Those who care about what they look like when they start shedding clothes this summer are attentive to their diet and exercise. And they have a multitude of products to help them in their pursuit of looking good naked: new and improved diet plans, cookbooks, fitness magazines and Team Body infomercials just to name a few.
A friend of mine recently enlisted my help with getting her wellness program established. Although I want to unload all that I have learned about nutrition, I know simplicity is appropriate. Although all the resources we can buy can help educate, motivate and entertain, we all already know how to eat. We just need reminding sometimes.
The guiding principle in nutrition is that we eat real, whole foods. Seems basic enough. But anyone pushing a cart in their local supermarket can have trouble finding the real and whole foods among the 40,000 industrial food items for sale. These days, I feel as if my blood is thickening in my veins just walking through the aisle to buy tissue paper from being in such close proximity to all the food stuffs laden with corn, soy and sweeteners.
After the guiding principle, the 5 simple strategies for whole food nutrition are:
1. Eat every 2-4 hours. Rather than 3 squares, try eating 5 smaller meals at regular intervals. This will cut out snacking, which can derail diet good intentions. Ultimately, you want to be mildly hungry when you eat a meal rather than ravenous. What helps me most with this method is to pack a cooler type lunch bag when I'm on the go. This way, I always have a nutritious smoothie shake after a workout or meal for break during a workshop.
2. Eat a bit of protein with every meal. My goal as well as goals for friends and clients is to improve body composition. That means more muscle mass and less body fat. The body requires adequate protein to build muscle. Besides just the meats and fish we typically associate with "protein", servings should also include eggs, dairy such as greek style yogurt, vegetarian sources from plant and soy and protein supplements such as whey protein.
3. Eat plenty of vegetables and fruits with every meal. Fruits and vegetables are alkalizing, therefore they balance the acidity of proteins and grains. Plant foods are nutrient dense, which means they are highly nutritious per calorie. Our diets need to be composed of fruits and vegetables, especially leafy greens, in abundance.
4. Earn your simple carbohydrates. Commit to eating simple carbohydrates only after exercise and you will find this approach is a pivotal in succeeding where you have previously failed. After exercise, the body can best handle the ingestion of foods that raise glucose levels quickly in the blood. These include things such as breads, potatoes, rice, pasta and sweet foods. Of course, these foods should be eaten minimally even after exercise. At the very least, eat these things along with your protein and complex carbohydrates to slow the insulin response to them, thereby avoiding these foods being metabolized and stored as body fat.
5. Get a daily dose of healthy fats. Dietary fats provide us the most energy density of the macronutrients. Consuming healthy fats is critical for optimal health. And our fat consumption needs to be distributed between saturated (animal, coconut), monounsaturated (olive, nut, avocado) and polyunsaturated (flax, fish, nut and vegetable) fats.