Use these tips as the “ingredients” to declare your nutritional independence and provide power for your strength training and cardio workouts.
Toss the bad stuff. Clean out your kitchen cabinets, fridge and freezer. Get rid of:
- Highly processed, refined foods. This includes most food products that are white, unless it’s something that is white in its natural form.
- Anything with sugar listed in the first few ingredients.
- Anything with saturated and trans fats.
- Anything fried.
- Boxed or frozen prepared foods. They’re high in sodium, unhealthy preservatives, and ingredients you can’t pronounce. (It’s a good rule of thumb to not eat anything you can’t pronounce!)
- Sugar-filled colas and juices, and alcohol.
Eat five small meals. Try to eat a meal every 3 to 3-1/2 hours—five small meals—to keep your metabolism revved into high gear. Eating these smaller meals keeps insulin levels consistent; this helps burn fat, speed metabolism, and deter fat storage.
- Choose fresh, whole foods that are high in fiber; low in sugar, fat and calories; and free from processed or refined foods.
- Your first meal jumpstarts your metabolism, so never skip breakfast.
- Each meal should consist of a lean protein, starchy carbs and fibrous carbs. Think of your plate divided into three compartments containing a lean protein, a starchy carbohydrate, and a fibrous carbohydrate.
Good food/bad food. Beware of imposters! Know the nutritional value of different foods. Baked chicken breast, steamed veggies, and a scoop of mashed potatoes is a relatively healthy option. If you pour gravy over the whole plate, it becomes a high-fat, high-calorie meal.
- An ounce or two of nuts makes a great snack, but not if salted or smoked.
- Beans are good, unless they’re refried or baked in sugary sauces.
- Stick with fat-free or low-fat dairy products for a good protein and calcium source, but stay away from whole milk and “low-fat” ice cream.
- Salads provide a great source for vitamins, minerals and fiber, but not if they’re covered in bottled, creamy salad dressings or “low-fat” dressings filled with sugar. Stick with a squeeze of lemon or herb-flavored vinegar, and olive oil.
- Use natural almond or cashew butter for protein and good fats; peanut butter is not a health food!
- Whole grains are the only way to go—and “whole” is the key word.
Knowledge is power. How does it work in the real world?
- Watch your alcohol consumption. Alcohol is purely empty calories, and mixing it with soda or juice adds more.
- Pack healthy snacks or a protein shake or bar for those times when you won’t have time for a healthy meal.
- Know you’ll be tempted at an evening get-together? Eat super-healthy during the day, then have a healthy and filling snack before you go.
- It’s okay to leave food on your plate. It’s okay to not eat the food your kids left on their plates.
Finally: You need high-quality calories to fuel your active lifestyle, but too many calories—no matter how high the quality—will result in fat storage. Too much of a good thing …