I’ll be writing guest posts for Mary once a week. I’ll be covering a variety of topics, but first things first: The Six Basic Nutritionista Principles. Before you read anything else I write, you have to read these first. These principles represent my way of life. They’re not just about weight loss. They’re about eating and living in a way that’s more sustainable and healthy, forever. :: If you stick to them, they work. You’ll feel better and probably look better, too. They not only work for me, but I also think from an objective perspective, they’re a very sane and realistic way to approach nutrition and fitness. So with no further ado, the Nutritionista Principles::
· Get a calorie budget. It doesn’t have to be exact down to the last two calories, but you need to know about how many you need to maintain, gain, or lose weight. You’ll eventually get to the point where you can eyeball portions and instinctively know about how many calories something contains. Until then, you might want to look it up on any number of free calorie-tracking sites (The Daily Plate, Calorie King, etc.). A lot of people think they can get by without at least loosely tracking portions because they’re eating “healthy” food. I hate to say it, but it doesn’t really matter what you eat if you’re eating too much of it.
· Live by 25/25/50. As much as possible, each meal should consist of about 25% whole grain or complex carbohydrates, 25% lean protein, and 50% fruits and vegetables (mostly vegetables and as colorful as possible!). Avoid, avoid, avoid empty calories! That is, foods that don’t fit into the above categories.
· Eat WHOLE foods/avoid “diet” food. One of my favorite authors, Michael Pollan, admonishes us to eat “real” food. I call it whole food, but it’s the same thing. What it means is eat foods as close to their natural state as possible. This doesn’t mean you have to eat a raw diet, but the more processed something is (hint: packaged foods are often very processed), the more likely it is to have unhealthy ingredients (hellooooo, trans fat!). It’s the difference between eating potato chips (a processed food) where a one oz. serving has 155 calories, almost 11 grams of fat (3 grams saturated), and 1 gram of fiber and eating a small baked potato (close to a potato’s natural state), which has 130 calories, 0.2 grams of fat, and 3 grams of fiber. Which will make you feel more satisfied? Which gives you more bang for your calorie buck? I don’t think I have to tell you. Avoiding diet foods means don’t eat what I call “substitute” food. Substitute food is often marketed as low fat or low sugar. But it has to have something make it palatable, so what do food companies do? Add preservatives, weird chemicals, and artificial sweeteners. That might make for lower calorie food, but I guarantee it will leave you unsatisfied.
· Don’t avoid all fat. You need some (good) fat to lose fat. I’ll say it again: you need some good fat to lose fat. Don’t believe me? Check out this, this, or this. What’s good fat? Anything unsaturated (monounsaturated or polyunsaturated). You can find unsaturated fat in nuts, seeds, nut and seed oils, fish, and avocado. Limit saturated fat (found in animal products and dairy) and avoid trans fat at all costs.
· Your carbs need to have some fiber. If you’re eating carbs without fiber, chances are, you’re eating white flour or sugar… Zero nutrition but pretty calorie-dense. I won’t even go into why fiber is so beneficial, but trust me; it helps you feel fuller while doing a lot of good for your digestive system and heart health.
· For exercise, do cardio AND weight training. I don’t care if you spent three hours on the elliptical. If you’re not pumping some iron, you’re not doing as much for yourself as you could be. Likewise, if you’re spending all your time strength training, you’re not going to burn as much fat overall. I recommend three days of cardio-focused activity and three days of weight training-focused activity per week, with some overlap if necessary. And don’t just train the muscles you feel like training! You need to work every muscle group.
That’s it! Not bad, right? Of course there are nuances, tips, and tricks to practicing these principles the best way possible, but that should get you started. Email me with any questions at firstname.lastname@example.org and check back here for next week’s post!