But what do you eat?

Despite the wealth of information out there about eating for health, weight loss and muscle gain, I believe that most people are still confused when it comes to nutrition. That they think there is some magic formula for eating correctly and reaching their health and fitness goals.

The evidence? Almost daily, in the gym, in the grocery store, after teaching a group fitness or indoor cycling class, someone approaches me and asks “but what do you eat?”. I’m assuming that they want my opinion because I teach fitness classes and look strong and lean (feel free to correct me if you think I’m wrong).

I don’t follow any specific diet. Not Atkins or Weight Watchers or The Zone. I don’t count calories or points. I have a cookie when I feel like it (but only one). I have a weakness for chocolate. What, then, do I eat?

For the last three years, I have been following the tenets of Clean Eating;

  • eating 5 or 6 small meals per day
  • drinking lots and lots of water
  • consuming whole grains, lean protein and healthy fats at each meal
  • limiting my alcohol consumption (no more than 2 glasses per week)
  • avoiding processed and packaged foods (no crackers or store-bought cookies)
  • attempting (ahem) to eliminate white sugar (this one is really hard for me)

I didn’t always eat this way. My husband is Italian and we used to eat lots of pasta, often with creamy sauces and fresh-from-the-bakery bread. I would happily eat a Starbucks muffin for lunch, thinking that because it was a ‘bran’ muffin, it was good for me. Cheese and crackers were a common evening snack (with a glass of vino, of course!).

After the birth of my third child, I started lifting weights. My body responded quickly to this new (to me) form of exercise (although I went from a size 12 to a size 6-8, I lost virtually no weight on the scales!) and I began to get serious about the nutritional side of fitness.

So, what do I eat?

I always eat breakfast (the best way to lose weight and maintain muscle). Usually it’s the remains of my children’s home-made, whole-grain waffles (I add quinoa flakes and whey powder for extra protein, flax seed, wheat germ and wheat bran for fiber and healthy fat), dressed with a bit of non-fat yogurt and some fruit. I don’t drink juice; water is much better for you!

Mid-morning snack is usually fruit and nuts (and only a few; although they are a great source of healthy fat, nuts are extremely high in calories), although if I’ve had a tough workout, this is when I’ll have my fruit and whey powder shake.

Lunch is always veggies and lean protein; cottage cheese or turkey or left-over chicken mixed with a cup or two of whatever raw veggies are in the fridge (my favorites are red and yellow peppers, cucumbers and spinach). No dressing, but a handful of unsalted sunflower or pumpkin seeds for crunch and healthy fat.

Mid-afternoon snack might be an apple or banana and peanut butter (no salt, no sugar added), or a brown rice cake with almond butter.

Dinner is always lots of greens (I’m loving kale, right now) and lean protein (about 4 oz). If I’m needing a bit more energy (days I teach and train, or when I have to teach in the evening), I’ll add a whole grain (couscous, quinoa, brown rice) or starchy vegetable (sweet potato, squash) to the meal. During the week, I usually make a fruit salad for dessert.

Some evenings I find that I need a snack (whole grain cereal and 1% milk or fruit and yogurt), some evenings I don’t.

My daily splurges? A teaspoon of chocolate syrup in my coffee, a ‘clean’ cookie or muffin that I’ve baked myself.

My weekly splurges? A glass of wine on Friday and maybe Saturday night. A small piece of some decadent dessert on Friday and Sunday evenings (those are ‘dessert nights’ in my house, without which my children would not be so patient with the rest of the healthy foods I present them with during the week).

There’s really nothing magical about eating healthily; eliminating white sugar and white flour is tricky at the start, but with practice and some good recipes, you’ll be eating clean (and losing fat!) before you know it.

Looking for an inexpensive way to jump-start your journey to fitness and health? Join my online Bootcamp today! Get more info by clicking the image below.

Looking for an inexpensive way to jump-start your journey to fitness and health? Join my online Bootcamp today! Get more info by clicking the image below.

Comments

  1. When it comes down to the bare basics, portion control is the main problem.

    The whole super sized attitude is what gets most people in trouble. Unfortunately, restaurants and fast food places keep raising prices. To get away with the increase in prices, they add more food which doesn’t cost them much.

    The guy that lost weight on the twinkie diet proves that portion control is key to weight loss. He may have lost weight but I am sure his body wasn’t happy with all that sugar.

    I would agree that eating a balanced diet of the right foods is best for maintaining optimal health but for people that need to lose a ton of weight, the low carb diet simply blows anything else out of the water.

    In the short term, losing 100 pounds on a low carb diet is better for long term health, than eating a balanced diet but quiting because you don’t see the results you need to see to stay motivated.

    I fully plan to at some point add grains and fruits back into my diet, but not until I reach my goal.

    It will be interesting to see my bloodwork in April, after a year of low carbing.

    Happy Healthy Living, 😀

    The Grumpy Man

    • I totally agree with your statements about portion control and the super-sizing phenomenon. And for sure, low carb does work when weight loss goals are extreme. The people I see, in a fitness setting, for the most part are looking to shed something in the 10-20 lb range. For these people, the biggest dietary culprit is empty calories, usually due to eating too much sugar in the form of refined carbs. Switching to a clean diet leads to noticeable changes that are sustainable for the long term. I believe that for these people it is not so much a diet as a new way of eating.
      Thanks for your comments.
      Wishing you continued success on your journey!
      Tamara

  2. Hi, my wife sent me here from Ravelry.

    She read your post there about foods associated with changes in retinal pressure: kale/collards (good) and spinach/orange juice (not). Can you add a pointer to the research cite, here or there? I want to show the abstract, and the full paper if I can get it, to my opthalmologist next visit, and to my neighbor who is a greengrocer.

    • Welcome! And thanks for stopping by!
      I will check with my hubby and add the reference to the comments section here. Check back in tomorrow.

      • Hi Hank,

        Here’s the citation and the complete abstract as seen on PubMed. Hope you can get your hands on the paper itself.

        Am J Ophthalmol. 2008 Jun;145(6):1081-9. Epub 2008 Mar 20.
        Glaucoma risk and the consumption of fruits and vegetables among older women in the study of osteoporotic fractures.

        Coleman AL, Stone KL, Kodjebacheva G, Yu F, Pedula KL, Ensrud KE, Cauley JA, Hochberg MC, Topouzis F, Badala F, Mangione CM; Study of Osteoporotic Fractures Research Group.

        Department of Ophthalmology and Jules Stein Eye Institute, University of California-Los Angeles, 100 Stein Plaza, Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA. colemana@ucla.edu
        Abstract

        PURPOSE: To explore the association between the consumption of fruits and vegetables and the presence of glaucoma.

        DESIGN: Cross-sectional cohort study.

        METHODS: In a sample of 1,155 women located in multiple centers in the United States, glaucoma specialists diagnosed glaucoma in at least one eye by assessing optic nerve head photographs and 76-point suprathreshold screening visual fields. Consumption of fruits and vegetables was assessed using the Block Food Frequency Questionnaire. The relationship between selected fruit and vegetable consumption and glaucoma was investigated using adjusted logistic regression models.

        RESULTS: Among 1,155 women, 95 (8.2%) were diagnosed with glaucoma. In adjusted analysis, the odds of glaucoma risk were decreased by 69% (odds ratio [OR], 0.31; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.11 to 0.91) in women who consumed at least one serving per month of green collards and kale compared with those who consumed fewer than one serving per month, by 64% (OR, 0.36; 95% CI, 0.17 to 0.77) in women who consumed more than two servings per week of carrots compared with those who consumed fewer than one serving per week, and by 47% (OR, 0.53; 95% CI, 0.29 to 0.97) in women who consumed at least one serving per week of canned or dried peaches compared with those who consumed fewer than one serving per month.

        CONCLUSIONS: A higher intake of certain fruits and vegetables may be associated with a decreased risk of glaucoma. More studies are needed to investigate this relationship.