If you have decided to start eating healthy as a lifestyle change you are most likely lost and confused on diet. If so, this little post is here to help and hopefully help clarify some things for you. Now we are not yet certified in Nutrition but we have a pretty good background and taking a lot of courses to help educate us (key work is yet as we are working on it). So this by no means is perfect but its probably closer to perfect than where you are most likely at. So where to begin…
First things first, if your diet is currently not 100% (which no ones is!) then start to make changes SLOWLY. Start by adding 1 or 2 things that you learned in this post and incorporate it into your day to day living. Once you are able to stick with those 1 or 2 things then you can look into incorporating other changes. The worse thing you can do is to overload your brain with information and completely do a 180 in your diet. Make small baby steps because in the end they will stick with you and lead you to greater and long lasting results. Big changes will only cause you to become overwhelmed and chances are that if you are overwhelmed then you are not going to stick with the new changes for very long, and potentially end up binge eating. Remember—small baby steps = greater results!
First things first
Step one will be to start to analyze and become conscious of what you are eating and how you feel after eating those foods. Remember food is fuel, its energy..its your lifeline. Not all food is equal and it shouldn’t be abused. Look in your pantry, what do you see? Are there chips? Cookies? Chocolate bars? Pop? Are there lots of easy meals such as packaged noodles. potatoes and/or rice? Etc. Whatever you see, whether you believe its healthy or not, try to keep in mind how often you have these foods and as weird as it sounds, how do you feel after eating such foods. Now look in your fridge and freezer, do the same, whats in it and how often do you eat those foods and how do you feel?
So once that’s done the real first step to your healthy eating begins (remember baby steps!). The one major thing that you should start to slowly cut out is…POP! And I do not care if its diet or that zero calorie chemical storm stuff that’s called a drink, if you want to be healthy and if your goal is to lose weight then the pop has to go! Now, if you drink a pop everyday, start by cutting down to 1 every second day for the first week. Every week after that increase the amount of days you go without until you have cut it out completely (baby steps!). Whatever you do, just get that evil drink out of your body and your home, you don’t need it and it does absolutely zero benefits to your body so why waste the time drinking it?
Start by slowly getting rid of chips, chocolate bars, pop, cookies, or whatever unhealthy snack food that you may be eating. The best thing is to begin by learning to not go down those specific aisles in the grocery store. Slowly start cutting down those unhealthy treats and start replacing with whole fresh fruits and vegetables.
What you want to eventually become really good at is learning how to really shop in the grocery store. Way back when, I use to literally go down every aisle when I went grocery shopping but now I am in and out of the stores in no time because I don’t visit most aisles. You should barely go down any aisles in the grocery store because most of them are filled with processed junk food that has labels that say “fat free”, “calorie wise”, “100 calories”, “added vitamins and minerals”, “no added sugar”, “low carb” etc making you think its a healthier choice when its not. Chances are that if its free of one type of substance it has been replaced by an artificial filler, or if something has been reduced, they added something else to replace it and its probably just as bad, if not worse. If you are going to go shopping write a list and only get what you need. The most visited area in the grocery store should be the produce section because you know all of that food found in the produce area is healthy and will benefit your body. Plus adding more vegetables and fruits to your diet will deliver you way more nutrients, they are nutrient dense meaning they are naturally ‘low in calorie’, but high in vitamins, minerals and fiber. All of this means healthier you, more energized you and of course, leaner you!
Understanding Food Labels:
If you want to start eating healthy (notice how I am not using the word “diet”..) you need to start getting into the habit of being particular of what you buy. Looking, reading and understanding the food labels and nutritional facts is key. A lot of people who start on this journey will get in a habit of just looking at the nutrition fact label on the back of the package, which is a great start, but its not what REALLY matters. What really matters is what you are actually putting into your body…the ingredients!
So you go shopping and see a snack food and you tell yourself “WOW that snack has only 100 calories?!?! Oh my, its healthy!!!” Right?? Wrong.. chances are its full of sugars, sodium and is most likely a chemical storm in a snack. Sometimes things are too good to be true and less doesn’t necessarily mean its better. Read the ingredients. do you know what any of that “food” is? If not, how do you expect your body to know and understand it? Don’t be fooled by labels or believe the commercials you see on TV, they lie and make things sound great because they want you to buy their product. But remember, no one cares about your health as much as you do, so don’t let labels and ads trick you.
First trick I use when looking for a healthy snack is I look at how long the ingredients list is. If its got about 15+ ingredients, I am not even going to waste my time in actually reading the list. I aim to buy food that has 6 or less ingredients, which is really hard but so worth it. The reason is because most ingredient lists that are long will have a lot of fancy words ending in “ose”, which is sugar. Also they will most likely have a ton of other ingredients that are hard to pronounce and are most likely preservatives and additives. So I will pass. Key: 6 ingredients or less.
Next trick: Is sugar one of the 3 first ingredients? If so, than most of what you are consuming is sugar. If you are buying something with 6 ingredients or less than try to find something where sugar is found near the end of the list and not at the beginning. Sugar = fat, fat does NOT = fat! Too much sugar in a product can lead to you feel tired and lead to weight gain because you are getting too much unnecessary unnatural sugars. The ingredient list may not even call it simply ‘sugar’, so watch out for words such as: glucose, sucrose, maltodextrin, corn sryup or any other syrups. And just remember any fancy word ending in ‘ose’ is a sugar. Now keep in mind that I mentioned unnatural sugars, because lately there is buzz going around about fruit being packed full of sugar. This is true but its natural sugar (fructose) and its a readily available energy source that your liver prefers to process. Fruit sugars will not cause weight gain, in fact, fruit is known for helping you speed up your metabolism and help in weight loss.
If you can minimize the ingredients list and watch where the sugar is added in the ingredients list, you are definitely on the right path of choosing a healthier option of food. Remember that ingredients go in order, so what they first list will be what you are consuming the most of. Keep this in mind and think of what you are willing to put in your body. One thing that will be very hard to find will be a good granola bar. A really popular brand of fiber bars appears to be a healthy choice but I was shocked to see sugar as the second ingredient. Personally, if you have an hour to spend on a weekend make your own healthy snacks because at least you can control the sugar content and add any extra nutrients you would like (ie. fiber, omega’s, fats, etc). We have a list of healthy snacks to make on our website to help you out!
Summary: avoid long ingredients list, avoid sugar being at the beginning of the list (glucose, sucrose, sugar, maltodextrin, corn syrup, etc), and avoid a list that has a bunch of ingredients that you don’t understand as they are most likely artificial or added chemicals.
Once you read the ingredients list, you can now have a look at the nutrition fact. Nutrition Facts labels will appear as below:
Nutrition Facts are based on a 2000 calorie diet. Here’s what to look for:
1. Look at the serving size. You will see, for example, on a bag of chips the serving size will be listed in grams but it tells you approximately how many chips that is. So lets say its 13 chips. Now everything else on that label is what you will be consuming in 13 chips, which to no ones surprise will be a lot and no one just eats 13 chips. So serving size will matter!
2. We are personally not too worried about calories because not all calories are equal. Some products will be high in calorie because of the amount of good fats that are in it. You need healthy fats, so if you stay away from high calorie foods all the time you may be missing out on some necessary fats. But again, how do the calories look compared to the serving size?
3. Fat content: You will want to stay from too many saturated fats, as these are considered ‘bad fats’. However, nothing is just THAT easy. A healthy food item such as coconuts is loaded with saturated fats but yet the type of bond those saturated fats have in coconut makes it healthier than just a regular saturated fat. So if you are looking for a granola bar and it follows all the guidelines you have learned about, but the saturated fat is high, try to ask yourself why? Does the granola bar have dark chocolate on it or in it? Does it have coconut shreds, coconut oil, etc? These types of items will increase the saturated fat content but doesn’t necessarily make it bad for you. The saturated fats that you should be concerned about will come from certain products that are fried, baked, processed and of course meats. These types of saturated fats are the artery clogging fats.
Trans fats = BAD! My next rule is to completely avoid trans fats! Trans fats are in no way healthy and have absolute no benefit to you. In fact, your body doesn’t even know how to really break down trans fats. Trans fats have been manipulated so that the chemical bond goes from a ‘cis’ to a ‘trans’ formation, a bond that your body isn’t use to breaking down.
4. Cholesterol: 0% is great! Try to limit the cholesterol amount as we all know, ingesting too much cholesterol is bad for your cardiovascular health.
5. Sodium: 5% or less is best and is considered in the low range. 20% or more is considered high. Now, there are some items that will have a high sodium intake but it depends on the source its coming from. If your sodium intake is high in foods such as frozen dinners and other processed foods than you want to steer clear (plus, now that your dedicating yourself to healthy eating, those frozen meals and processed foods should be eventually eliminated). Sauces will have more sodium but for the most part, you will want most of what you consume to have low sodium intake.
6. Total carbohydrate: This will depend on what you are looking at. If you are looking at crackers the carbs will clearly be high. The importance is to look at what is making up those carbs. So first thing is the dietary fiber amount. Does it even have fiber? You want to try to get enough fiber in a day, so the higher the % on fiber the better it is.
Now for what i think is one of the most important one to pay attention to: sugar! Our rule is 5g or less! Try to stick with that and the better off you will be.
7. Protein: Again this one fits in the higher the % the better it is rule. Keep in mind anything that claims to have “30g of protein in 1 serving” is trying to buy you. Typically you do not need more than 20g of protein in a serving because your body can only absorb so much.
8. The bottom part of a label is called the footnote and will have a summary of some of the vitamins and minerals the product may and may not contain.
I know this may seem like a ton of information but once you get the hang of it, it becomes second nature. Remember, start slow. Maybe for the first couple times of shopping start to just read the ingredients and have a glance at the nutrition facts. Get this habit to become part of your shopping experience. Then start to look out for the different ways the labels can indicate sugars and watch for those, then look for the amount of grams of sugars are in the product. Slowly start adding new things to look out for and eventually you will have such a good understanding at what to look for and why you should or shouldn’t buy that certain product. 🙂
Foods to avoid buying:
To make things a bit easier on you here is just a few examples of what I will avoid buying because it is high in sodium content, packed full of preservatives/additives and/or just plain unhealthy.
– Packaged flavoured rice or noodles (i.e. Rice-o-roni)
– Boxed mashed potatoes (most have MSG in it)
– Frozen dinners and pizza
– Pizza pockets
– Chicken fingers (WAY healthier to make your own)
– Hot dogs (unless its follows the 6 ingredients or less rule. Good place we found “healthier” hot dogs was Costco. But its a once in a blue moon food.)
– Cereals (high in sugars and I have yet to see a really healthy cereal. Cereal isn’t real whole food)
– 100 calorie snacks
– White pasta, bread, rice, etc. Try to aim for whole grain.
– Yogurt with fruit (has preservatives and full of sugar. Buy plain or vanilla flavoured yogurt and add your own fresh/frozen fruits)
– Ice cream (replace with frozen yogurt)
Basically, a lot of the items you will find in the frozen food section will be unhealthy. You will notice when you become a master of the grocery store you will only shop on the outer parts of the grocery store and rarely go into aisles unless you need brown rice, flour or other necessities but its rare.
How to eat:
Every time you eat try to have a protein, carb and a fat. Now, it may not happen every time, especially with snacking but for the most part your major meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) should contain each. A protein could be meat (stick with lean), nuts and seeds, beans/legumes, or eggs. A carbohydrate can be brown rice, quinoa, whole grain pasta, whole wheat bread, etc. But your main source of carbohydrates should come from vegetables and fruis. Remember, fruit and vegetables are carbs. Finally fat is one that we all lack in our diet. This can be as simple as adding oil onto your salad or coconut oil onto your steamed vegetables. It can also come from dairy products such as milk, yogurt, cheese, etc. Also can include nuts and seeds.
I will explain two types of meals and what those plates should look like. First one we will call your typical meal. The typical meal is for those who don’t exercise or for those that do but it would be what you would eat outside your post workout period. Second one is your post workout meal.
For your typical meal you will want most of your plate to be consumed with lots of nutrient-dense, high fiber, low calorie vegetables. The vegetables can be raw or slightly steamed. Try not to overcook vegetables. About 65% of your plate will be reserved for vegetables. Next, about 25% of your plate will be for protein (women: palm size, men:2 palm sizes). Finally, fats will be the remainder 10%.
– Eat slowly and stop eating when you are 80% full
– Avoid the starchy carbs until you earned them, which means after your workout.
– If your a smaller person use a smaller plate or don’t fill your plate as much as a bigger person. Most plates are over sized now-a-days, so don’t feel bad if your plate isn’t full.
– Choose to eat mostly whole foods and try to minimize the process foods
– Remember to have water with each meal. This is a helpful trick to help you drink enough water throughout the day.
Post Workout Meal:
The post workout meal is exactly what it sounds, it will be the meal you eat after you workout. Its very important to eat after your done training. Whether its a protein shake or this plate I will be explaining. 50% of your plate will be protein and the other 50% will be carbohydrates. Starches can be eaten at this time.
– This meal can be your largest meal of the day or if your like me, you can stick to having breakfast always being your largest meal of the day. Whatever works best for you.
– If you prefer shakes after your workout, the same will follow. You will add your protein powder but add fruit to help refuel your muscles.
Habit 1: Eat slowly and stop at 80% full
Habit 2: Try to eat protein dense foods with each meal
Habit 3: Eat vegetables with every meal
Habit 4: Try to earn your heavy carbs and starches and save those for after your workout or have those carbs in the morning.
Habit 5: Increase your fruit intake, don’t be afraid of the sugars found in fruit
Habit 6: Eat healthy fats daily and try to increase your Omega 3 intake
I know there is a lot of information in this but feel free to come back and revisit certain parts of this blog. Just remember that diet and nutrition is NOT black and white, there are many grey areas. People will all have their own opinion on food and nutrition but keep in mind, there is a lot of buzz that comes from media that is inaccurate. The best advice I can give you is to listen to your body. A food that might work for your friend may not sit well with you and maybe calorie watching helps your friend loose weight but makes you starving for more food. So just listen to your body, your body is smart and it will tell you what it needs and what it does and does not like. Start habits slowly so that they can last you a lifetime. Lastly, don’t see this as a “diet”, this is a lifestyle change. Diets are not consistent and most diets aren’t realistic to make as a lifestyle choice. Avoid diets you hear or read about because 90% of diets will lead to yo-yo dieting. You may loose weight on a certain diet that has become popular but just think, what will happen once you stop? So this is why I never call healthy eating a diet, because its just being smart with the food you eat and caring about your health and well being.
Happy eating 🙂