What Foods Should I Eat?
If you read the last blog post, you saw that we discussed what it really means to be healthy, as well as the components necessary to have good nutrition. But what, specifically, should you eat to become a healthier person, and what foods are included in that list?
As always, it depends.
Often when people decide they are going to eat healthier, they blacklist certain foods from ever being in their homes again.
While we don’t necessarily need to wage war on Twinkies, we should try to limit certain types of foods and try to eat more of others. That’s why it’s helpful to think of food choices being on a spectrum, instead of being good or evil.
Breaking foods up into categories such as “often”, “sometimes”, and “rarely” makes it easier to be aware of which foods you should consume regularly, and which foods should be eaten less frequently.
This approach also helps with being consistent in your quest to a healthier you. Labeling foods as evil can work against you in the long run even if they should be avoided most of the time.
Let me give you an example.
You’ve decided to go on a diet, and you’ve separated foods into two categories: good foods and bad foods. Soon after you create this list, you’re sticking only to the “good foods” and you start out feeling pretty good about what you’re eating. But then, you have a party to attend that’s coming up this weekend. Unfortunately for you, when you arrive it seems as though the host of the party found your list of bad foods and created a menu consisting of exclusively those bad foods! Inevitably, you decide to have a slice of pizza and a piece of cake.
Labeling pizza and cake as bad foods leaves you feeling guilty, and it seems like you’ve failed your diet already.
On the other hand, if you were to label pizza and cake as “eat rarely” foods, instead of just plain bad, it would allow you to enjoy your time at the party and adjust your diet accordingly for the coming week. Now, it’s more about balancing the amount of “eat rarely” foods that you consume with the foods that you want to “eat often”, and having them in the proper ratio.
Placing foods on a spectrum instead of on one side of a line or the other allows you to live your life without feeling like you’ve lost progress or sabotaged yourself.
“Alright that’s great! But you still haven’t told me what foods to eat…”
We’re getting there!
Like I mentioned earlier, not everyone’s eating preferences will be the same. Whether you’re carnivore or plant based, there are a few general guidelines to follow, regardless of what your nutrition goals are.
Eat More Whole Foods
No this does not mean you have to go to Whole Foods and buy a $15 orange (unless that’s your thing).
It does mean that you should try to include more whole, minimally processed foods in your diet.
Why minimally processed and not unprocessed? We’ll get into that in detail with future blog posts, but just know that not everything you eat needs to be completely unprocessed.
Here are some examples for each macronutrient:
Consider whole, fresh minimally processed sources such as:
· Lean Beef
· Fish, Shellfish
· Wild Game
· Plain Greek Yogurt
· Cultured Cottage Cheese
· Lentils, and Beans
Aim for minimally processed sources of carbohydrates that are nutrient dense and filled with fiber such as:
· Rolled Oats
· Buckwheat, Quinoa
· Whole Grain and Wild Rice
· Sweet Potatoes
· Fresh and Frozen Fruit
· Sprouted Grains and Breads
Try to eat whole food fats and oils such as:
· Extra Virgin Olive Oil
· Aged Cheese
· Egg Yolks
· Seeds (Chia, Flax, Hemp, Pumpkin)
· Nuts (Cashews, Almonds, Pistachios, Pecans)
· Peanuts and Natural Peanut Butter
· Fresh Coconut
Aim to “eat the rainbow” by eating many different colors of vegetables. Doing this ensures you are getting a variety of nutrients found in different vegetables. This includes:
· Peppers (All Colors)
· Purple Onions
It’s hard to go wrong with vegetables.
Stay Away from Highly Processed Foods
Typically, more processed foods will yield less health benefits and less nutrients. A quick and easy way to estimate this is imagining how many steps it took for the food to reach your plate.
Was it picked from a vine outside your house?
Did it get placed on a conveyor belt across the country where it was stripped of nutrients and processed over and over?
Compare an apple (unprocessed) vs. apple juice (processed).
The more steps it took for the food to get from its original form to your mouth, the less healthy the food will be.
TIP: When grocery shopping, try your best to stay around the outside of the store. This is where most of the fresh unprocessed food will be!
Don’t Drink Your Calories
Most people do not need to get their calorie intake from things that they drink.
Soda, Juice, Milkshakes, and Flavored Coffee all contain added calories that add up over the course of the day.
Most of the liquid you consume should be water, carbonated water, coffee (without a ton of added calories from sweeteners and cream), tea or low-calorie drinks.
Homemade smoothies (without added sugar!) are acceptable.
However, if your goal is to gain weight, drinking your calories can be a quick, effective way to boost your calorie intake. This can be done by making homemade protein shakes with carbs and fats included in them.
Eat What You Like!
Remember, eating healthy does not have to be a chore. Find ways to prepare foods you enjoy, cook from home more often, and don’t force foods that you don’t enjoy down your throat just because they are deemed healthy.
If you want to stay consistent and continue on your journey to a healthier you, eating foods you don’t like day in and day out, will not get you there.
So, experiment, try new foods, eat foods you know you like, and stay healthy!
Want to find out more about how to craft an approach to eating that will fit in with your needs, goals, and lifestyle? Well, starting this June, you can work with Med Gym's own Precision Nutrition Certified Coach, Chris Zinn, in our brand new Nutrition Coaching Program!
If you'd tried diet after diet and struggled to reach your goals, nutrition coaching may be the answer you need. Working with a qualified nutrition coach to find craft and stick to the plan that is the right fit for you can be game changing!
Contact us here to learn more about the nutrition coaching program and how you can get started.