I’ve mentioned before that you need to make a grocery list BEFORE you go to the store.
But each and every week you shouldn’t have to be reinventing your list from scratch.
Actually, the basis of your list should probably stay the same because you should have certain staple foods you buy each and every week.
Because even though some variety keeps your healthy eating routine interesting, too much variation can prevent you from getting into a habit.
And habits are what help you stick with your program and get results.
So while you may want to have a variety of recipes, you want them to include the same staple foods.
These are my 15 Staple Foods. My list includes:
I get asked often what I eat.
And it’s funny sometimes the assumptions people make.
They totally assume I eat whatever way the last read, or heard, was healthy. If they heard about Paleo and their friends have been getting results on that, I must eat some form of that.
If they lost weight on a lower fat diet, they may assume I do that.
They will asked me detailed questions about some of the most random, and in my opinion, unimportant dieting details ever!
When really my diet is nothing fancy.
I keep things simple. The simpler I keep things, the easier it is to create habits that last.
So here are MY SECRETS to a successful diet:
1. Prepare your grocery list before you go to the store. This prevents you from buying random crap or forgetting an ingredient you need for a meal. (I find that often people use the fact that they don’t have all the ingredients to make a meal as an excuse to go out and eat badly.)
2. Use the same basic grocery list every week. Keep things simple. Don’t reinvent your list every week and try to make new and fresh things all the time. Stick with the same basics and vary your diet every once in a while. It may sound boring, but it really isn’t and it makes things EASY, which is key to creating lasting habits.
3. FInd a few staples to keep around in case you need a QUICK and easy meal. For us, staples are things like tomato sauce and tamari. If I have either of those two things around with a protein, I know I can easily make a meal. Tomato sauce can be used for chilis or meatzas or even fake pastas with meat sauces. Tamari can be used to make an easy stir fry or fried rice with whatever meat and veggies you have!
4. Keep your meals centered around protein and veggies. I always make protein the center of my meal with veggies as a side. I don’t worry about having a certain amount of side dishes or even about the exact macronutrient break down. I focus on meat and veggies, knowing that focusing on those things will get me the nutritional profile I want. Then after that I worry about condiments and or other little additives to make the meal taste delicious. (And of course if it is a carb day, I’ll focus on healthy carbs).
5. Get high quality ingredients. Basically what this means to me is “READ THE INGREDIENT LABEL!” People buy the cheapest ingredients or fall for labels such as “healthy,” “gluten-free,” “low-fat,” “organic.” Those labels don’t equal healthy! There are tons of organic creams out there that have a ton of crap in them! And gluten-free foods can be highly processed! Don’t fall for sales labels. Read the ingredients and get quality stuff. I 100% believe that the quality of your ingredients affects not only your health, but also your fitness goals, be they weight loss or strength gains.
6. Avoid vegetable oils and gluten. Honestly, if you avoid these two things, I think you are on the road to a long, healthy life. While yes, I do try to eat grass-fed beef and organic, locally grown produce, I don’t even think that is near as important to your health as simply avoiding the two things above (although I do like supporting good farming practices to help encourage their spread and growth). So if you ask me what the most important component of a healthy diet is, other than listening to your body, I would say it is this – avoid vegetable oils and gluten! Aka avoid inflammation causing foods!
7. Listen to your body. I wrote a whole post on this recently, but it is probably the most important rule I follow and governs ever other tip listed here. I listen to what my body needs/wants. If I worked out more, I give my body more calories and more carbs. If I wasn’t very active, I will eat fewer carbs and calories. I respond to what my body needs. And yes, if my mind needs the break, I will even indulge in a cheat meal or two!
8. Know what restaurants around you have HEALTHY options. While eating in is ALWAYS better, it is good to know what restaurants around your home and work DO have quick and healthy options in case you need to eat out or your routine is really thrown off and eating home cooked food isn’t an option. Plus, I find by just having the option to eat out if you really want/need to, makes you even less likely to want to cheat on your diet.
9. Don’t be afraid to adjust. My diet is continually evolving. I’ve gone through periods of complete low carb. And periods of carb cycling. I’ve gone through periods of fasting and periods of eating 6 small meals a day. And as I settle more and more on things that work, the changes have become smaller…But my diet is still always changing. There are periods of time where I go super strict and then there are periods of time when I indulge in dark chocolate every single night and use a little extra cheese. I’m not afraid to make slight variations because I have a consistent base. I’m not afraid to LISTEN TO MY BODY and adjust instead of forcing my body to follow a set plan that may not be working. If you are flexible and listen, you are going to be more consistent than if you force yourself into a pattern that doesn’t really work (because you won’t be able to force yourself to do something for very long if it doesn’t seem to flow with what your body needs!)
10. Don’t be afraid to eat. This rule has numerous meanings. I think all too often people become afraid to eat bad foods. They eat clean for fear that one cheat treat will completely derail their process. There are also those people who watch all the documentaries and become afraid to eat anything that isn’t extremely naturally raised….like conventionally raised beef. But you can’t be afraid to eat! You’ve got to enjoy life and you’ve got to buy what you can. While yes, I do love buying grass-fed beef because the omega ratio is better and it is NATURALLY RAISED, conventional beef isn’t the worst thing out there! For one, it is still better prepping your food at home than buying pre-made crap. And two, conventional beef can be made healthier by simply cooking it in a good, healthy fat like pasture butter or coconut oil. So don’t think you can’t eat well just because you can’t get grass-fed beef or buy all the super expensive local and organic ingredients (although farmer’s markets are good if you are on a budget). Also, you can’t starve yourself to lose weight. More isn’t always more as we’ve discussed numerous times. Dieting is a balance. Everything in moderation! Just focus on eating whole, natural foods.
If you notice, none of these are things you haven’t heard before. Heck, they are things I’ve even stated numerous times before!
And none of them are exact magic foods you need to eat. There is no secret superfood for weight loss. Leaner meats, fattier meats…They can all be a part of a healthy, clean diet. It’s finding out what YOUR BODY NEEDS.
Honestly, if you take away only two things from this post, I hope they are, KEEP IT SIMPLE and LISTEN TO YOUR BODY.
So a huge part of being healthy, looking great, feeling great and performing well is eating the RIGHT foods.
If you don’t fuel properly, your body isn’t going to run properly – it’s as simple as that.
And while I’m most definitely not a car aficionado (and I’m sure anyone who really knows anything about cars will roll their eyes at how I use the analogy) I do believe that one of the best ways to describe eating healthily is by comparing it to fueling a car.
If you use bad fuel, your car won’t run properly. You will get bad gas mileage and your car will probably break down. However, if you give your car the proper fuel, your car will run great and you most likely won’t have near as many problems with it.
Same goes for your body…Eat crap food and your body will run, but not near as well as it could. Eat healthy food and you will be able to perform a lot better (not to mention you will FEEL a lot better!).
And you may be thinking right now…I haven’t had problems so why should I change my diet.
Let me just say this..Just because you aren’t having problems doesn’t mean your body feels or functions as well as it could.
You might not even realize you aren’t running as well as you could until you fuel properly and see just how great your “mileage” could actually be. And once you do fuel properly, trust me, you won’t want to go back!
Ok so let’s say you buy it and know that you need to fuel properly.
How do you then decide what you should eat?
I live by these two simple rules:
- Eat whole, natural foods – Foods raised or grown in the way they should be. Cage-free chickens, grass-fed beef. Organic fruits and veggies. Unprocessed. Local. Seasonal.
- Eat as little processed food as possible – There is a spectrum of processed. From a veggie you can pick and eat right of the ground to a Twinkie which is so processed it will never ever go bad and doesn’t contain even one ingredient that you can even pronounce. If something lasts longer than it should, like the difference between freshly home-made bread and store bought bread that last years, you know that it is highly processed. Your goal is to eat as much as you can from the unprocessed to only slightly processed side while still occasionally indulging in deliciousness from the processed side.
On the image below that sums up this post, you will see that I break down foods with the best options in green and the worst in red. There are a lot of different levels of processing…To keep it simple, I’ve broken it down into four different levels. If you follow the two rules above, the majority of your diet will come from the green list (which is by no means all-inclusive) with some of your daily foods coming from the yellow list. You will also occasionally indulge in foods from both the orange and red lists, which are more highly processed foods that contain little to no nutritional value.
Anyway, take a look at the infographic below for a quick guide to healthy eating!
So recently I’ve had a few of my female clients ask me about cleanse diets.
I personally would NEVER ever do one…or for that matter recommend that any of my clients do one.
I know they are the popular thing, but honestly, they are stupid.
Really? Drink juice for a week and your body will be cleansed?!?
Sounds like a week of feeling crappy and overloaded with sugar!
And when I tell most people that I think cleanses are stupid, they say to me, “Well then how do you rid your body of all the toxins that accumulate?”
UHM…I DON’T EAT CRAP FOOD MOST OF THE TIME!
You shouldn’t need to do a cleanse if you are eating a healthy diet 80% of the time. That healthy eating will, itself, make your body healthier and remove all of the “toxins.”
And really you think that one week on a “cleanse” is going to remove all the toxins from your body that you’ve been consuming for months and months and months eating a poor diet!?!
If you want to make your body healthy, you need to eat healthily most of the time…not for one week!
And the funniest thing is, when I say they should eat healthy 80% of the time if they really want a clean, healthy body, they tell me that only cleanses TRULY remove all of the gunk. That eating healthy doesn’t get it all out.
Some cleanse diet is going to remove some hidden gunk that eating only whole natural foods won’t remove!?!
UHM…NOT GOING TO HAPPEN!
Sometimes I want to ask people obsessed with cleanse diets what this supposed hidden gunk is? I mean really what is so supposedly stuck in us that only a cleanse diet can rid of us?
Also, I would just like to point out that most of these cleanse diets really AREN’T THAT HEALTHY OR GOOD FOR YOU!
You really thinking drinking juice for a week is that great for you? All you are consuming is a ton of carbs in the form of SUGAR!
That isn’t healthy!
But when I tell people that cleanse diets AREN’T healthy, I usually get a response like, “Well I saw a cleanse diet by Dr. Oz!”
Dr. Oz….Usually I would have a rant against him, but in this case…Well I actually kind of like him.
When they say that to me, I usually say, “Have you looked at the difference between your FAD cleanse and Dr. Oz’s?”
The Dr. Oz cleanse is basically like eating just a super clean all natural diet!
It isn’t juice with cayenne pepper! It is chicken and veggies. It is just SUPER CLEAN NATURAL FOODS!
If you want a TRUE cleanse, you don’t need to do some crazy diet that cuts out all but one food group! Just eat whole natural foods that aren’t processed at all!
Or you know what…maybe even add in some intermittent fasting…Now fasting a bit…that IS truly good for your body!
Oh but wait….you aren’t doing a cleanse to be healthy? No…you are doing the cleanse because your friend supposedly lost 10lbs in one week?!?
Oh well then of course do the cleanse! It must be the magic pill for weight loss!
Cleanse diets might help you lose a bit of weight, but the second you stop the cleanse, do you really think you are going to maintain the weight loss?
You haven’t changed your normal daily eating habits so how do you think you are going to keep that lost weight off?
YOU AREN’T GOING TO!
So why waste a week of your life on a completely miserable diet only to lose weight that you will probably gain back in less than two days when you return to your old eating habits?
There is no quick weight loss solution. If you want to lose weight, eat clean whole, natural foods. Eat a well-balanced diet of fruits, vegetables and meat. (Shoot I would even say a well-balanced diet of vegetables and meat, which is completely the opposite of some of those fruit and sugar-laden cleanses!)
If you want to truly lose weight, you need to start a diet you can maintain for more than a week.
And if you are completely and utterly set on doing some sort of “cleanse” go super strict the first couple of weeks on your diet. Eat only vegetables and meat.
Then maybe after those two weeks of super clean eating, add back in a few healthy treats…like fruits or maybe a glass of wine or some dark chocolate or a little full-fat dairy here and there.
The point is that these fad cleanses aren’t healthy AND they don’t truly help you lose weight. If you want to be “clean” and lose weight, your only solution is to eat whole natural foods.
Even Dr. Oz says so!
So yesterday at work one of the other trainers asked me a few “would you rather…” questions.
One was about which piece of equipment I would choose from the gym as a weapon if a zombie apocalypse happened…
And the other was about which I would rather give up, nuts or dairy.
Which got me to thinking, isn’t a healthy lifestyle really all about “would you rather?”
I mean think about it…If you could eat whatever your favorite food is every day and look and feel great and be healthy, wouldn’t you? Would you really eat vegetables or cut out gluten and processed foods if you didn’t have to?
BUT that isn’t reality.
The reality of it is you are always playing a sort of “would you rather” game. Would you rather eat that pint of ice cream and feel crappy later or eat a natural, whole foods meal and feel energized and good later?
Would you rather eat pizza and chips and not perform well or eat a burger without a bun and a salad and get in a great workout?
I personally would rather eat well and feel great, be healthy and perform well. That is why I eat well most of the time. Plus I do find that I enjoy all of the whole natural foods that I eat. I love grass-fed beef and fish and fruits and veggies (especially cauliflower for some reason haha).
BUT there are those cheat days when I WOULD RATHER indulge and even risk feeling super crappy the next day than eat healthy.
Eating well is a choice and sometimes it isn’t always an easy choice. When you are stressed or pressed for time or put into situations where the EASIEST thing to do is cheat, you are more tempted to just give in without really thinking about the consequences of your choices (and how you will feel tomorrow about them).
Eating well and working out isn’t easy (yes it is easier for some people than for others), but it is a choice.
So think about it…What would you rather do?
I frankly think that developing a healthy diet is simple.
People make it seem like it is super complex. Heck companies want people to think it is complex so they can sell supplements and weight loss products and processed foods that supposedly have all these health benefits.
But honestly, you really only need to remember one thing when it comes to eating healthily – eat whole, natural food!
Cut out all the crap!
Don’t worry about freaking supplements even if they were on Dr. Oz. Don’t worry about your micronutrient intakes. Don’t worry about exactly how many fruits or vegetables you eat or how many omega-3s you are getting.
Just cut out all of the processed crap!
If you started focusing on just eating natural foods, so things that spring out of the ground and aren’t processed…aka usually have a short shelf life unless frozen, your healthy and the way you feel will improve exponentially.
Just by starting to even cut out one processed thing a day, like the crackers you eat for a snack (even if they are supposedly “healthy” crackers), you will be cutting out a ton of crap from your diet.
Processed foods are loaded down with vegetable oils and sugars. I mean take a look at any nutritional label on any pre-packaged food at the grocery store. I bet there are a ton of things listed in the ingredients that you’ve never heard of.
AND I bet all of them have way more sugar than you expected…but then again you were probably more worried about the fact that they were supposedly advertised as low-fat or “all-natural,” right!?!
But seriously, those pre-packaged foods can do some damage.
Here we are worried about the amount of saturated fat in an animal product and yet people are consuming a TON of simple sugars and vegetable oil (which is SUPER bad because it causes inflammation because it contains a horrible ratio of omega-6s to omega-3s) in all of the processed crap out there!
Anyway, the point is if you cut out processed, pre-packaged foods and focus on eating whole, natural foods, you will instantly cut out a TON of bad things.
Once you do that and have a good diet baseline, then start looking at ratios and exactly what natural foods are best and how you react to gluten, dairy and carbs, in general.
Don’t make it complicated to start!
At work we constantly talk about getting back to basics. And that is exactly what you’ve got to do here. Don’t make a ton of changes and complicate your diet.
Make one simple change and get back to the basics – eat whole, natural foods!
So some woman lost weight doing a “Starbucks diet.”
Someone also lost weight eating Subway while another person lost weight eating only fast food.
Basically you can “lose weight” eating just about any old crap. I mean heck I could even go eat only M&Ms and frozen yogurt and even lose weight.
Losing weight on the scale is all about calories in vs. calories out. If you take in fewer calories than you consume no matter where those calories are from, you will lose weight.
BUT that doesn’t mean that you have good body composition OR are healthy.
Weight lost on the scale doesn’t mean instant good health and the body composition of your dreams!
Losing weight is easy.
Losing fat and being healthy is the difficult part.
I hate all of these articles about these fad diets because they make people associate losing weight to be “skinny” on the scale with health. When in reality, the two don’t necessarily go hand in hand.
I know many people hate the term “skinny-fat” but that is really what you become if you eat crap but maintain a weight that says you are skinny by BMI standards.
YOU AREN’T HEALTHY JUST BECAUSE YOU FIT INTO THAT SIZE 4 JEANS LADIES!
Health means eating the right stuff day in and day out regardless of what the stupid dang scale (that you should have thrown out the window by now) says.
AND if you eat the RIGHT FOODS day in and day out you will also be able to achieve optimum body composition if that is what your goal is.
Anyway, if you just want to “lose weight” go eat whatever you want.
If you actually want to be HEALTHY and change your BODY COMPOSITION, let’s talk about eating whole, natural foods and cutting out the processed, sugary crap.
So think twice before you start that fad diet…Think about whether or not “losing weight” is TRULY your goal…
Today Lois and I were talking about her daughter trying to change her diet and how difficult that can be.
Lois didn’t think that her daughter could make the transition to Primal like she did.
But I told her that her daughter most definitely could.
Everyone goes about starting a healthy diet in a different way. And even once we’ve settled on a healthy diet, we are constantly editing it – we are constantly changing it to fit our lifestyle better, make us healthier, help us reach a fitness goal….
No one’s diet is exactly the same as anyone elses.
For some people, making a drastic diet change is simply impossible. They have to ease themselves into it.
That is exactly what Lois’s daughter will have to do.
It may start with cutting out soda. Then vegetable oils. Then gluten until she finds a diet that not only makes her healthy but allows her to reach her goals and enjoy life.
Yes that’s right…ENJOY LIFE.
Most people don’t consider “enjoying life” when they start a new diet.
You have to create a diet that works for you! And you won’t stick to a diet that you don’t enjoy!
While you want to eat what’s healthy, you also have to allow yourself foods that you enjoy.
While you don’t want to eat a ton of bacon or a ton of cheese, if you enjoy those foods ALLOW yourself to have them. If you deprive yourself for too long, you will just fall off the wagon and have the hardest time getting back on.
If you enjoy pizza, while you don’t want to eat it every day, you can give yourself meals to eat pizza at…and I’m not talking about some Paleo/Primal pizza…I’m talking about the real thing.
I think that all out cheats once a week really work for some people.
There are just so many things that can work. You just need to find out what you enjoy the most while staying in line with what is healthy.
Only if you enjoy the diet will it really work for you!
And if a diet doesn’t work for you? You won’t stick to it no matter how healthy it is!
When most people go on a “diet,” they usually want to lose weight or look good at a specific time in their life. Most of the time there is an end date in which they must accomplish this goal. And after this end date, usually people plan on returning to their previous eating habits.
A lifestyle has no end date. Yes, you may have short-term goals – events that you want to look good for. Yes, you may start a lifestyle because you want to lose weight.
But unlike a diet, you aren’t going to go back to your old eating habits once you’ve reached your goal.
Yes, you are going to cheat. Heck cheating will probably even be a part of your lifestyle. BUT you will cheat on your terms and always return back to your healthy lifestyle.
Making a “diet” into a “lifestyle” means that you don’t just give up your healthy eating habits at the first sign of adversity.
It means sometimes not cheating while everyone else is indulging.
A prime example of this is Ryan’s dad who started a version of the Man Bicep diet a little over two months ago.
Ryan’s dad started the diet so he would be healthy and active when his first grandchild is born in August (Congrats Jamie!!!). He has lost over 20lbs and has increased his energy level.
While he would still like to lose more, Ryan’s dad has basically accomplished what he set out to do – he feels better than he has felt in YEARS.
And because this is more than a DIET, because this is a LIFESTYLE, Ryan’s dad has stayed committed even though he could be tempted to eat badly every day!
His co-workers invite him to eat out almost every day. And when he goes out, he could cheat. It would be easier. But he doesn’t. He sticks to his healthy eating habits.
He could cheat every time he has to make food for parties for his children and their friends. He could have cheated the entire time Ryan and I were out in California.
But he didn’t.
He doesn’t cheat at every opportunity because his healthy eating is about MORE than losing weight – it is about being HEALTHIER and FEELING BETTER.
And I’m so proud of Ryan’s dad. Not because he didn’t cheat, but because he truly has created a new, healthy lifestyle for himself.
So now take another look at your eating. Are you eating well with an end date in mind or will you forever stay committed to your healthy lifestyle because it has improved your quality of life?
If your eating hasn’t improved your quality of life, is it really worth continuing or should you start experimenting with other diets?
Is your eating program merely a diet or is it a lifestyle?
P.S. If you’ve emailed me and I haven’t responded, I’M SORRY! I will get to emails this weekend!