Nutrition is a very complicated subject. I’m not an expert on this, although I believe that it’s sound advice, which I’ve gleaned from a number of sources. Another thing to keep in mind is that there is plenty of disagreement between the experts about what qualifies as a great diet. Here goes:
Talk to YOUR doctor about your fitness plans, both about exercise and diet. Make sure that he/she is OK with your approach.
I don’t like the term “diet.” Most folks use the term in a context that implies a a short-term eating strategy that you follow until you reach your weight-loss goal. Once having achieved that goal, you’re free to go back to eating whatever got you into this mess. Folks say that they’re “going on a diet.” Instead you should say “I’m changing my diet.” You should view this change in your eating habits as permanent. It’s about getting fit, not just losing weight. You can be thin and unfit, and that is not our goal.
Here are some general recommendations that can be applied to most of us:
- Eat a lot more vegetables. Leafy green ones. Learn to love them. Health experts highly regard Cruciferous vegetables. Examples include cauliflower, cabbage, cress, bok choy, broccoli and similar green leafy vegetables. Chard is good, too.
- Eat more fruit. Blueberries are praised for their antioxidant properties. Bananas have potassium, which may help you avoid cramping. Strawberries are good, too.
- Massively reduce your sodium intake (be cautious about eating food in cans, packages, and restaurants which can often contain huge amounts of salt). For me, a little salt can make all the difference in the world when it comes to flavor.
- Massively lower your refined sugar consumption—zero high fructose corn syrup.
- Lower or eliminate your wheat consumption (this will also reduce your sugar cravings). No white bread.
- Nix all the sodas (artificially sweetened or not). These things are about as bad for you as it can get.
- Eat more nuts (particularly walnuts and almonds). Don’t go too crazy (1/3 cup is a fair portion). There are lots of calories in them, but other than that they’re good for you.
- Hydrate every day. Drink between half of your bodyweight in ounces and one gallon of water a day (i.e., if you weigh 120 lb., drink between 60-128 ounces every day). Many Americans are chronically dehydrated. You’ll be exercising (sweating) a lot more, so you’ll need to replace that lost water. I have a great deal of difficulty keeping up with this one. Sometimes I bring a one-gallon plastic bottle to work filled with water and work on that all day. I have yet to quite make my goal of a gallon a day.
- Less red meat (at least keep to the lean cuts), more lean protein (soy, whey, chicken, pork (lean cuts only) and fish).
- Two 5 oz. glasses of red wine a day for men, one for women. Unless you have physiological or religious constraints, a little bit of alcohol every day is good for your heart. Red wine is the best.
- Unsweetened Greek yoghurt is good. Add fruit and nuts for a real treat. Try this for desert. Add Stevia (all natural) or agave (if you must) as a sweetener.
- Avoid all chemical additives, and all artificial sweeteners, colors and flavors completely.
- Approach fast food with skepticism. Fast food is often bad for you. Offerings can be very salty, high in bad fat, with portions that you don’t really need. There might be some healthy-ish offerings out there, but they must be uncommon (let me know if you find any).
- Dark chocolate is good for you (70% or higher cocoa content). It has less sugar than milk chocolate or white chocolate, with beneficial cocoa phenols. Here’s an article on WebMD.
- Eat more whole foods!
Smartphone users might like to try MyFitnessPal. I’ve found this app to be very helpful and easy to use. It’s a very smart calorie counter. Once the app is launched, you can point the phone at a bag/box and it reads the bar-code off the package. Voilà! the item is added to your meal. You can save your usual meals, recalling them easily. You initially set a caloric goal for the day (the app helps you determine the proper goal) and the app tracks your intake, letting you know how many more calories you have left for the day. If you workout that day, the app lets you add the workout calories burned (usually an estimate), allowing you to eat a bit more for the day, yet still lose weight.
In your search for a healthier approach to eating, consider checking out the Nutrisystem for men customer reviews they’ll shed some light on some important food issues. A good start is shopping at Whole Foods. It’s like a health foods supermarket. It may be a ways away (PCH and Crenshaw), and it’s pricey, but you can’t find a local place more dedicated to healthy, wholesome food. There’s also a store in Redondo and one in El Segundo, which is a huge place (at least three restaurants, including a bar).
I consider Sprouts to be a a lite version of Whole Foods. The quality seems lower, but so are the prices. Sometimes you can some great deals on produce.
I don’t follow my own advice ALL the time. I’ve gotten much better about what I’m eating, but I still have a ways to go. Here are some of my “cheats.”:
- I sometimes have toast with a spread on it from Land O’Lakes that’s made of butter and canola oil. I hope it’s better for me than just butter, but I’m not sure. Also, like anything else that’s “better” for you: if you use twice as much of the “better” foodstuff, then the “better” advantage is often lost.
- While it does have an artificial sweetener in it (sorbitol), the frozen Healthy Choice Premium Fudge Bars are only 100 calories, but taste delicious. It’s hard to tell the difference between them and the original sugar-sweetened variety.
Don’t worry if you “fall off the wagon” for a day or two. Just get back on. Everybody has lapses, just try to keep them to a minimum. Keep focused on the future, not the past.
One breakfast idea: Kashi Go Lean or oatmeal with walnuts and blueberries (add bananas or strawberries, if you’d like).
Eat more slowly. It’s not a race. Chew your food thoroughly. Give you body a change to recognize that you’re getting full. This will help you to eat less, yet still be satisfied.
Make changes to your diet gradually. It’s OK to make compromises, although they come at a cost. It’s rare to find someone whose diet is totally healthy, and that’s assuming that there’s an agreement on what exactly IS healthy. You’ll find that over time your tastes will change. That many of the old foods that you loved will have less appeal. You CAN have a bit of the bad stuff every now and then, just try to keep the portions small.