A Proper Plate
“I wish someone would just tell me what to eat.” I hear this statement with regularity. Frustration from a lack of clearly defined nutritional guidance is prevalent in this universe of information. Unfortunately internet searches are highly overvalued. They often give us answers close to the ones we wish to hear, not the answers we need.
Before I digress I must let you know that I am not a Registered Dietitian or Nutritionist, this is advice from my experience. I’ve coached athletes and Service members for 10 years and have helped thousands of individuals reach their fitness goals. Often the biggest roadblock to meeting an athlete’s goals is nutrition, and since I can’t sit down and work with all of you individually I thought I’d give you a simple framework for a day of healthy eating. While eating this way will surely not be perfect for everyone, I can say with confidence that nearly every person I know would benefit tremendously by eating this way consistently. Let’s get to it.
(Before changing your eating habits please consult your doctor if you have any nutritional condition/deficiency, diabetes or gastrointestinal issues)
Keep it Simple
You need three ingredients for a well rounded meal. Protein, Fat, and Carbohydrate. Lets narrow this down even further to Lean protein, Healthy Fats, and Vegetables. Imagine a plate in front of you. Fill half of it with 2-3 servings of fresh vegetables, 3-5oz of lean protein (approx. the size of your fist) and 1-2 servings of healthy fats. YES this means you should have vegetables with breakfast, or your first meal of the day. Throwing spinach in a shake can be a great way to fit that in for those with stubborn appetites.
Generally speaking dark, leafy, fresh organic vegetables are the most nutritient dense. Buy varied colors and varieties from a local farmers market if your budget allows. If on a tighter budget frozen organic vegetables are an inexpensive option that won’t spoil before you get around to cooking them.
Protein is the only nutrient capable of repairing damaged tissues, so as a human it’s essential to have it in the right amounts. If you are exercising 4-6 times a week I suggest you consume 0.6g-0.9g of protein per pound of bodyweight. This may require a week or two of tracking to dial in. Use the MyFitnessPal app to quickly track your meals.
If your budget allows stick with 90%> lean organic animal protein or fish/seafood. Chicken, turkey, beef, pork, wild game, and wild caught fish are safe bets when raised appropriately. Stay away from all nitrates in processed meats, and stay away from all sauces. (Lean protein doesn’t keep you lean when there’s BBQ sauce drizzled all over it)
Fat isn’t bad, saturated and trans fats are. Polyunsaturated fats found in fish, olive oil, avocado oil, almonds, cashews, macadamia nuts and some seeds actually lower your LDL cholesterol and are essential to brain health and nervous system function. Stay away from farmed fish like tilapia and farmed salmon and big trophy fish like tuna, as they live long enough to accumulate unhealthy levels of mercury. Choose smaller, wild fish.
Olive oil can be a great addition to a salad or entree, but is unsafe for cooking at high heat. Use avocado oil for cooking above 275 F. Eat a variety of nuts and seeds high in polyunsaturated fats, but monitor your intake to not exceed 50% of your daily calories.
When you get hungry throughout the day snack on nutritious and filling nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables. Keep your fruit intake to 4 or less servings, same with nuts/seeds. Eat fresh uncooked vegetables with abandon. Pick raw, sugar and salt free options.
Post Workout Nutrition
On workout days consume 0.6g (females), .9g (males) of whey protein per pound of bodyweight and 30g (females), 40g (males) of starchy carbohydrates within 30 minutes of completing your workout. If you don’t tolerate whey well send me an email for some healthy alternatives. Healthy carbohydrate options include oats, sweet potatoes, quinoa, carrots, spaghetti squash, etc.
Eat 2-3 meals a day depending on your activity. With every meal consume half a plate (2-3 servings) of vegetables, a fist full (3-5oz) of protein, and 2 servings of healthy fats. On days that you workout consume the prescribed post workout meal above and reap the rewards of a lean, nutrient dense lifestyle.