This guide has been designed to help you to start thinking about precisely what you’re eating and why, so you can make better all-around food choices. Since all food is not created equal, a healthy diet is critical for a healthy mind and body. Good nutrition provides all the energy, raw materials, and antioxidants to keep us feeling younger, more resilient, illness free and better able to reach our transformation goals.
We have all heard the adage that “you are what you eat” but what exactly does that mean? The obvious implication of course is that if we eat healthy food, we will be healthy person and if we eat unhealthy foods, we will be an unhealthy person. While it is not quite that simple, there is some truth to the saying.
Why do we eat what we do? Our food choices say a lot about who we are and what kind of life we lead. Do we eat breakfast each day? Do we like sweets? Do we crave carbs? Is someone opened your refrigerator right now, what would be in it? Would it be packed with take-out or would it be filled with fresh foods? Would it contain soft drinks or bottled water? Would it be filled with dessert or fruits? These are interesting behavioral questions.
There are a host of additional questions that we can also ask about our motivation for eating, such as, when and why we eat. Do we eat because it’s time? Do we eat because we’re hungry? Do we eat because it tastes good? The answers to all of these questions will help us explore our precise relationship with food. It is a relationship that is vital to our health, out fitness level, our psychological wellness, our longevity and our overall quality of life.
Each of us has a distinct food personality, and once we understand the strengths and weaknesses of that personality, we can address the changes that we must make in order to use food to our advantage so we can achieve all of our transformation goals. My motto “ work smarter, not harder.”
General Food Education
PROTEIN (meat, beans, fish)
Protein is an essential component of our diet, because it provides the amino acids that we need to synthesize our own proteins. Protein feeds our muscles. It is a vital part of our hair, skin, cells, tissues and organs. Protein keeps our body running smoothly. It both heals and repairs injuries and helps us fight and resist diseases. There are two different types of proteins, those from animal sources (complete) which are high in essential amino acids and those from non-animal sources (incomplete) which are lower in essential amino acids.
Good sources of complete proteins include lean beef, tuna fish, salmon, chicken breast, eggs and milk. Sources of protein include tofu, legumes, yogurt, seeds and beans.
GOOD FAT (nuts, olive oil, avocados)
Fats are important to a balanced diet, and we simply cannot live without them. They are the major source of energy and help with nutrient absorption. Fats also help us maintain our body temperature, keep our skin soft and our hair shiny but some fats can contribute to weight gain and heart disease. These are referred to as “bad fats.” Bad fats (saturated and trans fat) raise blood cholesterol levels which can block the flow of oxygen-rich blood to both the heart and the brain. One key to a healthy diet is to replace bad fats with good fats as often as possible.
FRUIT AND VEGETABLES (melons, berries and spinach)
Fruits and vegetables contain many of the essential vitamins and mineral that our bodies need for balanced nutrition including Vitamins A, B, C and E as well as magnesium, iron, zinc, calcium and phosphorus. They also contain dietary fiber which is critical to helping the body rid itself of toxins. The combined benefits of fresh fruit and vegetables include a reduced risk of heart disease, stroke, eye and digestive problems. The greatest benefit can be obtained by consuming both a wide variety and varying colors of fruit and vegetables. We are urged to “eat the rainbow!”
Good sources of healthy fruits include melon, apricots, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, and strawberries and healthy vegetables include spinach (anything green besides lettuce), cabbage, tomatoes, kale, sweet potatoes, and carrots.
WHOLE GRAINS (whole grain breads, brown rice and cereals)
Grains are naturally low in fat, and they are good source of carbohydrates which we need for energy. Whole grains, which are unrefined grains, are a good source of fiber, potassium, magnesium, selenium and B vitamins like thiamin, riboflavin, niacin and folate. Consuming whole grains has been associated with a lower risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes. In addition, rich amounts of dietary fiber, whole grains also improve regularity. Remember there is no such thing an essential carbohydrate; even though good for your healthy and can be filling, all carbohydrates should be consumed in moderation and in their natural form.
Good sources of whole grains in natural form include multi-grain breads with flaxseed, raw steel oatmeal, wild rice, barley, popcorn, buckwheat, quinoa (miracle food) and bulgur.
DAIRY (yogurt, low-fat milk, cheese)
Dairy foods are among the richest sources of calcium available to us and calcium is critical for the health of our bones and teeth. As a matter of fact, milk is the leading source of calcium, phosphorus, vitamin D and potassium. Vitamin D supports the absorption of calcium and plays a role in immune function, cell growth and inflammation reduction. Dairy foods are also another rich source of protein, magnesium, and B vitamins. The many nutrients that dairy foods provide help the body function at an optimal level and lower the risk of a variety of health problems. The body only needs 16 oz per day total of dairy.
Good source of dairy include low fat milk, fat free milk, yogurt, cheese, butter, hard cheese (like parmesan, aged cheddar, and aged gouda), cottage cheese, and frozen custard.
Carbohydrates are composed of sugars, starches and cellulose; and vital to a healthy diet. They provide energy for our daily activities as well as more intense physical activity since they directly fuel our muscles. Like many nutritional elements, carbohydrates must be eaten in moderation in order to maintain a healthy body weight.
There are also two different kinds of carbs. The first kind, simple carbs (monosaccharides/ “one sugar”), are found in white breads, white rice, cake, soft drinks, candy, milk, syrups and fruits. These carbs are broken down quickly by the body and provide fast energy, but they are typically not a good source of vitamins or key nutritional elements. Simple carbs are infamous for providing the short-term energy “buzz” and the subsequent “crash and burn” that we feel mere moments later. Simple carbs are also more apt to leave us feeling hungry and hour or two after eating and can contribute to weight gain by inviting over-eating. Simple carbs also cause insulin spikes, which leads to abdominal fat storage.
The second kind of carbohydrate, complex carbs (polysaccharides/ “multiple sugars”) are starches which are more naturally occurring and contain unrefined sugars. These carbs come in the form of more fiber-rich foods like grains, potatoes, oatmeal, wheat, rice, vegetables, legumes, and corn. Complex carbs are processed and broken down by our bodies at a much slower rate that the fast-digesting , fast-energy simple carbs.
Complex carbs produce longer lasting energy and help improve digestion. Their slow release of glucose also help stabilize blood sugar, less insulin is released. After eating these types of carbs, we are more likely to feel satisfied or full and it lasts much longer. When marathoners, cyclists, and endurance athletes “carbohydrate load” before a race, that is precisely the type of energy that they are seeking.
So carbohydrates satisfy both the body’s short-term and long-term energy requirements. They also provide fuel for the central nervous and muscular system. Carbs are vital for anyone engaging in a regular exercise program since they directly impact stamina, performance and most important of all….usable energy. The most important thing to remember about carbohydrates is, the form in which the energy comes from (natural forms of carbs are best like rice, quinoa, potatoes, beans, oats, vegetables and fruits), moderation and when to consume (plan around physical activity to insure proper energy use verses excessive energy storage).
Fat is one of the three macronutrients along with protein and carbohydrates that supplies nourishment to the body. Fat is an important source of energy and unlike carbohydrates, it does not cause fluctuations in blood sugar. Fat is actually an organic compound that is composed of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. While it is critical for certain body and cell functions, too much of the wrong fats in the diet can be very unhealthy.
There are four types of dietary fat: staturated, trans, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. The first two are considered bad fats while the latter two are good fats. Bad fats tend to increase cholesterol, triglycerides levels and obesity thereby increasing heart attack risk while good fats consumed in moderation can actually improve heart health.
Fats are a vital nutrient that most people seem to want to avoid and blame. Fat actually releases 9 kcal/g, meaning they burn more energy (i.e calories, since calories are the measurement of energy) and take longer to break down, keeping you fuller longer. Fat does not spike insulin levels, therefore not directly causing abdominal weight gain like the carbohydrate family. Every human body needs fat for brain health (release of Neurotransmitters), absorption of fat soluble vitamins (vitamins A, E, D and K), metabolism regulation (you must have fat in diet in order for your body to release appropriate neurotransmitter that allows your body to recognize that it has eatin) and some cholesterol to survive. Cholesterol (HDL form) has many necessary functions: it helps make the outer coating of cells, it make up the bile acids that work to digest food in the intestine and it allows the body to make vitamin D and hormones, like estrogen and testosterone. So it is unhealthy to completely eliminate and avoid fat in your diet. Besides a fat free diet means high sugar diet, which we know sugar causes the storage of fat.
Are those fats found in animal products like whole milk, ice cream, butter, and certain cheeses as well as palm oil. They can increase “bad cholesterol” levels and increase heart disease.
Are often considered to be the worst type of fat. Trans fats are rare in nature, but can occur in food production process (i.e. fried foods. No such thing as trans fat free fried foods), and they raise bad LDL cholesterol levels and lower good HDL cholesterol levels. Trans fats are the leading dietary culprits in increasing the risk of heart attack, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.
Like olive oil and canola oil are liquid at room temperature but tend to turn solid when chilled or refrigerated. This type of unsaturated fat can help lower cholesterol and are typically high in antioxidants.
Stay liquid even when chilled and heated and processing can actually damage these types of fats. They include fish, fish oil and seafood which are packed with Omega-3 fatty acids and sunflower, safflower and soybean oils which are rich in Omega-6 fatty acids and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
There is no doubt that we need protein. Protein is required for the growth, maintenance, repair and strength of our bodies. It is our most abundant molecule and plays an important role in all of our metabolic functions. Like carbohydrates and fats, protein also contains carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. But proteins have an additional essential element, nitrogen, which forms the chemical components of amino acids.
Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins and there are 20 different ones found in our body. Humans, however, can only produce nine of those and the remaining eleven must be obtained through food; hence the name “essential proteins.” Unlike excess fats, carbs and starch the body does not store excess amino acids. All proteins are broken down and used for cell repair, DNA syntheses, and a magnitude of other bodily functions. There are 11 essential amino acids that we must take in through foods. Without even one of these “essential” protein breaks down and we can experience muscle loss, weakness, metabolic disruption, immune system collapse, and destruction of red blood cells.
High protein intake is critical during an exercise regimen since it is one of the key nutrients for muscle and strength building. It also helps the tissues that are broken down during exercise regenerate.
The recommended dietary allowance for protein is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight per day, which is roughly 0.36 grams per pound of body weight. It averages out to about 40-70 grams per day for the average person. Endurance athletes, however, should consume more or about 1.2 to 1.4 grams per kilogram (2.2 grams per lb.) of body weight per day and someone engaged in strength training would benefit from about 1.4 to 1.8 grams per kilogram of body weight per day.
GOOD SOURCE OF PROTEIN INCLUDE:
Fish (3 oz., 21 grams) Nut butter (2 tbsps, 8 grams)
Beef (3 oz., 21 grams) Cheese (3 ounces, 21 grams)
Eggs (2, 13 grams) Tofu (3 oz., 15 grams protein)
THE ART OF EATING IN MODERATION
Gone are the days when we could just eat about anything. Over time our bodies have changed. Our metabolism is not what it once was. Weight has found a way to collect on our bodies and stay, and it tends to settle in our hardest to reach places.
We know that it’s not really the piece of the donut that we sneak now and then at work, the handful of fries that we has at lunch yesterday, or the small taste of pie on a holiday. It’s those extra bagels, the late afternoon lattes, or the mounds of butter and sour cream that slap on an otherwise innocent baked potato. It’s not the pretzel or two, it’s the whole bag! It’s not the healthy salad, it’s the mass of ranch dressing on top and the garlic bread on the side. You see, moderation is not just about portion control. It is about food choices, condiments, extras and perhaps most importantly….timing. We need to watch what we eat, how much we eat, and precisely when we eat.
What makes us over-weight is simply overeating. It’s variety of choices and actions that take many forms. We know we have to moderate, but how do we do it?
FIVE VERY SIMPLE MODERATION DO’S:
1. Eat only when you are hungry. That’s right. Simple, isn’t it? Don’t eat because you are bored or because other around you is eating. Don’t let outside influences persuade you, like people or advertisement. Just because a co-worker wants to go eat at the “Big Butt Buffet” doesn’t mean you are obligated to join. Ask yourself, am I hungry?
2. You don’t have to finish it. Forget what your mother said. You are no longer growing (at least height-wise). Finishing everything on your plate in our portion oversized society will only make you fatter.
3. Eat food naked as often as possible. No need to add cheese to vegetables or jelly to toast. Eat whole foods, meaning unprocessed or packaged. Whole fruits and vegetables not found in cans or in sugary syrup.
4. If you feel guilty about having something, then don’t. If you are struggling about whether to have that piece of chocolate cake, you have your answer.
5. Don’t eat late at night. You have heard that calories consumed late at night turn to fat. Guess what? They do! Did you know we also tend to eat larger portions later in the day? And, did you know late-night eating will keep you up? It’s a good quandary to avoid.
It’s important that you spend some time with your body. Listen to it, understand it and learn how it communicates its basic needs to you. Remember, your body is not overeating or making wrong food choices….you are. Have your body work for you, not against you.
Below are some examples of NOT eating in moderation on the left side with some better choices on the right side, which represent healthier options and tasty alternatives for better eating.
Hot dog w/ chili cheese sauce Plain turkey dog
Cheeseburger, ketchup and fries Veggie burger w/ no bun
Chicken parmesan Fresh chicken in wine sauce
Side of French fries Baked potato with salt and pepper
Bowl of ice-cream w/ hot fudge Yogurt and fruit
Potato chips with dip Whole grain crackers and cheddar
Spaghetti bolognese Pasta in olive oil
Fried mozzarella Fresh mozzarella with tomato
Steak and kidney pie Grilled steak and vegetables
Sweet and sour pork Sliced pork and salad
Slice of apple pie Fresh sliced apples
Huevos rancheros Poached eggs and turkey sausage
Ribs w/ barbecue sauce Turkey meatloaf
Fish and chips Poached salmon and vegetables
Liter of beer Glass of red/white wine
THE PSYCHOLOGY OF food
There are a host of reasons why we eat certain foods and many of them have as much to do with our mood and mindset as with the food itself. Many of us don’t necessarily eat because we are hungry. Sometimes we eat out of boredom or routine. Sometimes we eat out of loneliness or fear. Sometimes we eat to be social and other times we eat to be comforted.
There is a psychology to food that is very revealing and a clear understanding of how food interacts with our mind and our psyche will help us control our relationship with eating rather than vice versa.
Did you ever wonder why we often say to ourselves, “I feel like something sweet”? What is our body trying to tell us? Most likely the message is, “I am fatigued.” We have all heard the theory about craving bread or carbohydrates. They are considered “ comfort” foods. But what does that say about our mood at the time? The reason we crave certain things is part chemical and part emotional and addressing cravings in moderation is the best course of action to maintain a healthy relationship with food.
Many experts believe that if we constantly deprive ourselves of a craving, we will ultimately yield to a worse one. So if you keep saying “no” to that piece of birthday cake long enough, you may very well find yourself eating the entire bowl of ice-cream to make yourself feel better. We can only deprive ourselves for so long. Deprivation leaves us disappointed and dissatisfied and that can undermine our efforts to transform our body. Transformation is hard. It requires discipline, passion, and power. Feeling deprived puts us into a defeatist mindset where diets are broken, fitness routines are missed, excuses are made and we get caught up in an endless cycle of futility.
We need to slowly transition ourselves having a fewer carbs, less sugar and a lower fat intake. We may need perhaps just a “bite” of cake or a “couple” of French fries, or a “nibble” of those homemade cookies to help us maintain the positive attitude necessary to stay focused on our ultimate goal of better health and fitness. Positive change requires that we remain positive, and we will need all of our energy, determination and inner motivation to stay the course.
We have all engaged in emotional eating. Every time a meal makes us remember an event, recall a holiday tradition, or recollect a certain family member….it is an emotional eating experience. Whether we are reminded of our wedding cake, or Thanksgiving dinner at our aunt’s house, or our grandmother’s chicken soup, we can’t help but associate food with memory and emotion. This illustrates the power and influence that food has on our mod and our frame of mind, and it is not a bad thing.
Food can help to heal and to forget. It can comfort us and brighten our day. It can calm us down and give us energy. So forget everything you have heard about stress-eating and comfort eating being bad for you. It is time to view food as our friend and partner in building a better life and a healthier mind and body. If you find yourself to be a bit lethargic, or tired or blue….think about how food can possibly help:
Consider These Foods If You Need A Mood Changer:
FATIGUED: When we are tired, we tend to crave breads and sweets. They are generally high in calories and help produce energy. So if you feel exhausted, consider reaching for….
• A fresh, peeled orange
• Fresh pineapple slices
• Cottage cheese
• Beans and lentils
• Green tea
• Nuts and dried fruit
• Peanut butter and toast
STRESSED OUT: When we are stressed out we tend to crave calming foods. We should also turn to those high in antioxidants and stress fighting vitamins. When feeling stressed consider:
• Peppermint tea
• Leafy greens
DOWN IN THE DUMPS: When we are feeling blue, we tend to withdraw. Sometimes we don’t even want to eat but it’s important that we consume nutrition packed food like:
• Black beans
COMFORT SEEKING: when we are craving nostalgia and longing to be soothed and consoled with memories of childhood and home-cooked meals. Foods to consider:
• Apple pie
• Beef stew
• Corn on the cob
• Chicken soup
• Mashed potatoes
• Homemade bread
HEALTHY FOOD CHOICES: HIGH PROTEIN
• Beef fillet
• Chicken breast
• Cod fish
• Crab meat
• Monk fish
• Peanut butter
• Pork chops
• Prawns/ shrimp
HEALTHY FOOD CHOICES: LOW-FAT
• Olive oil
• Canola oil
• Pinto beans
• Tuna packed in water
• Canned salmon
• Black beans
• Whole wheat pasta
• Light turkey meat
• Minestrone soup
• Kidney beans
HEALTHY FOOD CHOICES: LOW-CARB
• Brussels sprouts
SUCCESSFUL MEAL PLANNING
Making healthy meals on a regular basis takes a firm commitment and then some simple steps to craft a working plan.
DECIDE TO START AND MAKE A PLAN
It is important that you make the decision to get serious about good nutrition. Doing so will require both discipline and planning. When meals are planned, there is less opportunity to eat poorly. In addition, planned meals help ensure better ingredients and more balanced servings. Through planning, we are more purposeful when we shop and therefore more economical. We are less likely to buy junk food or extra items that simply pack on extra weight. It is a good idea to talk to family members, get them on board as well, and then mark your calendar to get started.
SELECT YOUR PROTEINS, FATS AND CARBS
Your meals should center around the three key elements of nutrition that we have discussed: a protein, low-fat component and a low-carb element. Start with your protein and figure out which type you will prepare for which days of the week. For instance, if it is beef on Monday and salmon on Wednesday add an accompanying for fat side dish like black beans and broccoli and low-carb accompaniments like Brussels sprouts and zucchini.
DECIDE ON YOUR PREPARATION METHOD
Grilled, baked, roasted, sauté, stir-fried. In order to understand precisely what your plate will look like as you sit down to your meal, you will need to determine your preparation method in advance. Deciding whether to grill or bake your protein ahead of time will help you select the cut of meat you will need, the size, and how you will prepare your side dishes. Sometimes it is not the food you dislike but how it is prepared. Different forms of preparation bring out different flavor in foods. Be creative and adventurous….don’t stress it is just food, you can always start over.
FIND SOME RECIPES
Consulting some healthy cookbooks for a few nutrition conscious recipes is a good way to stimulate your creativity and ensure that you are putting the proper food elements together. A few good recipes can help you take the guess work out of marrying the right nutritional ingredients. They also contain preparation secrets to boost flavor so you get the most out of your food, to keep your mind and body satisfied and reduce potential feelings of deprivation.
MAKE A SHOPPING LIST
Your shopping list is a crucial element of both planning meals and maintaining meal quality. Create a shopping list template that accounts for staple items each week and add a section for your eating goals and your new meal planning undertaking. The shopping list will help you stay focused on more wholesome purchases so you can construct complete meals with healthy components. In addition, with a well planned list, you are less likely to stray into the candy or chip aisle and yield to temptation.
Be sure to save and use your leftovers, particularly your proteins. They can easily be rotated back into your menu to save you both time and money. Proteins can also be reinvented and sometimes they even turn out better the second or third day.