Category Archives: Nutrition

All or Nothing

Does this situation ever sound familiar: “It’s Monday, I don’t have any meals planned, the fridge is empty, I guess I’ll just eat out and I’ll start over next week.” In my experience, I have noticed that many people are all or nothing when it comes to their nutrition habits. What I hope to teach people is that it doesn’t have to be so drastic. Instead of an on/off switch, try to be more like a dimmer. According to Dr. John Berardi of Precision Nutrition, most people will benefit if they can stick to doing just the basics 75-80% of the time. Let’s see what that looks like: say someone averages 5 meals a day (breakfast, lunch, dinner, and 2 snacks), 75% adherence to sticking to the basics would be 27/35 meals. That leaves 8 meals to have some wiggle room. I hardly ever see depriving yourself of “bad foods” work more than just the short term. If you want to yo-yo less, learn some habits that are sustainable. Here are some of the basics:

  1. Eat slowly, only until 80% full
  2. Eat less processed foods and more whole foods
  3. Eat more lean protein (1 palm sized portion for women, 2 for men)
  4. Eat more veggies (1 fist sized portion for women, 2 for men)
  5. Drink more water (half your weight in ounces, 200 lbs = 100 oz)
  6. Eat more healthy fats (1 thumb sized portion for women, 2 for men)

Focus on one behavior change at a time; you can measure your adherence to each using a chart like this:

Meal # 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Consistency
Monday __/__ = _%
Tuesday
Wednesday
Thursday
Friday
Saturday
Sunday
Total __/__ = _%

From week to week, you can measure if you are getting better at changing your behavior, and if you’re landing in the 75-80% range. So I guess my point is that if you mess up Monday, doesn’t mean the whole week has gone to crap. Plan out a menu for the week, when you’re going to the grocery store, and when you’re going to cook, and do it! Same for workouts, there is still Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday left. If you don’t have time, be honest with yourself. Do you really not have 30 minutes somewhere you can squeeze in?

Meal Prep

Life often gets hectic and making healthy decisions gets thrown out the window. The biggest problem I hear is time. It takes less time to go out to eat than it does to go to the grocery store and cook something usually, but your waistline will stay thinner and your wallet fatter if you cook meals at home.  When you make time to cook, make extra. You can freeze the extra and eat it later if you don’t want to eat the same thing a couple days in a row. If you make enough meals at once, you can rotate them throughout the week. The key is have a plan each week and stick to it. Look at your schedule and plan accordingly, say if you’re in sales and are in your car all day, you probably don’t want lunches that require heating up.

Here are just a few examples of healthy meals you can make it bulk. If I can make them, you can make them. I am self taught.

Turkey Taco Salad

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  1. Chop up 2 hearts of Romaine lettuce, rinse, and spin in a salad spinner.
  2. Brown 2 lbs of ground turkey breast and use low sodium taco seasoning according to directions on the packet.
  3. Open a can of low sodium black beans, rinse them in a colander.
  4. Cut cherry tomatoes in half (only when you’re going to eat them soon).
  5. On a bed of lettuce, place your taco meat, beans, 2% Mexican blend shredded cheese, guacamole, and salsa.
  6. Eat it.
  7. Store the rest in the fridge and save for later. This isn’t half bad with cold meat either if you don’t have access to a microwave at work for lunch.

 

Salmon Fillet with Green Beans and Sweet Potato Chunks

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  1. Set the oven for 425.
  2. In a glass baking dish with a little olive oil coating the bottom, place your salmon fillets.
  3. Sprinkle the fillets with lemon pepper seasoning to taste, and cook until the internal temperature reaches 145 degrees F. (10-15 minutes)
  4. Place your green beans in the steaming tray of a rice cooker. Steam them according to directions for your rice cooker. Steam until they are al dente.
  5. Peel and chop a medium sweet potato. Place in a microwave safe dish. Add a dash of water and sprinkle cinnamon on the chunks. Microwave on the vegetable setting, or 4 minutes or so if your microwave isn’t fancy.

 

Ginger Chicken Stir-Fry w/ Asparagus (my wife pinned this on Pinterest and I made it)

Link:I’ll never admit I used Pinterest

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Snacks Examples:

  1. Trail mix (small handful, this is very dense in calories)
  2. Beef jerky or turkey jerky
  3. 1-2 pieces of low-fat string cheese, 1-2 hard-boiled eggs, 1-2 handfuls of grapes, and 1-2 thumb-sized portions of walnuts. (1 for women, 2 for men, that day I was really hungry so I had 3 eggs…)

*Note, not all of this together is a snack, I hope that is obvious.

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Grilling Season is Here!

With the warm weather and longer days, it’s a lot more enticing to get out the grill.  Just because you’re grilling, doesn’t mean that it can’t be healthy.  Here is my latest creation from my little Weber grill.

No Bun Sirloin Burgers:

  • 2 lbs of ground sirloin
  • 2 tbsp of lite soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 medium red onion, diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced (I used a garlic press)

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Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Form into patties, place on the grill. Cook until done. Top with whatever you want. I used slices of tomato, avocado, spring mix greens, and natural ketchup. Easy.

Grilled Mixed Veggies:

Cut up whatever veggies you like. Add some healthy oil (canola, olive, coconut etc.) and black pepper, toss together in a bowl. Place in pan and grill until done.

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Here’s what it looked like before I devoured it all:

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Note: If you worked out prior to eating this, you could include some good carbs, like a whole wheat bun a small sweet potato.

 

 

My Thoughts on Nutrition

As I continue to learn more, I have changed my thought process on things related to training and nutrition, and in some cases, I’ve changed my mind more than a few times.  I’ve used websites like myfitnesspal or the dailyplate to track food and count calories, trying to get people to stay under the recommended calorie intake for what their needs were calculated to be.  I’ve even used services that generated meal plans for my clients, breaking it down to what and how much to eat for every meal, and generating a shopping list to take with them to the grocery store.  That all sounds great, but none of those methods worked long term for ANY of my clients.

I’ve learned that it is best to keep it simple.  Most importantly, I’ve learned that there is more than one way to fix someone’s nutrition habits.  Not everyone needs to eat 5-6 small meals per day.  Not everyone is hungry in the morning. It’s also ok to eat late, it doesn’t all turn to fat when you go to bed. In fact, eating some protein, especially with casein in it, can help you recover when eaten close to bed time because it breaks down slower and lasts while you sleep. You can buy casein as a powder, or it is naturally in foods like cottage cheese.  To be honest, I was probably doing the whole square peg, round hole thing. Everyone is different. If you aren’t hungry in the morning, I’m not going to tell you to eat a big breakfast. If your schedule is crazy and you can’t stop every 2 hours to eat, then 6 small meals a day probably won’t work for you.  I want my clients to learn to be intuitive with eating, listen to their bodies, know when they are actually hungry, and learn to stop at feeling 80% full. Sometimes when you feel tired, you might actually be dehydrated. Instead of grabbing a donut or an energy drink, maybe you just need to drink water.

I think the best way to start making changes is taking what a person is doing currently, and coach them to make small improvements over time.  Behavior change experts have figured out that people who make drastic overhauls all at once, are less likely to still be doing those behavior changes one year later, versus people that change one behavior at time.  If you want to see awesome results ASAP, like if you are getting married in 6 weeks, then short term fixes are ok.  Just realize that you’re probably not going to keep that up.  I want to help coach my clients to do the little things, so that they don’t end up yo-yoing.

“Practice daily to build skills. Build skills to achieve goals.” Success is the sum of several small victories.  Try to think of process goals instead of just outcome goals.  For example, focus on how you can get to your goal, instead what your goal may be.  Keep the end in mind as your vision to keep you going, but the process is what you can control every day.  Here are some examples of small changes/process goals:

  1. Practice eating slowly
  2. Recognize when you are actually hungry, not just bored or stressed
  3. Drink more water and less fruit juice, soda, and alcohol
  4. Eat more lean protein at each meal
  5. Eat vegetables at every meal
  6. Eat less processed foods
  7. Make your own food, rather than dining out.

All of the above are examples of process goals that will lead to you losing fat, gaining lean muscle (if you are weight training), and feeling better. Focus on eating slowly first for two weeks. Reevaluate to see if you are actually doing that. If you’ve mastered that, great, if not go back until you can master that one skill. Once you’ve mastered that, move on to the next skill. Keep working on these skills, and build your momentum.  You’ll get on a roll and get one step closer to your goal every day.

Changes to Make in Your Diet

Many people are all or nothing when it comes to working out or eating better.  Research shows that this type of behavior usually doesn’t lead to long term results.  Instead, you should focus on making changes slowly, so that they become habits and not just a temporary fix. If you view these changes as temporary, the weight will come back. Try making one of these changes and mastering it for a week or two. Then make another change. If you want to lose weight and keep it off, you are in it for the long haul, not just a couple weeks.

    1. Add vegetables at every meal. Vegetables are full of fiber which helps digestion and keeps you feeling full on few calories per serving.  They also pack a lot of nutrients such as vitamins and minerals you need.
    2. Avoid added sugar or refined carbohydrates (soda, white bread, pasta, etc.) Eating excess carbohydrates leads to imbalances in your hormones such as insulin which leads to fat storage, preventing you from utilizing the fat already stored in your body for energy.
    3. Eat lean protein at every meal. Protein helps you recover from workouts and build lean muscle. It also helps you feel fuller, longer. When restricting calories trying to lose weight, it helps you maintain your muscle mass, so that you lose more weight from fat and not muscle.  Having more muscle mass keeps your resting metabolic rate higher, increasing your overall metabolism.  You should strive to eat 1 gram per pound of body weight every day.
    4. Drink more water.  You should drink half of your body weight in ounces per day.  Example, if you weigh 200 lbs, you should drink 100 oz of water per day. If you are more active or are outside in the heat, you may need more. Hydration helps with many bodily functions, afteral your body is about 60% water.
    5. Limit alcohol to 2-3 drinks a week.  Alcohol disrupts sleep and adds empty calories into our diet.
    6. Eat fish 1 to 2 times a week. Adding more omega-3 fatty acids into your diet decreases inflammation in your body.  Also, there are studies that show fish oil helps turn on genes that promote your body to metabolize fat.
    7. Spice up your food with spices instead of high calorie sauces.  This will decrease your calorie consumption while still giving you flavor.
    8. Add a protein supplement, fish oil, and a multivitamin into your diet.  If you don’t get enough protein, regularly eat fish, or eat enough vegetables and fruit, this is your insurance policy.
    9. Eat frequent, smaller meals.  Eating more regularly helps you avoid cravings where you might grab the most convenient foods, most of which are unhealthy.

Meal Planning

Many people will ask me about what I eat (naturally because I am the fitness professional), so I wanted to share what I’m eating this week and strategies that I use so I am successful.

  1. Make time in your schedule so that you make food in bulk for several days, so that healthy food is ready ahead of time and you avoid the drive-thru.
  2. Use seasonings rather than heavy sauces on your food to add taste, this saves on the calories.
  3. Modify your favorite recipes to make them healthier, such as substitute plain Greek yogurt for sour cream. Just look around the web and you can find ways to make healthier recipes from people more savvy in the kitchen than myself.
  4. Utilize a crock pot so that you prep a meal in the morning, and you will have a fresh, home cooked meal ready when you get home at the end of the day.
  5. Have snacks that are readily available, like nuts, veggies with a dip (plain greek yogurt with ranch or dill seasoning or humus), Lara Bars, Kind Bars, cottage cheese etc. (low carb snacks)
  6. Drink lots of water, you may just be thirsty instead of hungry.
  7. Don’t go the grocery store hungry, you’ll buy food that’s not good for you.
  8. Keep poor food choices out of sight, instead keep good snacks where you can see them.
  9. You have to treat eating right like a chore or a job, it takes planning and preparation.

Breakfast: (I make every morning)

  • Breakfast Sandwich
    • 1 Ezekiel bread English muffin toasted
    • 1 slice of Low-Fat Swiss Cheese
    • 3-4 slices of lean deli ham
    • 1 whole egg
  • Clementine
  • Coffee
  • Water

Snack: Veggies and Dip (makes several snacks)

  • Dill Dip
    • Natural plain Greek yogurt
    • Packet of dill seasoning mixed into yogurt
  • Cut veggies
    • Assorted bell peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, sugar snap peas
  • Water

Lunch: Mini Meat Loafs with Green Beans and Mashed Sweet Potatoes (makes several meals)

  • Mini Meat Loafs
    • 2 lbs lean ground meat of your choice (sirloin, turkey breast, chicken)
    • 10oz frozen chopped spinach thawed
    • 1 onion finely chopped and sautéed
    • 1 8oz mushrooms finely chopped and sautéed
    • 10 baby carrots finely chopped
    • 4 whole eggs beaten
    • 1/3 cup coconut flour
    • 2 tsp salt
    • 2 tsp pepper
    • 2 tsp onion powder
    • 1 tsp garlic powder
    • 1 tsp thyme
    • ¼ tsp nutmeg
    • Combine all ingredients and mix by hand in a large bowl
    • Portion out into 2 muffin pans (18 total) and bake at 375 F for 30 min
  • Mashed sweet potatoes
    • Peel and chop 5 sweet potatoes and boil in a pot until soft
    • Drain them and then mash in a bowl until you get the consistency you want
    • Add butter and cinnamon to taste
  • Green Beans
    • Take a bag of frozen green beans and microwave it in a microwave safe dish according the instructions on the bag
  • Water

Protein Shake: (post workout)

  • 6-8oz unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 1 scoop vanilla whey protein isolate

Dinner: Spanish Chicken on a bed of Quinoa (makes several meals)

  • Spanish Chicken:
    • Spray the inside of a crockpot with coconut oil
    • Combine
      • 5 lbs cubed chicken breast
      • 1 lb Italian Chicken or Turkey Sausage
      • 1 red bell pepper chopped
      • 1 onion chopped
      • 1 small can of low sodium tomato paste
      • 2 small cans of diced tomatoes with green chilies
      • 1 10-14oz jar of artichoke hearts (drained)
      • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
      • 1 tsp oregano
      • 2 cloves of garlic minced
      • Sliced olives (optional)
    • Cook on low for 6-8 hrs
  • Cook a whole box of quinoa in a rice cooker or according to the stovetop directions
  • Water

Gluten Free: Is it necessary?

A very popular trend in nutrition right now is going gluten free. First of all, I will explain what it is. Gluten is a protein in wheat and other related grains like barley and rye. There are known diseases and conditions that should avoid it such as celiac disease or people with known gluten sensitivity. Other conditions that should try to avoid it are people with ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel syndrome, fibromyalgia, Crohn’s disease and rheumatoid.  You should see a gastroenterologist if you have any of these problems.

There are many alternatives to products with gluten, although there is a glaring problem with most of them.  The glycemic index of many gluten free products is often higher than that of products with gluten.  Glycemic index is a rating of how fast after a carbohydrate is ingested that it will raise your blood sugar, ultimately causing spikes in your insulin secretion and promoting fat storage in an oversimplified explanation.

Diets high in any carbohydrates lead to weight gain for the majority of us, moderation is the key.  Some athletes in competition season may require more carbohydrates in their diets, but not if trying to cut weight in the off-season.  Your choice of carbohydrates is important to losing weight, and you should get most of them them from vegetables and fruits and some whole grains such as brown rice, quinoa, Ezekiel bread and steel cut oats that are low on the glycemic index. The moral of the story: a gluten free cookie is still a cookie, that doesn’t mean it’s healthy and you can eat as many as you want.