Eating healthy or staying “on track” does not have to mean remembering food rules every time you go to the pantry. It’s quite the opposite. Eating and mealtimes should be a personal and enjoyable experience, not just a means to an end. If you’re ready to ditch dieting, and start eating to be your best, then the next 6 tips are for you.
1. Be Intentional
Intention is key. We all need to be our best at work, perform our best in the gym, and give our best to our family day in and day out.
So, choose your food based on your schedule, lifestyle and needs. For example:
When you’re catching up with a friend, it’s okay to enjoy a drink or two – alcohol can be a good way to connect with people.
When you’re celebrating a birthday or anniversary, enjoy the cake! Those events only come around once per year.
If you’ve got a big presentation at work, choose foods that promote focus and energy.Lastly, if you train regularly, eat to fuel and recover from your workouts.
2. Aim for protein with every meal
Not only will protein help keep you feeling full for hours, but including it in every meal is an easy way to ensure you’re meeting your protein targets without having to track macros.
Protein is an essential macronutrient, meaning you need to consume it in order to survive. Protein is made up of 21 amino acids. Your body can synthesize 9 of these on it’s own, but the other 11 come from food. This is why it’s recommended to eat a variety of protein sources including (but, not limited to) animal proteins, dairy, plant based protein and even protein supplements.
3. Balance your plate with each macronutrient
Eating balanced meals where protein, fats, and carbs are all represented gives you independence to make good food choices for your body without having to rely on a calorie tracking app.
Aim for well balanced meals 3-4 times per day to help keep you satiated and reduce snack cravings. Protein and fat are known to help keep you feeling satisfied, but did you know fats also help slow down the digestion of carbs? This contributes to alleviating the blood sugar spike and crash you might experience by snacking on carbs alone.
4. Eat in color
Fruits and vegetables are an excellent source of fiber and micronutrients. By adding 2-3 colors to your plate you effectively ensure you’re hitting the recommended intake without even trying.
Here’s an easy breakdown of plant colors and their associated benefits:
• Red – heart/circulatory, brain, urinary tract
• Blue/purple – circulation, memory, skin, bones
• Yellow/orange – skin, eye, immunity, heart, digestion, brain function
• Green – liver, eyes, muscles & bones, teeth
5. Eat what you enjoy
Don’t make food a moral issue. When you label food as good or bad, it becomes easy to feel guilty about little indulgences.
Instead, include the food you love! Realistically, if your diet consists of food you don’t even like…how can you be expected to stick to it?
Try practicing the 80/20 principle. The basic premise is that 80% of your food intake comes from whole natural sources (highly nutritious), and the remaining 20% is treats (highly delicious- ice cream, chips, cookies, fried food).
By allowing yourself to have the food you love, you’re actually more likely to stay on track with a dietary plan. Reducing restriction is key when it comes to finding food freedom and ending binge/restrict cycles.
6. Listen to your hunger cues
Eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re full. It sounds simple enough, but if you’ve been tracking macros for a while, you may have noticed that you keep eating even when you aren’t hungry in order to meet your daily targets.
Now is the time to stop masking hunger with water, coffee, burpees or gum. Now is the time to stop eating beyond fullness just because it’s a “high carb day” or a “refeed.” Now is also the time to stop throwing all of your progress out the window because you fell off track.
Your body is smart, and you can trust it! You CAN trust yourself with indulgences, and the more trust you build with yourself and normalizing things like this, the less stressful it becomes. You can have your cake & eat it too.
B.S., NASM CPT