One of the most common struggles I see in my field of nutrition, is simply getting started and “finding the willpower” to make healthier choices. This is actually something easier to do than you may think! When you are HUNGRY and standing in the super market (or sitting in your favorite restaurant), of course you’re going to want to eat the place out of house and home (and I’m so guilty of doing this lol). When you’re left with the choice of “I know I should get the salad…but I really want the burger” why deprive yourself? The art of making better choices for your health comes down to knowing enough about the food we eat to do so! If you really want that burger, build it yourself (and don’t add the fried onions, as tempting as they are) and skip the top bun to lower your carb intake. Load it with veggies like onions and tomato, and skip the fries on the side – this is a tough one, but after a while, you won’t even miss them. Opt for a side of the house salad or one of your favorite veggies (or even rice)!
When it comes down to it, food is fuel. Food can be healing. Food is essential for our existence, it is the gas that keeps our engines rolling; would you put diesel in a car that takes regular? I don’t think so, not only is it not the most optimal choice, but it’s expensive too. When you start to think of food for what it really is and what it is doing for our bodies, making healthier choices becomes significantly easier. For example, if you’re craving a slice of that chocolate cake but you know it’s made 100% out of carbohydrates and sugar, you’re going to be less inclined to satiate that craving WITH cake. To counteract a craving like this, try mixing up a protein shake with some almond milk and peanut butter, or even enjoying a serving of dark chocolate and a piece of fruit. It sounds a lot less enticing, but I promise you won’t be craving it as intensely.
Another example would be a food almost everyone LOVES: pizza. Say you choose to eat the pizza, and you love every single bite of it…how does it make you feel after you’re finished? Aside from satiated, do you feel bloated? Over-full? Regretful because you feel you should have made a better choice? When it comes down to it, food should always be prepared in a way that we can enjoy, but it doesn’t have to be terrible for our health to be tasty!
Finding your willpower comes down to basic knowledge; if you know it’s good for you, you’re going to be more inclined to choose it (and no, I’m not going to recommend you just eat salads…which can be tasty if you want them to be). What you are looking to balance properly to get on the right track are your Macro Nutrients. These include your protein, fat, and carb. intake! Ideally, you want to be consuming more protein than any of the other two macros, but knowing more about them will aid you in your health adventure and making better choices. I am going to list out some of the more ideal choices to make in each category for the next time you hit the grocery store below:
Protein: You are going to want to look for lean proteins. I will also provide some vegetarian/vegan options here too as it’s essential everyone meets their daily protein intake!
– Fish such as salmon, tuna, bass, mahi mahi, swai, flounder, fluke
– Lean ground beef (93% or higher)
– Cottage cheese
– Greek yogurt
– Nuts and nut butters (though these are better fats)
This should be the central piece to any meal. We are made of protein and consuming enough of it will assist the generation of new cells, muscle recovery, curbing hunger, and virtually all activities that go on throughout your body. Next time you visit the grocery store, be sure to base your next meal plan/prep/in general around the protein.
Carbohydrates: This is always everyone’s favorite part of the meal (in the beginning!), so the ultimate decision comes down to: choosing the right type of carb. There are two types of carbohydrates:
Slow Digesting: These are “complex carbs” that our body takes longer to digest, uses for energy longer, and keeps us fuller for longer. These are the ideal types of carbs you want to be eating with your meals.
Quick Digesting: These are “simple carbs” that we all love to eat. These are the ones that our body uses for a quick burst of energy, but often turns to sugar once digested. These are good for a treat, but should not be consumed in excess.
Example of slow digesting carbs you want to include regularly in your diet:
– Sweet potatoes
– Brown rice
– Whole grain breads
– Whole grain pastas
While it may seem obvious, here are some examples of fast digesting carbs you want to save for a post workout meal:
– Ice cream
– White bread
– Regular pasta
– Cereals (aside from whole grain)
Fats: A common ideal in western culture is that fat is evil and should be avoided at all cost – this could not be farther from the truth. Healthier fats are essential to the body as it helps to coat our organs, absorb nutrients more efficiently, and provide more energy than either protein or carbohydrates. While eating any type of fat in excess will have negative consequences, getting the right amount of fat in the diet will put you on the path to a healthier and well-balanced life. Examples of healthy fats to include in your diet include:
– Extra virgin olive oil
– Fatty fish like salmon or sardines
– Nuts and seeds
– Nut butters
– Dark chocolate (sorry milk chocolate lovers)
– Whole eggs
Macronutrients are the building blocks to any successful nutrition plan, and the macronutrient ratio is different for everyone’s particular body type (I’ll get more into that in another post, though!).
At the end of the day, knowing what foods do what for us is the ultimate key to making better choices. When in doubt, VEGGIE OUT! Veggies are essential as they’re loaded with vitamins, minerals and F I B E R! Fiber keeps us fuller longer and helps with the digestive process immensely. When you are planning a meal, focus on what your protein source is going to be, getting your full serving of veggies, and worry about the carbohydrate last! Prep your food with tons of seasonings to pack it with flavor (fajita seasoning is my go-to for most things, including on my roasted vegetables) and make it interesting. Healthy doesn’t mean boring, so don’t feel like you need to live on boiled chicken and Brussels sprouts to get to where you want to be.
Check out the recipe section of my blog page to see one of my favorite go-to meal preps that is loaded with flavor, protein, veggies, and that extra umph of flavor to give it that flavor kick!
When making better and healthier choices, opt for natural foods with less ingredients. The less ingredients on your nutrition label, the better it usually is for you. Choose whole, real foods and you will be on the right path. Just imagine how clean your body is going to feel when you choose to fuel it with greens, lean meats, fresh fruits, and whole grains. You HAVE the willpower to start, so let’s do this together!
In need of some guidance or direction for getting started? Leave a comment on this post and I’ll reach out to help you with meal planning/prepping/grocery shopping and more!