Eating healthy can feel really hard.
You’re probably struggling with:
- Emotional eating – self soothing with food and turning to it for comfort (probably not soothing with vegetables)
- Having a hard time saying NO to foods that are really delicious – it might not be emotional at all; you just WANT it!
- Often healthy food doesn’t necessarily taste as great, especially when your palate is accustomed to processed and artificially high-flavored foods.
- And, to be quite honest, eating healthy feels complicated! Who has time to follow a diet that has 20 rules, long lists of off-limit foods, and specific meal times, and portion sizes, and counting up your numbers.
So, in this series, I just want to bring it all back to the foundations of what makes up a good, healthy diet. We’re starting at square one and working up from there. (Which is kind of like my habit stacking approach…something I really teach in Jumpstart 30 and also in the Strong Mommas Coaching Program. You begin with the most basic and easiest eating habit to implement, and then once you’ve got that down, you stack another simple habit on top.)
Most other eating protocols don’t do this. They expect you to follow ALL the rules from day one. Which is why you feel like eating healthy is really hard.
But we’re here to help show you that it’s not.
Eating healthy doesn’t have to...
This all reminds me of one of my clients that went on vacation last summer. I’ve been teaching her good healthy eating habits, like what you’re learning about now, and she felt great and confident. Well, she went on a weekend vacation with her sister’s family, and her sister brought a cooler packed full of little containers with pre-made salmon and veggies because she was in the middle of a specific diet. And while the rest of the family was enjoying meals cooked together and my client was being mindful and aware and easily making good choices in this situation, her sister was a neurotic mess. She couldn’t eat anything on that trip except what she had brought, which was all carefully measured and portioned out. There was no freedom, no enjoyment, and it was super complicated.
My client came back and told me all about this, and said “thank you for showing me that eating healthy doesn’t have to look like that. I ate what you taught me, and I feel great, and I know I can keep eating like this for years!” I asked her a couple of weeks later if her sister was still doing that diet, and she said “No, she totally fell off the wagon not long after that trip.” Which is not surprising.
The problem with jumping straight to the WHAT
Everyone wants to jump straight to the WHAT, but if you don’t know how to eat… the speed at which you eat, your mannerisms while you eat, and what you’re thinking while you eat…the WHAT doesn’t really matter.
- Eating slowly
- Being mindful and aware when you’re eating
Now that you’ve got that down, let’s get a little more help with the WHAT. This is going to be incredibly simple, and in fact you might doubt that this will even work for you because it seems too simple, but trust me on this.
Whenever you eat, EAT YOUR PRO’S.
PROtein and PROduce
If it’s breakfast, a snack, a lunch, or a dinner, whatever meal it is… choose a protein and then some sort of produce.
Now, let’s break it down and learn WHY we need to be focusing so much on the PRO’s…
Fruits and Vegetables (PROduce)
The benefits of eating fruits and vegetables are plenty. I think we had it drilled into us by 4th grade that we need to be eating our fruits and vegetables. Here are some of the reasons why they are so darn good for you:
- Higher vitamin & mineral intake from fruits & vegetables prevents malnutrition & deficiencies that truly make you feel awful and like you’re not functioning at your best.
- Fruits and veggies also contain “phytonutrients” that help reduce the risk of many cancers, diabetes, and heart disease, and they also have more “antioxidants”, too, which reduce free-radical damage. Damage from free-radicals in your body can lead to a number of bad health issues, like cancer. Think of antioxidants as “pac-men”, munching through your cells finding these free radicals.
- Vegetables also help to balance out your dietary acids, and the fiber found in produce improves blood sugar control, reduces appetite, and increases digestive health
Something worth noting: Getting nutrients from whole veggies and fruits is better for you than supplemental forms. When you eat your nutrients from whole foods, your body gets the full package with all its benefits. This is not the case with supplements. Don’t just rely on a multivitamin or greens supplement for your nutrients!
Now that we know how healthy fruit and vegetables are, here are your daily PROduce recommendations:
- Most adults should build up to eating 8-12 servings of produce each day
- This equals about 2 servings of produce with every meal
- A serving is equal to: 1 medium sized fruit, 1 fist-sized portion of cut up fruit or raw/cooked veggies, 1 large handful leafy veggies
- If you’re interested in fat loss, eat more vegetables than fruits, striving for a 5:1 ratio
- Aim for eating a variety of fruits and vegetables. A good goal is to eat 2 servings of different produce with every meal.
- Whole, unprocessed produce will always win out over processed options. You can cook it and prepare it however you like, but make sure you get the real stuff! (And no, dried cranberries do not count!)
The other half of the “PRO” equation is protein.
Protein is a requirement for nearly EVERY metabolic process and structure in the body. Did you get that?! It pretty much runs your body.
Our bodies can make some “amino acids” (the individual structures that clump together to make a protein), but there are several “amino acids” that we have to consume. Without these essential amino acids our bodies would cease to function.
- Higher levels of protein consumption promote satiety, a healthy body composition and a healthy immune system.
- Animal proteins are the highest quality proteins, although we can get some protein from plant-based sources. Proteins that come from an animal will have every essential amino acid. If you’re only eating plant proteins, you’ll have to pick and choose from a variety of sources to get all the amino acids you need.
- Unlike carbohydrates and fats, if you are deficient in protein you cannot make it from another source. Your body will simply pull the protein it needs from skeletal muscle to help run the essential organs of your body. Bad news bears!
So, here is what you need to be shooting for when eating your PROtein:
- Aim for eating one serving of protein with every meal and snack
- One serving is equal to about 1 palm-sized amount for women, which is usually anywhere from 20-40 grams of protein
- A good goal is to try and hit 1g of protein per day for every pound that you weigh. (If you know that you are overweight and that sounds like A LOT of protein, aim for 1g per pound that you would weigh at your goal weight.)
- I had to laugh because I was reading through the BH&G magazine and it was hyping up protein for women (good!), but it recommended eating 50g of protein per day. Yeah, that’s barely enough to keep your body alive and functioning, let alone have all those major functions working at their absolute best.
- If you are an active woman that wants to be healthy, strong, and feel like you’re fully thriving, you need at least twice that well over 100g of protein per day!
- OBJECTION: “But won’t that cause me to eat too much and end up gaining weight? That seems like a lot of food.”
- Yes, it would if you were eating an unhealthy diet and just started piling on a bunch more protein.
- BUT, if you switch out the way you’re eating and turn to eating PRO’s first, before anything else, eating LOTS of vegetables, fruits and protein, you’ll end up feeling full and satisfied, your body will be fully thriving, and you won’t be overconsuming energy.
- The best protein options are lean, animal sources, or sources that do not have a significant amount of fat with it: lean cuts of beef like sirloin, white turkey meat, chicken breast, pork loin, eggs, and fish. Some dairy options are good like plain nonfat Greek yogurt and lowfat cottage cheese
- Avoid overly processed protein sources, such as some burgers, salami, pepperoni sticks, sausages, etc., as these tend to contain high amounts of fats, sodium, and preservatives. Canned tuna and chicken are great sources of protein, just make sure they're packed in water, not oil.
- If you are a vegetarian, aim for consuming at least ½ cup beans or other legumes with every meal. Quinoa, peas and soybeans are other good plant protein sources.
Ok, so those are the two big things that should be on your plate, and end up going in your mouth, at every eating opportunity. Whether you’re at home, on the road, or at a restaurant, look for the PRO’s, the PROduce and the PROtein. Always eat those ingredients first before you eat anything else.
I think it’s really important that we try not to make nutritious eating complicated. If you can focus on and master eating your PRO’s with every meal, you will do remarkably well. So the next time you have that big, leafy green salad with a bunch of chicken on it, you can be confident knowing it’s going to work for your body. Just Eat your PRO’s!
The BIG Takeaways
Ok, the big takeaways so far with creating Strong Food Foundations are:
- Pay attention to HOW you eat, making sure that you’re eating slowly and mindfully, or fully aware of how what you’re eating is going to feel in your body
- Pay attention to WHAT you eat, making sure that first and foremost you’re eating your PRO’s with every meal.
Stay tuned for next week’s episode: We’re going to take a look at what comes next…a super fast overview of carbs, fats, liquids, processed foods, and even supplements. Oh man, all the details you’re curious about, but these things aren’t as important as eating slowly and mindfully, and eating PRO’s.
At the end of the day, I want you to not feel stuck and burdened anymore with complicated diets and constantly thinking that you couldn’t possibly eat healthy enough…it’s too hard. I want you to know that you CAN do this. It IS possible to make just a couple simple switches that really make a difference for how you feel. You’ve got this, ok?