There are so many diets out there. Vegetarian, vegan, Paleo, zone, low-fat, high-fat, low-carb… Seriously, the list is endless.
How did it happen that something as simple and natural as eating became a rocket science?
I love simplicity in everything – in my life, in my workouts and also in my eating. All those diets around us have made healthy eating look really complicated, but if you keep just some things in mind, it can actually be pretty simple.
I believe that there are some core principles of eating that are always true, no matter what.
1. Eat as many vegetables, especially leafy greens, as often as possible. Vegetables taste good and their vitamin and mineral content is unbeatable. You don't have to eat that same boring steamed spinach all day every day. There are so many delicious veggie recipes out there.
TIP: It's easy increase your leafy greens intake in by throwing a handful of fresh or frozen kale or spinach into your blender together with a scoop of protein powder, quarter of avocado, handful of fresh or frozen berries and a bit of water or milk to get everything moving. You won't even taste the greens, but you provide your body with a ton of vitamins.
2. Eat enough protein. Protein keeps your full longer. Do you feel snack-y already one hour after your meal? Thy eating more protein, and you won't need to snack that often.
Have you heard of thermic effect of foods?
Our bodies need to break down the food to digest it and to get all the nutrients from it. Thermic effect is the amount of energy that our bodies use to break down the macronutrients, meaning carbohydrates, protein and fat.
The thermic effect of protein is higher than carbs or fat. In other words, by eating protein, our bodies work harder to digest it and burn more calories than for digesting carbs and fat.
TIP: My favorite sources of protein are chicken and turkey, fish, meat, ground beef and eggs and occasionally, Greek yogurt.
Remember, you don't need to eat steamed and plain, tasteless no-butter-no-salt chicken breast three times a day. Add spices, herbs and GOOD FAT to make it taste really good. Which takes us to the next point…
3. Eat enough fat. Oh yes, did I learn my lesson about fats!
Also fats keep us full and satiated. Years ago I refused to eat basically any fat whatsoever. I was skinny but also not healthy. I was running like it was my job, “fueled” myself with light cream cheese, low-fat yogurt and low-fat margarine and was constantly hungry. I was experiencing “brain fog” all the time.
We (and especially women!) need fat to keep our hormones functioning, minds clear, skin healthy and perform better during our workouts.
TIP: Fats are crucial, but it doesn't mean that you should eat any kind of fat. Use olive, coconut and avocado oil and grass-fed butter for cooking, throw avocados and olives into your salad (that you made with leafy greens, of course), have fatty fish couple of times a week and add a little bit of almonds or nuts into your smoothie.
However, don't go overboard even with good fats. If you want to lose fat but are eating a ton of nuts every day, you may slow down the progress.
4. Eat minimally processed, REAL food that comes to your table from as close as possible.
Buy local foods if possible.
Avoid buying frozen and pre-made foods that are full of additives, preservatives, corn syrup and poor quality fat. Chips, candy, donuts, pizzas, burgers… they are not actually food.
4. Reduce your sugar intake. Sugar, not fat is probably the main culprit behind overweight and obesity. Nutritionally, sugar has really no value to your health.
It's okay to have something sweet here and there, but it can be hard to stay away from second… and third serving.
I love chocolate and cake, but they are pretty rare treats for me. If you are anything like me, eating sugary treats only makes you want more. And we're not talking about one more candy or one more piece of cake, but more like five…
TIP: Try dark chocolate. In my experience, it's easier to have just two pieces of dark chocolate than regular milk chocolate and not to go back for more.
If you need to sweeten your beverages, try stevia. It's made of plants, so it's a little bit better option than sugar or artificial sweeteners. However, I don't think it should be used several times a day.
Some protein bars can satisfy your sweet tooth. But aware of what you buy! There a lot of snacks out there labeled as “protein bars” that are basically candy bars. I like Quest bars – most of them have only 1-2 grams of sugar per bar. And just a side note – they are Buy Three, Get One Free at GNC right now! I've made quite a few trip to GNC in the past month.
That's it. No rocket science. Just a couple of things to keep in mind and healthy eating is simple.
What are some of the very core principals you follow in eating?