This is day 9 of the first edition of the book 2 Weeks to Health, a 2-week course designed to kick start a healthier life. The expanded and reworked second edition is set to be released in the summer of 2018.
If you get 1% better at something every day then it is a successful day
After yesterday I know some of you are thinking “I’ll just limit myself to eating one Big Mac meal and a couple frozen dinners today so I don’t go over on carbs and fats”, or something along those lines. On day 4 we discussed the MyPlate model, and your diet should look similar to how that plate looked, roughly 25% vegetables, 25% grains, 20% fruits, 20% protein, and 10% dairy, these number do not need to be exact. First, make your diet resemble the MyPlate model, then adjust your portions to meet your macronutrient needs. A well balanced diet is paramount, and often time when someone switches from a fast food diet or a meat and potatoes diet to a MyPlate diet (balanced died), they will automatically fall near the amount of macronutrients they need.
I won’t talk a lot about what to eat, but here are some examples of my favorite (simple to cook) meals that together make up the MyPlate model:
Breakfast – Egg White, Bell Pepper and Onion Omelet: Cook a couple egg whites in a skillet with olive oil, and sauté a cup of cut bell peppers and onion in another skillet. Add the peppers and onion to the eggs and you have an omelet. This recipe will give you some of your daily protein from the eggs (contrary to what some people believe, eggs are not dairy), and veggies from the peppers and onion. This makes for a pretty good sized omelet that has less than 200 calories. Add a little bit of cheese to get a serving of dairy, or a piece of whole wheat toast for some grains.
Lunch – Italian Chicken Salad: When you are making dinner the previous night, knock out lunch for tomorrow and throw some chicken in the oven for the next day, marinate with Italian seasoning. Then for lunch pull out some romaine lettuce, the chicken from the night before, Italian dressing, and any other veggies you might want. If you are going to eat pasta for dinner like in this example, be careful that your croutons don’t put you over your limit!
Dinner – Whole Wheat Pasta: Whole wheat pasta in moderation is a great food. Boil some whole wheat pasta and add mushrooms and onions to some crushed tomatoes. Cook ground turkey or chicken in a separate skillet and add to the sauce. Top with parmesan cheese and enjoy. This meal gives you grains from the pasta, vegetables from the sauce, protein from the turkey, and a bit of dairy from the cheese (dairy isn’t really necessary but tasty). Just make sure you don’t go overboard with the eating, just like all foods, watch your portion size. Many people believe the carbs in pasta are what make you fat, this is not true. A sustained calorie surplus makes you fat, so pasta/carbs will only make you fat if you eat too much of it, just like any other food.
Snack – Fruit Smoothie: I love making smoothies as a snack or sometimes for breakfast. You can put almost anything in a smoothie, but personally I prefer a tropical blend. Add a banana, a couple strawberries, some pineapple, mango, and orange slices into a blender. Add some spinach (it’ll turn it green but you won’t taste it), ice, and milk or water. Blend and enjoy! Commercial smoothies will often add simple syrup or sugar to their smoothies, so be careful when you buy smoothies from a restaurant or store. Adding sugar isn’t necessary because the natural sugars from the fruit will make it delicious without additives.
Some of you are probably saying “those foods sound gross”. That is why I don’t want to give recipes or tell you exactly what to eat, we all have our own tastes. But definitely experiment with and try new foods so that you can cook and eat great tasting healthy foods that won’t put you over your calorie and macronutrient counts.
If you have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, or another medical condition, you may need to add another layer to your healthy eating model beside just the macronutrients and the MyPlate model. I recommend if you have any questions regarding this area to contact a dietician or your doctor. Your gym probably has a nutritionist or dietician you can talk to, or they can at least can refer you to someone.
I try to only eat ‘healthy fats’ for my daily fat intake. ‘Healthy fats’ are actually needed for our bodies to stay healthy, but what’s the difference? When you read a nutrition facts label, essentially when you see trans fats, those are bad. These fats are found in processed foods and are not naturally occurring. Try to completely eliminate trans fats. Saturated fats should also raise a yellow flag. Saturated fats are mostly found in animal products such as dairy and meats. Try to limit saturated fats due to its high calorie density without added health benefits. Unsaturated fats are often considered to be the good fats, and are often found in vegetables and nuts. Unsaturated fats can decrease your cholesterol and will improve your health if you consume these in place of the bad fats and in moderation. Try to get most of your daily fat allowance from unsaturated fats.
It is also important to plan your meals before you eat them. Before I go to the store each week I have my meals planned for the entire week, this prevents me from buying things I don’t need. Not only does this save money, but it keeps me from buying foods I don’t need for my meals. The more food you have laying around your home, the more likely you are to eat more than you need to. Sometimes I splurge and buy some chips or ice cream (which I never make as part of my normal diet), and before I know it I consumed 1000 calories of ice cream without realizing it just because I can. That is why I only keep the bare minimum at my house. You need to make your environment work for you. If your environment is full of unhealthy snacks, then you will likely eat those unhealthy snacks. If your environment is filled with healthy foods and only the foods you need for the week, then it will be easier to eat healthy.
Meal planning is also important so that when you when you start getting hungry, you know exactly what you are eating for your next meal. Without knowing what you are going to eat it becomes very easy to over snack and then miss the mark for the MyPlate model and your macronutrients for the day.
Eating healthy can be very difficult at first, but once you learn the basics and start experimenting with different foods and combinations, it will be fun. Eventually you will get so good at it that you won’t need to even think about the MyPlate model or even too much about your macronutrient needs, they will just happen. This transition will take some time though. The basics to better health can be learned in 2 weeks, but you will never stop learning new ways to better your health. This process is a marathon, but not a literal marathon, I don’t expect you to ever be able to run 26.2 miles. It takes a while to learn everything and even longer to implement what you learn, so be patient with the process but keep pushing yourself.
I hope you had/have a great workout today. Tomorrow is all about dietary supplements and which ones you should and shouldn’t take.