I get asked so often by clients about what they should be eating in order to maximize the benefits of their workouts. When it comes to a training plan and seeing results what you are putting in your body is more than half of the equation. This all starts when you hit the grocery store- which in and of itself can be a daunting place. I’ve decided to put together a series of blogs on a couple rules of thumb that I have come to follow when I am at the grocery store each week, that contribute to me eating healthy balanced meals.
I am very conscious of veggies occupying a large part of my fridge and my plate! Be aware of not purchasing too many, I hate throwing out un-eaten vegetables. The usual culprit being mini-carrots, I had to stop buying these thinking I would snack on them, bottom line when I want to snack its not on carrrots! So be realistic with yourself about the veggies you like and stock up on those, avoid trying to purchase veggies that you know you will be less than excited about eating. That being said don’t be afraid to get adventurous! Mix it up, because buying the same veggetables each week can get boring. Dark leafy green vegetables pack the biggest punch, spinach is one of my favorites I put some spinach in everything. My best advice with vegatables, cut them up as soon as you can! This cuts back on prep time for your meals during the week. One of the biggest challenges of eating clean is the prep time that it takes. Schedule some time at the beginning of your week to chop up your veggies, they will be quick to grab when you need them! All else fails be sure to have a bag of frozen veggies that you can pull out if you need them- make sure its some more substantial veggies like broccoli, cauliflower etc.
I love fruit, I love summer for the fruit! I think fruit is one item most people have no problem including in their diet, they taste great and look beautiful! They make a great snack especially when paired with something high in protein, like apples and some peanut butter. For me the biggest struggle is in the winter, the months of the apple, orange and banana because they seem to be the only affordable fresh fruit out there! This is a great time of year to opt for frozen berries. In fact I make sure to always have a bag of frozen berries in my freezer, buying these at a bulk store is the best way to go! You can thaw a cup over night in your fridge to add to your yogurt or oatmeal in the morning, or you can pull them right out of the freezer and add to any smoothie. When it comes to fruit, berries are the powerhouse, for the tiniest fruit they pack a huge punch in the vitamin and antioxidant categories!
A note on fruit: Fruit juice- This is not an easy way to get your fruit intake up, fruit juices are usually packed with unnecessary added sugars, or sugar substances that end up outweighing any benefits of the juice. Stick with the real thing! And if you love a glass of OJ in the morning, read the label and make sure there are no added sugars.
Lean cuts of chicken and turkey occupy most of my grocery basket. Some steak or fish is always a must as well. When it comes to meat and my schedule I tend to buy it as I need it. I will cook up a pack of chicken breasts at the beginning of my week, putting them in the oven with at most garlic powder and pepper on them and then put them in my fridge to be pulled out to add to my lunches or for a quick dinner option. Things like steak or fish are best cooked and eaten as you need them. I stay away from sauces and pre-made seasonings as much as I can when cooking my meat, sticking with fresh herbs, or some pepper and fresh garlic lets the flavor of your food come through while not adding on sneaky calories from the sugar that is in most seasonings and sauces. I will also sometimes buy some ham to cut up and leave in the fridge- it makes a great snack! I also always keep a couple cans of tuna on hand- its a great option on its own or with mixed with a light vinaigrette dressing on whole grain crackers.
Fun fact about me- I’m lactose intolerant, I developed this sensitivity over the past 3-4 years and have had to steer clear of milk and cheeses. I can however handle yogurt. Bonus for me because the health benefits of yogurt, particularly low fat greek yogurt are AMAZING. Not only is it a high source of protein, it is also low in fat. Fat free Greek yogurt, is higher in protein, thicker and richer than traditional fat-free yogurt. It contains probiotics, which are healthy active cultures that aid digestion, as well as other nutrients found in traditional yogurt, such as calcium and phosphorus. I eat it as a snack with some berries and a little bit of honey (stressing little bit of honey), add it to smoothies or as a substitute to sour cream.
For those of you that aren’t lactose- milk and cheese are a great source of protein but sticking to a low fat variety is your best choice and having them be more of an addition as opposed to a main ingredient to your cooking is a best practice.
First things first, carbs are not bad for you. Don’t be misled by pronouncements on the dangers of carbohydrates. They are an important part of a healthy diet, providing the body with the fuel it needs for physical activity and proper organ function. If you have already filled your grocery basket with the previous mentioned items, you have already picked up some carbs! Not to mention some of the best kind of carbs- fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains deliver essential vitamins and minerals, fiber and a host of important phytonutrients. White bread, white rice, sugared sodas and other highly processed foods are what to avoid in the carb category. When shopping for carbs, look for grains that have had the least amount of processing, like whole grain breads, whole grain pasta, brown rice, quinoa, oats, and opt for a sweet potato or yam as opposed to a white potato.