How to Simplify Nutrition and Make Your Diet Work for You
Most people I know struggle with eating “well”. I get a lot of requests to write out diets and to tell people what to eat.
While this seems simple, it isn’t, because food is personal. Unless you like the foods you are eating and are getting some level of enjoyment or satisfaction from your meals, chances are you will not stick with that diet.
My diet (in the general sense) is full of foods that are enjoyable, nutrient dense, and provide ME with a level of satiation that might not work for you.
And, while yes, they can work, most diets promoting quick weight loss (or quick fixes) are neither safe nor sustainable by a general population. They can promote disordered eating patterns and negativity against food.
My approach is a little less sexy and a tad more boring but, has helped clients achieve their goals while also enjoying their food. Here are a few of the tips I offer my clients to help them eat better and create a diet that works for them while
Plan what you’re going to eat.
I’m not saying to go out and buy a bunch of containers and prep, prep, prep (unless that works for you). BUT, make a menu for the week, including all meals and snacks. Bring a list grocery shopping so you won’t deviate at the store. If you have a few hours on the weekend prep dinners for the week- cut your veggies, marinate your meat, pre-cook the grains. Not only will this save you time and hassle, allowing you to fit in some extra family time or movement time, it can keep you from binging later at night while you wait for dinner to cook.
Keep a food journal for 2-3 weeks.
You have to know what you’re eating and… in what quantities. Two to three weeks of tracking will help you understand your portions (see #3 below) and your distribution of macronutrients (fat, carbs & protein) and micronutrients (vitamins & minerals) and where you may be overeating or undereating.
A journal can also help you pinpoint how your body feels in response to certain foods. How much energy do you have following your meals? How were your workouts that day?
While yes, this can be cumbersome at first it will make you feel more comfortable with snacks and eating out and distributing your food throughout the day. And in the long run, after tracking is over, you will have a better idea of how to combine your foods to make you feel more satiated and energized.
Learn how to eyeball portions.
This goes back to point 2 but, it’s really important to understand what a portion is. I’ve had clients list “two handfuls” of trail mix on their diet journal only to realize that two handfuls was equal to ½ cup when, a ¼ cup of that specific trail mix was 200 calories. This is an extra 800 calories… in 20 minutes of snacking!
Learning how to eyeball what a portion is using your hands is a great tool. Again, it can be pain when you start but it may help you avoid overconsuming and mindlessly snacking.
Eat a veggie with every meal. And then, try to eat a piece of fruit as part of your snack(s).
An average serving of most vegetables is about ½ cup (one cup of the leafy greens) and an average serving of fruit is ½ cup or, one medium piece. Not a too much to ask, right? An easy way to start is by adding fruits and veggies into foods you’re already eating and then expand- sauté some greens or your favorite veggie and toss in your eggs, mix into a turkey patty, or toss into your pasta sauce at night. Fruit can be added to plain yogurt, cereal, salads or stand alone as a snack when paired with a protein source or a nut butter (a fat- read serving sizes).
Allow yourself to eat (a little of) what you crave.
Take a couple of bites and then sit on it for a while to see if you’re satisfied. Most women keep their diet too strict during the day only to overindulge at night. Allowing yourself to add your favorite foods into your diet (in moderation) will increase satisfaction and thus adherence. Adherence is key when you’re aiming for long-term fat loss.
Enjoy Your Food
Don’t eat Brussels Sprouts if you hate them. There are plenty of other vegetables that can offer a similar nutritional profile to those bitter little cabbages. Look at everything you eat in terms of offering two things- nutrition and satisfaction. Choose foods THAT YOU LIKE that offer these qualities. And, when you’re allowing yourself a “treat” don’t worry so much about the nutrition. The more we worry about a treat derailing our progress the more likely we are to say, “screw it” and binge.
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