Putting together a sound nutrition plan can be an overwhelming and confusing task, to say the least. There is a ton of misinformation about what you should be eating, how much you should be eating, and when you should be eating it.
Lucky for you, the tips listed below will make it a breeze to ensure that you’re getting the nutrition you need to look, feel, and perform your best without making you frazzled.
You have a couple of different ways you can use this list:
If you’re completely new to good nutrition, try making only one change at at a time. You might spend a full week or two only focused on that one tip, practicing until it becomes a habit. Once it becomes a habit, move on to the next one, and practice that one until it becomes a habit. Eventually, all of these tips will become second nature to you, and you will have completely revamped your nutrition, one manageable habit at a time.
If you’re not new to good nutrition, use these tips as a checklist to ensure that you’re eating in a way that best supports the life you want. Even if you have heard these tips before, there is a good chance that you’re not implementing all of them consistently 90% of the time. Hold yourself accountable and make sure you’re doing everything you can to fuel your body properly.
Over the last 50 years, we've gotten so caught up in dieting, “diet foods,” and meal replacement bars, shakes, and drinks, it seems we forgot how to eat food that hasn't been thoroughly processed. Think about it. How many of us (or our friends) grab a granola bar or a meal replacement shake for breakfast, have a 100-calorie pack of cookies or crackers and a diet soda for lunch, and then pop a Healthy Choice or Weight Watchers frozen dinner in the microwave in the evening for dinner?
Oh, and don’t forget the sugar-free Jell-O with sugar-free, fat-free whipped topping for dessert! Since when are those things considered nutritious?
If it’s not even close to resembling the food it comes from, it shouldn't make up a large portion of your diet.
If you are not sure if something is minimally processed or not, ask yourself the following questions: At one time, did this food walk, crawl, swim or fly? Did it have parents? Could you pick it from a bush, tree or vine? Would your great-grandparents have had access to it 100 years ago?
If you cannot answer "yes" to at least one of these questions, then the food in question should take a back seat to other minimally processed foods in your diet.
Go to your local grocery store, farmers market, or co-op and pick up fresh fruits and vegetables, cuts of local meat, fresh fish, hearty nuts, and delicious oils. Those kinds of foods should make up the majority of what you are eating. If you fuel your body properly, it will be very good to you by keeping you healthy, giving you energy to perform your best, and shedding excess body fat to reveal strong and sexy muscles. And if you're like most people, and you have to mind your grocery budget, it's totally possible to still eat healthfully.
This tip sounds very basic, but with all of the focus on portion sizes, meal timing, and even habits that are ingrained in us from the time we are little (i.e. “Clean your plate or you won’t get dessert!”), we tend to lose touch with our true signals of hunger.
Do your best to eat when you’re hungry, and stop when you are mostly full, but not stuffed. Over time, you should get a better sense of when your body truly needs nourishment, and when you may just be bored or having a craving.
Of course, listen to your body within reason. If you know you have a huge appetite, or you have a tendency to eat very little, keep that in mind and adjust accordingly.
The old eight-glasses-a-day recommendation for water consumption isn’t necessarily a bad one, but it’s a bit outdated. There really isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to water consumption.
For example, a 200-pound male athlete is probably going to need more water than a 100-pound woman with an office job, right?
So how much water should you be drinking? A good place to start is with half your body weight in ounces of water. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, then 75 ounces is a good place to start, and remember, if you are engaged in physical activity, then you will most likely need to be consuming more than that.
Use your body as a guide. If you are thirsty, you are already dehydrated, so try to avoid letting yourself get too thirsty, but don’t drink so much that you feel water-logged.
You should also build up to drinking more water slowly. Add in an extra glass or two a day until you are at your recommended amount.
If you really don’t like plain water or find yourself struggling to drink enough, try marinating some cucumber slices or some cinnamon sticks in a pitcher of water overnight for an interesting twist to your water. You could also squeeze a slice of lemon, lime or orange into your drink to spice it up a bit, and you can always reach for sparkling water as well. Check out this great article on hydration myths by registered dietitian Dr. Cassandra Forsythe.
In my experience, most people (especially women) do not consume enough protein each day. Protein is not only satisfying and filling, it also helps stabilize your blood sugar and energy levels and is very important for repairing the damage that comes from strength training (you are strength training, right?) so you can build more lean mass. More lean mass means a higher metabolic rate, which can help you burn more body fat.
If you’re not sold on protein yet, also keep in mind that it takes more energy (read: calories) to digest protein than it does to digest carbs or fat, so you’re burning even more calories simply by replacing 100 calories from carbs with 100 calories from protein. Granted, it’s not a huge difference, but it adds up over time.
Something to remember is to vary your protein sources. It will help stave off food allergies and sensitivities and ensure you get all of the amino acids your body needs. It will also help to prevent boredom.
Try eggs or sausage for breakfast, chicken or turkey for lunch, and steak, salmon, or bison for dinner. In between meals you can snack on hard boiled eggs, tuna fish, or beef jerky if you get hungry. And remember, there are vegetarian-friendly sources of protein like cottage cheese, nut butters, and beans that can boost your protein intake as well.
When buying foods like bacon, sausage or beef jerky, make sure you look for sources that are nitrate and nitrite-free, free of preservatives, and local if possible.
Shoot for approximately 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight each day, although if you're less active, or carry a lot of extra body fat, you can get away with a bit less.
Similar to protein, most people don’t eat enough vegetables on a daily basis. Most vegetables are low in sugar, high in fiber, and packed with vitamins and minerals that help keep your body healthy.
The two biggest excuses I hear about vegetables are that they’re boring and they take too long to cook. Try different cooking methods for your vegetables like baking, roasting, steaming, or sautéing. And don’t overcook your vegetables. They can get soggy and lose a lot of the nutrition if over-cooked. You can also try cooking large batches of vegetables that can last you several days so you don't have to cook them at every meal.
What do you think? Pretty manageable, right? Eat up!
There are the first five nutrition tips for looking and feeling your very best. Ready for a few more? Check out Part 2 for five more tips!
Nutrition seems to be a sticking point for many women, and with good reason. There's a lot of confusing information out there, and as you've already realized, there isn't a one-size-fits-all solution. If you're one of these women, let us help.
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