Recently, a friend trying to improve her health asked me, “What should I eat?”. I’m asked this question a lot actually. Friends who are looking to start making changes and take control of their health (and often hope to lose some weight too) often ask me what to do. There are so many fad diets going around saying “all carbs are bad,” or “never eat this food,” “avoid white rice”, etc etc. that it really gets confusing!
Sometimes I think, “How do you not know what to eat?” and then I remember that I had the same questions several years ago when I started my fitness journey towards better health. At that time I was living a diet of Kraft Mac and Cheese and General Tso’s Chicken that I bought in the final minutes of the lunch special at the local Chinese restaurant. I could barely boil water and had only recently gotten a handle on grocery shopping and knowing where to find things in the store. (It wasn’t until recently that I learned about the intricacies of the grocery store set-up).
Eventually I joined a gym and used one of the free training sessions I got to talk with a trainer about food. I learned a lot that day and I think it was really what started my passion for learning about health and nutrition. Now, the “rules of eating” for the average person, if you will, seem so simple! Fad diets and advertisements try to make things so complicated, but unless you have some specific condition, it really isn’t.
Here are some of the basics that I’ve learned over the years:
- Eat Your Veggies: Seriously- you can never go wrong with eating more vegetables (unless they’re deep fried). Green veggies are particularly good (broccoli, kale, asparagus, spinach, brussels sprouts etc) but you can’t really overdo it on the veggies- so pile them on! I love steaming them so they’re perfectly cooked with the most nutrients still packed inside but anyway you slice it, they’re good for you.
- Carbs Are Your Friend: Carbs are not bad for you. In fact, I eat rice and oatmeal almost everyday and for someone who lifts and works out regularly, carbs are a staple for keeping my body fueled and moving right! I try to not go crazy on the “flours” though- this includes pasta, bread (I do enjoy sprouted breads though!), pastries, cookies, cakes, pancakes, waffles etc. This doesn’t mean I don’t thoroughly enjoy the previously mentioned items and while I certainly enjoy them time to time (a big ol’ bowl of pasta can really help me recharge!), I don’t eat them all the time!
- Eat Whole Foods: If you’ve been following my page for any period of time, this should be a given, but I’ll say it again- try to stick to whole foods as much as possible. This means, avoid pre-made, processed foods, and buy food in it’s original form. Tomatoes, rice, meats, eggs, veggies, beans, grains, peanut butter- sure, some of these have nutrition labels and some don’t, but the ones that do have very short ingredient lists! (for more about the details of reading nutrition labels, see my recent post about it!)
- Eat Fats: Guess what? Fats don’t make you fat. It does’t work that way. Overeating does, but fats themselves are imperative to a healthy det. Now, I’m not talking about fried foods etc, but things like peanut butter, nuts, oils, butter and of course, our dear friend avocado. If you can, keep an eye out for some that have higher omega-3’s (I know, we’re getting a little complicated here but basically, you ideally want a 1:1 ratio of Omega-3’s and Omega-6’s in your diet- I hope to go into this further in a future post). Chia seeds and hemp seeds are great sources for Omega-3’s.
- Eat Balanced Meals: Don’t cut out any food group- any diet that has you cut out a food group isn’t going to be good for you in the long run. Make sure you’re getting your protein, cabs and fats and try to see if you can include some of each in every meal you eat.
- Eat When You’re Hungry: Don’t starve yourself- if you’re hungry, then eat! Just try not to binge and try to eat balanced meals composed of whole foods.
- Don’t Skip Breakfast: Just don’t do it. If you need to, make it the night before so you can grab it on your way to work when you’re in a hurry (maybe try making Overnight Oatmeal). When you go to bed at night, your body rests and starts to fast- eating in the morning wakes everything back up and gets it going. You aren’t doing your body any favors by skipping it and if you’re trying to lose weight, it isn’t going to help much because you’re body never really woke back up to start burning calories and digesting again!
I hope this basic intro is helpful and hope to continue to write more detailed posts in the future! Are there more questions you have about eating healthy or is there a specific type of health or fitness related issue you’d like me to address in future posts? Please comment and let me know!
For more information, check out some of my previous health and fitness posts, which include, Healthy Grocery Store Shopping, Reading Nutritional Labels the Right Way, Drinking Enough Water Daily, and Maintaining a Healthy Diet While Eating Out.