe in-their views on nutrition or a certain methodology can be as important to them as strong political or religious view. With my clients, Some are meat eaters, some aren't, some have never tried a green besides Iceberg Lettuce, and some are 100% on point.
I truly believe that no matter what ethical or dietary stances you take (Vegan, gluten free, OvoLactoVegetarian, Paleo) there are some simple facts to just eating well, for health & vitality, and consuming in a conscious way. As a health and fitness professional my goal is not to make my clients follow my way of eating, because there are things I strongly agree and disagree with and there are components of many nutrition methods I really like. Since I may have different beliefs and tastes, I aim to give some sound guidelines (based on my degree knowledge) that feel authentic to me and applicable to many with hope it can improve the health and wellness of everyone I work with.
The below principles are for people looking to loose weight, maintain good health, or just increase your awareness of what you eat! Hopefully some work for you.
Clean whole foods. I try to convey as much as I can, if it's from a package it shouldn't be your first choice. It's processed and thus not as nutrient dense. Therefore, keep these items minimal if not totally out of your life and mouth. If you have the option to buy a bag of apple chips vs. apples...go for something from the earth in it's whole form. Chips, instant oatmeal (so much sugar), bars for example, all of these you can make your own clean version of at home.
Re-think green. If possible (meat eater or not) try to shift your mind to think about plants in a different way, a primary way. Plants first, and other things on the side. Aim to get as much color and variety in your daily eats. Throw mixed berries in your smoothies, add fruit to your salads. Have one meal of your day be a huge, beautiful salad with three different veggies.
Healthy fats. The great thing about healthy fats is they are more filling than, well....crappy foods. Not only do processed foods (bars, boxed meals, etc.) have a reduction in nutrient value they add in other fats to stabilize the product for shelf life (aka trans-fats or hydrogenated oils). Good fats include nuts, seeds, avocados, coconut oil, olive oil, or even occasional clarified animal fat (such as Ghee).
Sneaky sugar. I recall when my husband and I were trying to find a basic pasta sauce, marinara, with NO sugar in it. I recall this moment of not finding one further confirmation that it pays to make things yourself, even down to pasta sauce. We don't need sugar in marinara sauce! Also, if you are a yogurt eater, it pays in your health and waistline to knock off the sugary flavored brands (we don't need cake flavored yogurt). Get full fat no sugar added brands. Sugar is now added to almost all products you buy packaged, you might be surprised-so take a look at the labels of things you even consider healthy. Again, the point is a clean source.
Re-think carbohydrates. Personally, in our household, we reserve pasta or breads as a special treat, much like candy or a cupcake, we try to focus on plant based foods and many breads and typical "carbs" are processed and refined. I also encourage you all to re-think what we consider carbs; instead of rice, quinoa, or pasta, remember that starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes, yams, parsnips, and squash are amazing sources of carbohydrates that make a great base layer for a healthy meal.
Water and clean drinks. Water is essential. We are so lucky to have access to fresh, clean, water, why are we filling up on again, more sugar? This is one of the first areas I tell clients to CUT IT OUT. NO soda, no sugary drinks, stop the Crystal Light and other added syrups. It will also cut down on extra packaging and plastics that are harmful to the environment. Drink coffee? Stop with the syrups and try for as black and basic as you can get! Also remember that alcohol is a treat, as well.
Use your head and heart. If you eat meat or consume animal products, take a moment to consider where and how your proteins are processed and raised. I understand it's expensive to buy local and humanely raised meats...there are other options though outside of PCC, Whole Foods and Trader Joes. You can research and buy local if need be-this is also a wonderful time to utilize farmers markets. There are small farms near you and if there aren't you can buy and have it shipped. If you do eat meat go visit the farm and see how the animals live. Take the extra step to know where its coming from. If you decide to consume traditional grocery store meat you should be comfortable knowing the practices of large, factory farmed animals. I have been a vegetarian for at least 10 years just based on this reason, but if you do consume meats (my husband does occasionally), please read and understand make the best choice for the environment and animals.
Prepare your meals. I like to use Sunday as a day to cook up soup, stews, or stir-frys at least for the first few days of the weeks' lunches. Much like carving time out for your exercise, don't negotiate on having a day to set yourself up for success! Get grocery shopping done with healthy snacks and items for the next weeks dinners. If you have lunches pre-made then all you have to worry about is dinner, and if all else fails you have a healthy pre-made lunch you can just use for dinner! The point is planning and setting it up. I know it seems daunting, but I promise the more you get into a schedule the easier it becomes.
It takes two, baby. I say this time and time again...if you are trying to be healthy and your partner isn't on board it's 10x as hard to get to where you want and need to be. This is true for working out, eating, and meal prep. If possible talk to your partner and decide what's healthy and appealing for lunch prep and work on it together. In our house, one person makes the smoothies while the other does lunches. That way you have the support and understanding that certain foods are best left out of the home.