Nutritional must-haves are nutritional commitments that you try to stick with, because you know that they're healthy for you and make you feel awesome. But they're not the same as restrictive diet that makes you obsess about every meal that you eat.
I'm not a proponent of very strict diets that make you follow a set of rules to details, leaving out certain foods or opposite, eating only particular types of foods. Restricting any foods or food groups, unless you have a medical condition that requires it, can just drive you crazy. The typical cycle often goes like this: Craving, craving, craving–restricting, restricting, restricting–binge, binge, binge…
The same happens when you force yourself to eat foods that you don't like. For example, don't eat Brussels sprouts if you don't like them, even if someone thinks that they're the most awesome vegetable in the world. My husband thinks they're gross, and even though it's hard for me to understand it (I could eat them every day!), there are a ton of other veggies he can eat instead. And I don't have to share! 🙂
You Must Have Some Must-Haves
But I also don't think that you should eat whatever you want whenever you want and not care about the portion sizes, if you care about your health. Not obsessing over food doesn't mean that it's chocolate and cupcakes all the time.
I think it's important to have some nutritional guidelines that you always follow, if you want to keep you diet healthy. It's not only about losing weight or building muscle, it's also about feeling good, being productive at your work and being able to think clearly. We all have experienced sugar coma and know that that's not increasing our productivity and making us focus better.
Restricting Diet vs. Nutritional Must-Haves
Nutritional guidelines, or, must-haves are different from restrictive diets. Even though I use the word must, those must-haves give you certain flexibility and are more like guidelines, while many diets leave you with no real wiggle room at all.
Also, nutritional must-haves can vary from individual to individual. A lot of diets are very strict and don't take into account personal preferences. Steamed broccoli it is, seven days a week! Even the biggest fan of steamed broccoli gets sick of it when forced to eat it all the time.
My Nutritional Must-Haves
Here are my five nutritional must-haves that I try to keep in mind every day.
Drink 3 Liters of Water Every Day
I start my day off with one liter of water that I drink immediately as I wake up. Once that's out of the way, other two liters actually come pretty easily throughout the day. On the days I'm working out, I usually drink even more. In summer time I like to make sparkling water and add some frozen berries to it.
Eat (or Drink) Veggies at Every Meal
If you're not used to eat veggies all that much, having them at every meal may sound like a lot, but it's actually not that hard to do at all. You don't have to eat salads all day! Here's what I usually do to make sure to have veggies with every meal:
For breakfast, I either have a green smoothie where I put a handful of kale or spinach; other times my breakfast is egg and spinach scramble, or simply few eggs with a handful of cherry tomatos. And avocados, of course! Ok, avocados are actually not veggies, but we still talk about them as veggies. Avocados are part of my breakfast every day, in a smoothie or with eggs.
For lunch, I usually have a salad or oven roasted veggies with some chicken or fish, sometimes meat.
For dinner, I usually have roasted veggies and sometimes rice or quinoa, with another portion of protein, similar to lunch.
Have Protein at Every Meal
Protein is so important for satiety. A lot of times when you feel that you need a snack or a sweet treat after having a full meal, it may mean that you simply didn't get enough protein. A lot of times going back for another piece of protein fills you up and you may realize that your sweet tooth happened as a result of not eating enough protein with your meal.
Getting in protein can be a little harder when I'm having a green smoothie for breakfast. I've lately tried to consume less protein powder–I actually haven't had it for about a month now–because I want to focus more on real foods. A few examples on how to add protein in a smoothie are adding chia seeds, pumpkin seeds or nuts or blending a few egg whites in it.
At lunch and dinner, protein is not a problem–usually I have chicken, turkey, tuna, salmon or sometimes meat.
Eat Foods that are Satiating
I've made this mistake in my past more than I care to admit: Eating steamed or boiled veggies without even a sprinkle of fat and calling it dinner, then wondering why I'm hungry all the time and fall into the binge cycle.
Your food has to have enough protein and fat in it to be satiating! Leave the fat-free crap at the store. Body fat doesn't equal dietary fat. You don't get fat from eating half avocado and a slice of bacon with your breakfast.
Eat Food That Tastes Good
Food is not just fuel. It's really important that it also tastes good, otherwise there's no way that you can keep eating it, no matter how healthy it is. In many cultures, food is enjoyed together with friends and family every night over the course of two or three hours. Those people really love their food–you can't really imagine spending three hours eating crap that you have to force down, and try to have a fun conversation with people you love.
I follow these nutritional must-haves because they make me feel good, keep me energized, healthy and also, support my workouts. I try to follow them most of the time and usually, it's never a problem.
Instead of extremely strict rules like many diets have, nutritional must-haves give you more wiggle room. You can choose what veggies or proteins you want, or what kind of fat you'd like to keep the food satiating. Those must-haves can be different for everybody.
Your turn: What are some of your nutritional must-haves?