If you read the last few posts, you obviously know I'm super pumped about this feel-good-approach to eating. The only problem is: it still feels like a really huge concept. It's something that sounds great in theory, but in practice, you might be left wondering how exactly to make that shift, especially if you are feeling ready for monumental change and it sounds too damn slow. So I want to talk more specifically about how to get started with this, and give you some tangible tools that make changing our approach to eating a little better and a little easier. The 'change' part is key because if we change nothing, nothing will change.
Balance, balance, balance! 75% of my day is just re-balancing macronutrients that have strayed into some majorly beige eating.
With that, below is my beloved plate model. I know. Many of you may have seen something like this before, and you're probably thinking "doesn't that seem a bit basic?" It is. And that is the beauty of it. It's flexible, it's cross-cultural, it meets your needs, and it's SUCH a great place to get started, especially if you feel lost or overwhelmed by too much information.
Please remember that what works for you, doesn't work for everyone. Many of us still have some of the diet industry messaging in the back of our head: "Wait, I thought carbs were bad??", "Does fruit have to be at breakfast?" etc..
This is not a list of rules. This is a starting point. Try it out, even if you're skeptical. The goal is to avoid the desire for perfection and doing things right according to my direction. The goal is to take this and make it your own and do whatever works best for you in your life.
Each piece of the pie is going serve a purpose, I could go on forever about these macronutrients. but for now we will keep it simple:
Carbohydrates are our fuel, they give us the energy we need to get through our days. Our bodies chop up carbs into sugar, which our tissues convert into energy. The big issue with carbs is that they have morphed into this cheap, overused, refined bedrock of so many diets that it can cause problems. Less processed, high fibre carbohydrates are going to release sugar more slowly, which means we get a nice steady and sustained energy fix, that prevents crashes and keeps us fuller for longer.
Examples: Brown rice, oats, quinoa, whole grain tortillas/roti/chapati, high fibre/low sugar cereals, bread (pumpernickel, dark rye, sourdough ryes or freshly baked are your best bets, but as a general rule, anything but cheap white bread that comes in a plastic bag and is branded)
Protein is really effective at helping us manage cravings, and getting a good source of protein whether vegans, vegetarians or meat eaters, is a really great way to stay satisfied throughout the day. Not to mention the hundreds of functions protein has in the body. The same advice goes for proteins: less processed, more whole foods, are always better than supplements or bars. But don't forget to do whats best for you, so it's always your choice.
Examples: Chicken, turkey, eggs, lean cuts of meat (look for a loin ending). Local and pasture raised is best but a true luxury and not always available to all
Eggs, cheese (not including cream cheese, cheese whiz or other processed cheese product), milk, yogurt (greek yogurt is higher in protein), cottage cheese
Nuts, beans (lentils/chickpeas), soy products (soy milk, tofu, tempeh, edamame), seeds, hemp hearts
Our stomachs don't really know the difference between carbs and proteins and fats. It speaks the language of volume. If it is full - it feels full, if it is empty - it feels empty. How do we add volume without adding too many calories/fat/carbs? Veggies. It's all about the veggies! BUT, remember, the carbs are important for energy, and the protein helps the meal last a few hours. If you go with a salad-only lunch, hunger will strike in about 30 seconds.
Any fresh fruit or vegetable, raw or cooked. Local and seasonal is best. If you're looking for financially savvy options, frozen is better than canned (or take a peek at our gardening section!)
Not sure what to do if you don't like fruit and/or vegetables? Check out this article.
So, if you're feeling lost, start with this, and experiment as you go. If you still haven't been able to kick your need for convenience food, the plate model can even be used at McDonald's! The point is to simply start somewhere, and if you're already moving along the spectrum, just tweak it as needed. If you are already crushing this balanced eating, try playing around with timing. Or give time-restricted eating a try - by fitting all eating into a 12-hour window.
I do not follow this exactly every day or every meal. I can tell you though when I am packing my lunch and snacks for the day ahead, I always make sure there is some form of protein, and both fruits and vegetables. The more food groups the better.
Are you worried that this is going to cost you an arm and a leg? Think again!