The other day I googled how to eat healthy and what popped up was just nutzo!
There were so many opinions about what “healthy eating” is and is not, no wonder it’s so confusing and overwhelming.
- Paleo is the best
- Vegetarian is boss
- Being a Vegan is the way to go
- Food Pyramid
- Low carb of life!
- Low fat of life!
- Don’t eat after a certain time
Ahhhhhhh! Make it stop.
Not one of the articles made it easy to actually start eating healthier today. So with that in mind, it is my promise to you that after reading today’s article you’ll have an easy to carry out strategy that can take you from nutrition noobie to nutrition know-it-all.
Ok, maybe not know-it-all but you’ll be able to understand how to eat healthier.
If you’re eating habits are on the fritz then this article is for you.
Before we jump in as most of you know Limitless365 is a big fan of the Paleo diet. However, I’m not going to try to convince you that it’s the best way to eat. It may be for some of you, but for others, not so much.
I’ll explain why I think it’s a great place to start (using it as a template) but doesn’t necessarily have to be your “Food Religion.”
Enough jibba jabba. Lets do this dang thing.
WHAT IS EATING HEALTHY?
If I asked you how to eat healthy what would you say? What pops up in your mind now?
- A certain number of calories
- A certain amount of meals per day
- Eating every so many hours
- Eating a certain percentage of calories or grams from protein, carbs, and fat
- Is it related to the way you look
- Is it related to the way that you feel
- Is it related to the way you perform (athletics, work, daily life)
- Do you think about things that you’re NOT suppose to eat like grains, wheat, pasta, meat, candy, orange mocha frappachino’s?
I want you to throw all that out the window.
Instead, I’d like you to ask yourself where you learned how to eat healthy?
- Your parents
- A personal trainer
- Googling around the web
- Dr. Oz
- Some random guy or gal you met that looked fit
What did they actually know about eating healthy?
If you’ve never really learned about eating healthy that’s ok too, you’re actually at an advantage as your mind hasn’t be confused by a ton of information.
Eating healthy is taking what works under all conditions and being able to apply it to your life so that you can practice it consistently.
Regardless of which nutritional camp you fall under, if you’re approach addresses what works under all conditions then you’ll live a healthy, fit, and energetic life.
So what works?
We’re going to jump into that in a few but first…
SET YOURSELF UP FOR HEALTHY EATING SUCCESS
I’m confident you already know what real food is. If not, this article and this cheat sheet will serve as a refresher, but essentially real food has one ingredient. If it runs on land, swims in the sea, flew through the air, and grows in the ground or on a tree you’ve got yourself some real food.
So if you already know what real food is, what’s the problem?
The problem usually has nothing to do with what you know. The real problem actually lies in the DOING what you already know consistently.
So how can you start following through with more consistency?
#1: Change Your Environment
Planning and knowledge don’t always work. I’ve laid out detailed nutrition plans for myself and for others, outlining exactly what to eat and when to eat it. However, they only ever work if the environment was changed.
Make doing the good things easier and the not so good things not so easy.
Lets say you’re really stoked about trying to eat healthier and improve your fitness. You’re totally motivated and committed to making some big changes but have you made these changes easier on yourself to implement?
I have a rule, if there is a food in my house, desk/work, etc… then it will eventually be eaten. Remove temptation by performing a kitchen makeover. If you know the break room is where all of the donuts and candy is steer clear (or secretly throw it away 🙂 ). If you’re often tempted by the vending machine don’t keep dollar bills or change on you.
Try these things instead:
- Perform a kitchen makeover.
- Keep healthy snacks in your car or at your desk if you get hungry.
- If you have to, hide junk food in hard to reach places (like the garage or the top shelf).A friend of mine once froze her credit card in a block of ice in her freezer.
You can also start using smaller plates or Tupperware. Research has shown that we will eat what’s put in front of us.
In his book Mindless Eating, Brian Wansik addresses this exact issue, It’s scary to see how small cues can greatly impact our behavior:
If you use a big spoon, you’ll eat more. If you serve yourself on a big plate, you’ll eat more. If you move the small bowl of chocolates on your desk six feet away you’ll eat half as much. If you eat chicken wings and remove the bones from the table, you’ll forget how much you ate and you’ll eat more.
#2: Spend More Time With Those That Support Your Healthy Eating Goals
I’m sure you’ve heard the saying that you’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with.
I’m a big believer in that. You friends, family, and co-workers are a big influence on who you are.
- It’s tough to go out with a bunch of your buddies and pass on the alcohol or to just have one glass of wine when everyone else is throwing down.
- It’s tough to stay healthy at a family dinner when everyone is ordering fried foods, mounds of pasta, and giving you a tough time for eating some salmon and steamed veggies
- It’s tough to head over to a friend’s house for a get together and decline a special dessert that they made.
It’s very important to let the people you spend the most time with how important this transition in your life is to you. Tell them how it will not only benefit you but them as well and your relationship together. You’ve got to sk for their support.
Take notice of those closet to you that currently live a healthy lifestyle. What are some ways you can spend more time with them. Also, take notice of those that give you a hard time or make it difficult for you to live a healthier lifestyle. Unfortunately (if possible) you may have to spend a little less time with them for now.
Remember, when you’re changing you’re asking other people to change as well. They’re used to the old you. The new you will be different and that can be scary for some.
#3: Don’t Get Motivated To Eat Healthier. Actually Intend To Do It
The initial motivation to workout or eat right is never the problem. It’s staying consistent with the practice that is the real issue.
One of my favorite habit guru’s is James Clear. In an article that he wrote he references a study that shows how the intent to do something is actually stronger than the motivation to do something.
In the study from the British Journal of Health Psychology, researchers conducted an experiment over a two-week period that measured how often participants exercised.
The participants in the study were divided into a three groups:
1. Control group: They were asked to record how often they exercised over a two-week period. At the end, each person was asked to read three paragraphs from a random novel.
2. Motivation group: They also tracked how often they exercised over a two-week period. However, instead of reading paragraphs from a random novel they instead read brochures on the benefits of exercise.
3. Intent group: They followed the same program as the motivation group except the Intent Group was asked to come up with a plan that defined exactly when and where they would exercise over a the two-week period.
This is the statement they were asked to fill out:
During the next week I will partake in at least 20 minutes of vigorous exercise on (DAY) at (TIME) at/in (PLACE).
At the end of the experiment the 38% of the control group exercised at least once per week, 35% of the motivation group exercised at least once per week, but 91% of the intent group exercised at least once per week.
You can use the study above as an example of why you should formulate a plan for how you are going to eat healthy. It’s one thing to be motivated and say you’re going to do it, but it’s another thing to actually plan for it.
- So how to you INTEND to eat healthier?
- What days and times will you prepare your meals and snacks for the week?
- When will you go grocery shopping?
#4: Let Yourself Know If You’re Actually Doing It
I’d say that 90% of the people I coach tell me that they eat healthy during our first coaching call. I usually ask them how they know this. They usually respond by saying something like, “I just know,” “Or I don’t eat like everyone else I know,” or “I don’t eat junk, fast food, or drink soda.”
I then usually ask them to prove it to me, it usually gets silent for a bit after that.
My point is to prove to yourself that you are actually doing what you intend to do. If eating healthy is your goal track it so that you know if you’re actually doing it or not.
This doesn’t mean you have to create a food log. In the Limitless365 Fitness Program I simply ask you to check whether you worked out today or practiced a specific nutrition habit. At the end of the week it shows you how consistent you were.
#5: Don’t Go Big Or Go Home. Instead Go Small And If That Doesn’t Work, Go Smaller
When trying to create change in your life going all in doesn’t always work. Sometimes it’s definitely needed but when it comes to eating healthier small changes over time are what stick.
If you don’t like veggies you don’t have to eat them with every meal. Try introducing them with one meal for now. If that’s too much try just one piece of broccoli
If you’re drinking 3 sodas every day and finding it difficult to quit cold turkey try drinking two.
Now that your minds right lets jump into the how to.
HOW TO ACTUALLY EAT HEALTHIER
Regardless of the nutritional approach you prefer, if it addresses the following three things I am confident you will succeed with it.
Step #1: How To Eat Healthy. The Quality Of Your Food
When I say quality of your food I’m not talking about organic, grass-fed, free range, and all that jazz. All of those things are great and important but not as much as getting the basics of food quality down first.
We touched on it a little earlier in the post but here is a quick outline of real food.
- More than three ingredients on the label = No good
- Three ingredients on the label = Ok
- Two ingredients on the label = good
- One ingredient on the label (what ever the food is and that’s it) = Super boss!
- Real food doesn’t come in a box, package, or out of a window. Real food can be found around the perimeter of your grocery store.
Real food includes PROTEIN: To me this mostly includes animal protein like chicken, eggs, beef, and fish. If you’re vegetarian or vegan some good options would be organic extra firm tofu, edemama, organic tempeh, natto, and hemp protein.
Protein is important because it increases the thermic effect of food – which sounds confusing but simply put it requires you to burn calories or energy to digest, absorb, and-uh-release 🙂 the food you’ve eaten. The thermic effect of protein is about 25%, while carbohydrates is about 8%, and fats about 3%.
Protein also decreases the amount of enzymes in the body for making and storing fat in your liver and adipose cells.
Protein increases your Insulin growth factor (IGF-1) response to exercise and while eating. IGF-1 is an anabolic hormone related to fat loss and lean muscle-building. This is very important for those of you that want to burn body fat, build lean muscle, or get (my least favorite buzzword) that “toned” look.
Some of my favorite protein sources:
- Grass-fed Beef
If you’re looking to learn more about protein you can visit my buddies at PN.
Real food includes CARBOHYDRATES: You’re body needs carbohydrates to function properly but not as much or from the sources that you think.
When you eat carbohydrates they are digested into simple sugars and sent to the liver to fill your energy reserves. Any excess is then sent through the blood stream and into other cells. Insulin is released to help facilitate this process and supply immediate energy. Any excess will be stored as body fat.
Unfortunately over the years we’ve been terribly informed about the best sources of carbohydrates for energy. The best carbohydrates are the ones that are absorbed slowly. This helps to keep feeling satiated after a meal and your blood sugar stable over the course of a day.
Here is an amazing MUST WATCH video that explains this.
So what are the best carbohydrate sources?
- Veggies like broccoli, kale, spinach, bok choy, and leeks
- Low sugar fruits like strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries
Take action towards eating better carbohydrates by taking a look in your refrigerator, cupboards, and freezer. Throw away all the boxes and packaged goods (frozen veggies are ok) and restock with veggies and low sugar fruits from the real food chart.
Real food includes FAT: I wish the healthy fat you can get from food had a different name then the fat on your body. Somewhere along the line a large percentage of the population started associating fat in food with fat on the body.
Eating fat does not make you fat.
The fat on your body and the fat you eat from food are actually the bodies preferred source of energy. The odds are you’re not working out all day long. Most of your time is probably spent working, running errands, walking, doing chores, and other relatively light activities. These activities use body fat for energy much more effectively then they do carbohydrates.
Healthy fats include:
Saturated: Coconut oil and grass-fed butter
Unsaturated fats: Olive oil, avocado, and fish oil
The not so good fats to AVOID:
Industrial seed oils
For a complete list of healthy fats use this chart
Healthy fats are important because they support a healthy metabolism, immunity, hormone production, and help you absorb fat soluble nutrients.
The quality of food will not only improve the vitamins, minerals, and calories you take in but will also effect the fat burning hormones in your body
Step #2: How To Eat Healthy. The Quantity Of Your Food
When you start eating more real food you need to eat it in the right amounts. However, this doesn’t mean you need to count every single calorie you take in.
Will that work? Probably will.
Will it drive you crazy? Without a doubt.
Plus, do you really want to count every calorie for the rest of your life?
Calorie counting is also an inexact science. It’s even been shown that nutrition labels can be off as much as 25% due to incorrect labeling, food quality, or errors when calculating calories in a laboratory.
All calories are not created equal. 300 hundred calories of Twinkies is not the same as 300 calories from mixed veggies.
Save the calorie counting for very specific goals like achieving 6% body fat or maximum performance for your Crossfit competition.
In the Limitless365 Fitness Program I created a cheat sheet for determining how much to eat.
Men looking to lose body fat:
- Protein: 2 palm sized servings
- Carbohydrates: Veggies: 2 fist sized servings – Fruits: 1 fist sized serving ( maximum once per day) – Starchy carbs (limit): 1 fist sized serving (maximum once per day)
- Healthy fats: 2 to 3 thumb sized servings or 2 to 3 tablespoons
Men looking to build muscle:
- Protein: 2 hand sized servings
- Carbohydrates: Veggies: 2 fist sized servings – Fruits: 1-2 fist sized servings – Starchy carbs: 1 fist sized serving
- Healthy fats: 2 to 4 thumb sized servings or 2 to 4 tablespoons
Women looking to lose body fat:
- Protein: 1 palm sized servings
- Carbohydrates: Veggies: 1 to 2 fist sized servings – Fruits: 1 fist sized serving ( maximum once per day) – Starchy carbs (limit): 1 fist sized serving (maximum once per day)
- Healthy fats: 1 to 2 thumb sized servings or 1 to 2 tablespoons
How much easier is that and less tedious is that then taking out measuring cups, weighing foods, and obsessing over every single calorie.
Step #3: How To Eat Healthier. The Timing Of Your Food
What you eat when you eat really does matter but maybe not in the way that you think.
The timing of your food can get complicated so I want to simplify it as much as possible. If you’re interested in the science behind it check out this article from PN.
The short and sweet of it is that your body handles different carbohydrates differently while handling protein and fats the same. Insulin regulates how nutrients enter into muscle cells and contributes to how your body stores fat.
Carbohydrates like vegetables and low sugar fruits are absorbed slower and create less of an insulin response while sugars, high sugar fruits, and many starches will create a greater response.
Your body is starving for nutrients after hard and vigorous exercise.
- High Intensity interval training
- Most Crossfit workouts
It’s right after these bouts of intense exercise that you’ll want to consume your largest meals and the majority of your carbohydrates for the day (using the serving sizes above as a guide.)
I know you’ve heard that there’s a 30 minute window after you exercise in which you should eat a meal to maximize the benefits of post workout nutrition but the research on that is weak at best. The truth is you can eat your next meal anytime you want after exercise and still reap most of the rewards.
When it comes to timing your meals I recommend this simple formula.
If fat loss is your goal all of your meals should contain a serving (see above) of protein, veggies, and healthy fat. The only exception would be your post workout meal which could include a serving of fruit or starchy carbohydrate.
An example of an “All Day Plate”
- Protein: Ground beef
- Veggies (carbohydrate): Broccoli, cauliflower, and leeks
- Healthy fat: Avocado
An example of a “Post Workout Plate”
- Protein: Ground beef
- Carbohydrate: Veggies: Broccoli, cauliflower, and leeks
- Post workout carbohydrate: Sweet potato
- Healthy fat: Avocado
So if fat loss is your goal your all day plates will be naturally lower in carbohydrates because you’ll be emphasizing veggies while your post workout meals will be a bit higher because you’ll be including more fruits or starchy carbs.
If you are looking to increase lean muscle you can include a serving of low sugar fruit like berries or starchy carbohydrate like sweet potato with each meal.
This is not a low carb approach to eating, it’s a smart carb approach.
ANYMORE TIPS, TRICKS, OR SWIFT KICKS FOR EATING HEALTHIER
I wanted to leave you with a few quick tips moving forward:
There will always be “something.” Someone’s wedding, special occasion, celebration, birthday, or other even that may tempt you or give you an excuse to venture of your healthy eating plan. You have a choose what goes into your mouth – stop starting every Monday – create a plan and intend to eat healthy.
You will mess up and that’s ok. Have a plan in place for what you’ll do when that happens. Instead of allowing yourself to landslide establish strategies that stop that tumbleweed from rolling and immediately allow you to jump back into your plan. Don’t beat yourself up – perfection is not the goal here, getting better every day is.
Use task association strategies to help you build habits. I use this to help me sleep. My bed is only for sleeping. When I lay down I want my body to know that the only thing it’s suppose to do there is rest (get your mind out of the gutter people). Only eat at a specific table in your house instead of in front of the TV, in your room, or at your computer. You can do the same at work.
Seek a mentor, accountability, and support. To me these are the three most important ingredients for achieving anything. Reach out to those that you know are living a healthy lifestyle, partner up for workouts and cooking for extra accountability, and ask your family and friends for their support. If you’re having trouble finding any of these three please check out the Limitless365 Fitness Program I designed to address all three issues.
On a scale of 1 to 10 how confident are you that you can start eating healthier? if you’re not at a 10 how can I help to get you there.
P.S.: If you’re struggling with trying to develop healthy eating habits, join hundreds of others that are becoming LimitlessFIT by using the L365 Fitness Program.