If you told me ten or so years ago that this would be what I eat every day I would have laughed. My first step in this health journey was to join a big weight loss company and while I lost all the weight, I didn’t learn anything, and soon put all the weight back on and then some. But that woman, although at her desired weight, had miserable muscle mass, no strength, and ate doritos and hot dogs for dinner most nights.
Years and several kg later I decided to better understand this nutrition thing, which has led me on a journey that is much richer than I expected.
If you’ve been here for any amount of time, you know I like to keep things simple, and this nutrition statement is simple, easy to understand, and accepted by experts in nutrition, fitness and medical fields as sound advice. I decided to break it down for you.
However, THIS IS IMPORTANT:
All these tips I give you, all these explanations, these are guidelines, and are meant to be taken on as a journey. You should not attempt to overhaul your food because that will only leave you miserable. Have I mastered everything I suggest to you? No. Have I mastered most of them? Yes. Did it happen quickly? NO!!!! I have been making nutrition changes for almost 10 years now. I started by simply cutting out high fructose corn syrup from my diet. Trust me, that eliminated lots of things I ate. From there I reduced ingredients, started cooking more, eliminated soda… etc etc. This takes TIME. You do not need to do it all at once. Pick something you want to start with, learn how it works for you, then move on to the next step in the journey.
While I disagree with a lot of things Pollan says, this quote is still something I enjoy. Yes, there are nuances and macros and all those things, but this is where you start. This is the beginning. Let’s dive in. “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”
1. Eat Food
Ironically this is the hardest one to understand, and when understood, the hardest one to apply. Eat food. But wait, what have I been eating all along?
Nowadays there’s a lot of debate and words like “clean” foods, and “unprocessed” foods. It’s enough to give you a headache, fear of food and possibly even an eating disorder.
When I say eat food, I simply mean that you want to focus MOSTLY (75-80% of the time) of foods that are more whole. There is nothing wrong with more processed foods, and the highly palatable ultra processed foods are delicious for a reason, however, if you are trying to lose/maintain weight, and if health in the long term is of importance to you, eating mostly more whole foods is going to benefit you greatly.
Again, are there nuances and details and macros and etc? Yes. But if you want a simple step to improve your health, this is it. Eat more whole foods. Only whole foods? If you want to, yes. Only whole foods? If you like more processed foods, no. It’s your choice, always. However, from a health standpoint, having a diet that is composed of more whole foods and has all the other deliciousness as an accessory and not the main focus tends to be more beneficial.
2. Not too much
It is undisputed that we are consuming more calories than we need. Listen, this is NOT body shaming. I don’t care what size you wear. The obesity epidemic and all the chronic health issues associated with it are irrefutable proof that we do not need to consume all the calories we consume.
Portion sizes keep getting bigger and bigger, our actual plates have gotten bigger, and consequently… we eat more. For example, 20 years ago bagels were, on average, half the size they are today, and over half calories less. Soft drinks have increased in size in over 50%, and the calories keep up with that. Have you ever super sized a meal? Me too. That meal alone is usually all or most the calories you need for a day.
The simplest way to cut back on excess consumption is to do #1. Eat more whole foods. Here are some more tips:
– Eat from a smaller plate
– Don’t eat your entire meal when you eat out, ask for a takeout box and take some home
– Serve your plate and don’t go back for seconds
– Eat without distractions (TV, social media, reading)
And the most important of them all:
– Learn to trade on volume. When you eat more whole foods, you can eat a LOT more food for the same amount of calories as highly palatable ultra processed foods.
– Make waffles without sugar (trust me, I’ve been doing this for years and no one tastes the difference)
– Half the sugar in muffins, cakes, cookies, etc. For most recipes you can remove 25% of the sugar and not feel a difference. Removing 50% of the sugar usually yields the same result, but anything more than 25% needs some experimenting.
– Make your own oven-baked fries. I hear you, these are NOT the same as deep fried, but if you’re looking to cut calories, there are variations that are pretty spot on.
– Make your own pizza dough and bread with less sugar.
– Make your own salad dressing, pesto sauce, and pasta sauces.
3. Mostly plants
From the photo above you can see that I am not a vegetarian, or vegan, or opposed to animal products in the least.
It is widely accepted and proven that the group of foods that are most beneficial to the human body are plants. How important and necessary animal products are is not part of our discussion here, and you can certainly live without them, but it is very difficult to be healthy without plant products.
For this reason, mostly plants. Fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts & seeds… these foods positively influence your health every time you eat them.
Mostly plants. Does it have to be all plants? That is your call. Nothing wrong with eating animal products, though.
Plant foods are good for our body, and yes, like I said, there are macros, there is balance, and we need to consider that. But to start?
To start simply…. eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.
Keeping it simple,