I know you.
I know you're interested in eating healthier.
I know you want to have a culture of nutritious eating in your home.
I know you want to do your best, and you are really trying hard most of the time.
But I also know that somehow it still feels like it's not quite right.
Your meals are made up of random foods that don't necessarily have a purpose on your plate and in your body. You hope it's right, but you're not sure. And frequently you end up eating things you know you probably shouldn’t. But you’re not ready to give everything up (which honestly doesn’t feel quite right anyway).
If this feels like you then you are similar to almost every single woman I have coached.
Not blatantly poor eating choices, but not quite hitting the bulls-eye either.
You know you should eat better, but where do you start?
Let's bring you from a so-so eater to a confidently healthy eater. Here are the blueprints for nutritious eating:
1. Let "PROS" be your foundation for every single meal. “Pros” stand for PROteins and PROduce. Whenever you eat something, start by putting protein on your plate or in your bowl. It could be chicken, eggs, yogurt, beef, fish, pork, or other good protein source. The leaner (less fatty) the better, and the more protein the better. (For example, Greek yogurt dominates regular yogurt in the protein department.)
Once the protein is on your plate, add in the produce. The fresher and more colorful the better. Vegetables dominate fruits in the produce department, but fruits are still good for you. Try to eat a couple handfuls of produce with every meal.
2. Add healthy fats to your "PROS" before you add anything else. This is where a lot of good flavors and textures can come from (to make your meals particularly delicious!) Think of all sorts of raw nuts and seeds. My favorites are walnuts, pecans, peanuts, almonds, chia seeds, flax seeds (make sure your flax seeds are ground into a meal form), and sunflower seeds. Avocados and olives are technically fruits, but they’re loaded with healthy fats. Cook and dress your foods with olive oil, flaxseed oil, coconut oil, peanut oil and sometimes butter. And then try to eat fish (especially salmon) once or more times per week.
(A quick note…don’t go overboard on the healthy fats. A little bit goes a long way!)
3. Maybe add whole grains or other forms of starchy carbohydrates. This is not required. Starches like grains, potatoes, rice and pasta are typically the culprit for weight gain and difficulty losing weight. (In fact, most Americans start with the starch and then design their meal around it. Oatmeal breakfast and spaghetti dinner, anyone?)
These starchier foods will do best in your body (and for your weight loss efforts) if you enjoy them with the meal closest to your workout. Otherwise, stick to just the PROs and healthy fats.
And always, if you have starchy carbs, make sure they’re the whole grain variety, not refined and processed.
4. Speaking of processed foods, stop eating out of packages as much as possible. I had someone approach me the other week with the newest and coolest protein bar that they just LOVED. Sure it’s convenient and probably healthier than a lot of other options, but a banana with peanut butter is just as convenient. And far healthier.
Most foods that come in a package don’t meet our first requirement very well—protein and produce. It’s hard to pack a fresh chicken salad into a box and put it into the aisle of a grocery store. (Although I am a sucker for bagged salads with my own protein added!)
This habit could change your life because it will take you from being a typical North American eater that eats processed convenience foods all day long to a healthy eater, consuming fresh and nutrient dense foods all day long.
5. Don't drink your calories. Your beverages should be calorie free. I’m not a calorie counter (Good Lord, far too tedious and inaccurate! Click here to read more about calorie counting.), but our nutrition should be coming from real food, not liquids. What should you be drinking, then? Water, tea and maybe some black coffee if your body tolerates it well.
I find that for most women this is the hardest habit of all to change. Moms love their coffee creamers and wine! Here’s what I will say…do what you need to do to stay sane, but make sure that you understand balance and moderation with respect to your goals. (More on that later.)
6. Adjust your portions to your meal frequency. Don’t get bogged down with portion sizing, OK? Eat bigger meals if you eat infrequently (2-3 times a day) and smaller meals if you eat more often (5-6 times a day). Think big plate vs. little plate. Entrée salad vs. side salad. Big bowl of soup vs. cup of soup. I usually eat three, sometimes four times a day, so I have big meals. It works well.
7. What should you avoid altogether? Limit foods high in fat from being fried, covered in cream and soaked in butter. And limit foods high in sugar like treats and sweets. Usually these types of foods will have already been taken care of with one of our previous habits (treats and sweets typically come out of packages), but we need the reminder. There is little nutritional value coming from these types of food. Believe me, french fries and Girl Scout Cookies are not helping you.
8. Understand what balance and moderation means for you. Balance and moderation means that you know when to say yes to poor food choices and when to say no. You know when it's right to splurge and when it's not. Your overall health and your personal goals are the two major driving factors here. Having one Oreo everyday probably won’t make your general health crash, but it could be the one thing preventing you from losing weight. However, refusing all treats could lead to an eventual treat binge one day. You must keep a balanced perspective. (Read more about my philosophy on balance and moderation here.)
This is your blueprint for healthy eating. These are your basic guidelines that will help you decide what to put on your plate for every meal. After a few days of following these blueprints with every meal, you’ll find your groove and your confidence. You’ll know that you’re eating healthy and why it's healthy.
And you'll start to reap the rewards in the way you feel and how your clothes fit.
Do you already eat like this most of the time, but still want to take it to the next level? The Strong Mommas Membership provides daily nutrition coaching, lots of accountability, meal plans, and grocery lists...and none of it is overwhelming. It's a refreshing approach to healthy eating that you can carry with you for the rest of your life. Click here to learn more.
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Megan P. Dahlman
Hi friend! I'm a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist, Precision Nutrition Certified Coach, Wife to Scott, and Mom to two crazy boys, Calvin & Peter. I train hard, eat well, rest just enough to keep going, and do my best to maintain a heavenly perspective. I'd love to coach you to do the same. Cheers!
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