By Soji James, CPT, CSCS
Is it just me, or can getting into the best shape of your life sometimes feel more confusing than a calculus equation? Getting healthier shouldn’t feel like rocket science or like finding a cure for a terminal illness. Let’s keep it simple, people. You with me on that? If so, here are five nutrition tips for the real-world to help you cut through the noise and take action today towards a healthier you.
The amount of information readily available in the wellness space is truly mind-blowing. On top of this, so much of the data is so conflicting that it’s easy to see why some people just crumble in defeat and decide that inaction is their best course of action. One day Keto is bringing you the best results, the next day Paleo is back in style. One week celery juice is a miracle solution, the next week it’s hibiscus-infused aloe water.
Don’t even get me started on macros. When was the last time you looked down at your plate and saw: 35g of protein, 40g of carbs, and 20g of fat? While the numbers are helpful, real people see food when they look down at their plates, not recommended guidelines.
Calorie and macro counting can be a messy science. It is well-intentioned, but can be highly inaccurate at times—and quite frankly, it just isn’t the best method for everyone. With that being said, we all know that it is essential to get in high-quality proteins, fat, and carbohydrates to not only fuel your wellness journey but also to keep the well-oiled machine that is your body moving efficiently. A convenient alternative is to use something we all have readily available: our hands.
Here’s how this nutrition tip works: your palm determines your protein, your fist determines your vegetable portions, your cupped hand determines your carb portions, and your thumb determines your fat portion. Men typically can opt for double (2 fists, 2 palms, etc), while women should start with singles. This usually does the trick, but everyone is different and this is simply a starting point. You are free to adjust your portions at any time based on how your body responds.
When it comes to eating food, it is extremely important to prioritize nutrients. Energy balance is important when it comes to gaining or losing weight, but the quality of our food truly makes a difference in our ability to function both mentally and physically on a daily basis. As we all know, eating well can come with a steep price tag (Who determined it was okay to charge $16 for a smoothie!?). It doesn’t have to be this way if you get savvy and search for cost-efficient options to eat better.
First off, look for cost-efficient places: family-run urban neighborhood fruit and veggies stores, bulk food stores, farmers markets/community-supported agriculture (CSA). In these situations, you will be able to source high-quality nutrients without scratching your head looking at the grocery bill. Secondly, opt for cost-efficient foods like in seasonal produce (usually cheaper), frozen foods & veggies, and less popular cuts of meat or plant-based proteins (beans/lentils). The more you can save, the more likely you will continuously eat healthier.
Finally, consider the unit cost. Purchasing a tub of protein may seem to cost you more upfront, but when you break it down by serving size, you are saving much more money than purchasing a protein shake every day after your workout. Have you tried Naked Whey? It’s one of my favorite proteins. (I like to go with minimal and as unprocessed as I can!) If you are currently out, you should pick up some here to fuel your gains this week.
Time is a limited resource, so whenever you can be more efficient, go for it. A great nutrition tip is to prioritize your foods. Aim for those that will keep for a day or 2 but not longer. I want you eating whole, nutrient-rich food, but I don’t want you stressing out in order to do so. Whenever you can, try and double up. If you are whisking up eggs for a scramble on Monday, save half and cover it up to use for an omelet on Wednesday. If you are chopping up kale for a salad, package some of it to toss into that same Wednesday morning omelet. Planning is key.
There’s no place for morality when it comes to food. Nothing is good or bad. Everything has a place in a well-balanced diet, but the choices you make do bring you either closer to achieving your goals or further away. When it comes to making more of the “right” choices, your environment is huge. Make it easy for yourself by setting yourself up for success.
If you want to eat more fruit, put them in a bowl on your counter where you can see them, or pre-cut & package them so that you can easily dump them into a smoothie. If you want to eat fewer sweets, put them in a hard to reach place or maybe even have someone hide them from you. When it comes to this stuff, out of sight means out of mind.
These nutrition tips can help make eating healthy fun. It isn’t an all-or-nothing type of ordeal. It’s actually a continuum. Remember this and be kind to yourself. As opposed to putting immense pressure on yourself, ask yourself this one question: “How can I make this meal a little healthier?”.
Maybe Monday, you can have a muffin for breakfast, then Tuesday you can adjust it by having a whole wheat muffin with some Greek yogurt. On Wednesday, ditch that same muffin and instead, add granola and berries to your Greek yogurt. Each step brings you to a healthier and healthier outcome and eventually leads to you ending up exactly where you want to be health-wise.
I hope you enjoyed this list of nutrition tips. I apply them to my life every day, and I love the results. Give them a try!