Balancing your nutritional intake throughout the day and week can be really difficult. You plan out meals and snacks in your head, and then cravings hit or you go to the gym and are starving when you get home. This post is going to be a little more of an outline as to what I do to keep food intake as balanced as possible. Before you read any further, head on over to the National Nutrition Awareness site and take this cool Rate Your Plate quiz. It's short and easy and you can get a reality check/a better idea as to how you're doing on your daily nutrition journey.
First, if you've ready any of my previous health and wellness posts, you'll know my basic principles are:
(1) get the good stuff in so you'll have less room for the bad stuff
(2) get the good stuff in so you don't have to feel super guilty when you indulge in the bad stuff
(3) sugar (especially sugar-sweetened beverages) is my biggest frenemy ( I hate him so much, but he's seen me through some tough times, so I can still see him occasionally)
As a hobbyist (aka not someone certified in any kind of nutrition program), I only know the science that I research. However, one big thing I rely on is my intuition. We all have at least a basic knowledge of whether or not we should be consuming something.
Here we go:
(+) In the morning, I eat a lot of food. There are a few reasons why. I exercise regularly, and as I understand it when your muscles are well-developed, it takes more energy (calories- remember, a calorie is just the unit name for energy) to maintain them. This means that I burn more calories at rest than I would if I wasn't toned. Also, I've always felt like I have needed more food to feel satisfied than many of comparably-sized friends. Lastly, I workout about 90 minutes after I eat breakfast, so I need something that is going to keep me satisfied
(+) I snack constantly. Yes, I mentioned that I eat a big breakfast, but I usually have a small snack right before I head to the gym. For example, today it was 1/2 an apple: high in fiber to keep that sense of fullness and a little natural sugar for a small boost.
(+) I sneak veggies into my snacks and meals. Today, I couldn't decide between hummus or guac for my afternoon snack, both of which I usually enjoy with 2 Wasas cracker (pretty goo size, high-ish in fiber, and 40cals). So today since I hadn't included a veg in my breakfast or morning snack, I opted for 1 Wasa cracker and 1/6 of an orange bell pepper. I'll do something similar with my lunches if I'm behind on my veg intake.
(+) Smoothies are easy ways to sneak in good stuff. I frequently boil carrots until they're soft and blend them into my smoothies. I also use spinach and kale. Some people are also lacking in their dairy intake and smoothies are a great way to sneak a little dairy into your day. Look for any yogurt that has no added sugars or weird ingredients, and add a few spoonfuls to the smoothie.
(+) Plan ahead. If I'm going to be in the car or out and about through a meal or snack time, I bring something with me to snack on. I usually opt for a smoothie because they're easy to sip on while driving. Also, know your schedule: if you have an office party at night, then you may wind up eating something less-than-healthy. Make the beginning of your day light and nutritious so you won't feel like you need to obsessively edit your eating when you're with friends and colleagues!
(+) I make goals: 3-4 fruits, 4-6 vegetables, something dairy, something grainy, and something indulgent. I realize that is vastly oversimplifying it, but that is minimum consumption goal. For example, yesterday I had: 1 banana, 1 apple, appx 6-8oz lemon juice, 2/3c chopped peppers, a few slices of onion, 1/4 cauliflower, 1 tomato, mixed veg (in the form of homemade chili), lots of shredded mozzarella, 5oz yogurt, Wasa cracker, and 1 slice of cinnamon raisin Ezekiel bread. And ok.... wine. 8 ounces.
(+) I never skip a meal. Unless I'm sick or really busy, I never skip a meal. And even if I miss a meal, I will eat something to hold myself over. This was something I worried about with my students in Korea. They are borderline obsessed with being/staying thin-- I even heard from another teacher that said she has a student who claims she only eats 1 apple every day! Ya know what... this is interesting and important enough, that I'm going to make a whole post about it in the next few days.
(+) If I don't know what it is or what's in it, I no longer feel shame about asking or looking at the label. Ultimately, it's my body and I don't really care about looking like the freak who has to read all the yogurt labels before making a selection.
(+) I rotate tea and coffee. Some days I drink tea, and some drink coffee. Generally, if I'm going to the gym I'll have coffee 30 minutes before I leave. Otherwise, I sip on green tea all day. Both have some health benefits, and I like them equally, so I keep them both in the morning rotation.