Quite often I get messages where you ask me how to start eating healthy. I have been in your shoes and I remember the biggest mistake I made – going from one extreme to the other. In other words, I went from not giving much thought to what food I chose to starting to look closely at every bite I took and measuring it. I started restricting the foods I was consuming too much and little by little that pushed me to the eating disorders. From where I stand now I can say that the best way to adopt a healthier and more nutritious way of eating and as a result lose the excess weight is to realize that everything is a process and it occurs in stages. I am well aware that a person who used to choose hamburgers, French fries and wafers over anything else until yesterday will not share my opinion that carrots taste sweet or that a banana is enough as a sweetener for all creams and desserts. And I would not judge them. I did not share this opinion in the past myself and in the beginning my “healthy” eating felt like deprivation and like something that required willpower. This is why I am going to list some of the main steps you can take to feel confident that you are on the right track with your healthy way of life.
1.Don’t exclude any macronutrients
This means that you should not turn fats or carbohydrates into enemies. The body needs both. An interesting person J once said to me that protein, fat and carbohydrates were the equivalents of the past, the present and the future. It sounds slightly esoteric, but even if you don’t see it this way, you know that all three have their places in life. Likewise, all three macronutrients have their places in our diet. Neither fat is bad, nor carbohydrates. It all boils down to the type and amount of fat and carbohydrates we consume.
2.Focus on food in its natural form
This means that you should avoid the central aisles of the supermarket and stick to shopping around the periphery. Focus on foods that are as close to their natural form as possible. For example:
-fresh or sautéed vegetables instead of packaged chips or fried corn.
-fresh meat instead of cured bacon, sausages and the like.
-fresh fruit instead of packaged dried fruit (which in most cases contains added sugar).
3.Distribute your food intake evenly throughout the day
One of the main mistakes made by people who want to lose weight is to restrict their food intake too much and then compensate by overeating. You don’t have to restrict your food intake too much. In most cases, even if this works to some extent, the best result you can achieve is the undesired “skinny fat” body and gaunt appearance. A state in which everyone will look at you in alarm and ask if you are ill.
There are many ways you can distribute your food intake throughout the day, but for me the starting point is to eat 4 times a day. Three main meals and a snack. This way you will neither spend too much time thinking about preparing 6-7 meals, nor get too hungry.
4.Make sure that every meal contains a food that is predominantly protein.
You know that most foods contain more than one macronutrient. For example, oatmeal may contain mostly carbohydrates, but it contains some protein too. Whole eggs contain protein, but they have some fat too. This way, if you combine eggs and oatmeal, you will have protein from both foods. But to simplify, don’t think about this in the beginning. Think of foods according to their main macronutrient. In the example above the oatmeal will be a carbohydrate source, while the eggs will be a protein source.
So make sure that every meal you eat includes one food that contains mostly protein and then add foods that contain the other macronutrients.
As a starting point you can eyeball the amount of protein – make it as big as your palm (for women), as big as two palms (for men) and also as thick. It is important to point out that the palm is a part of the hand which excludes the fingers.
5.Make sure that two of your meals contain predominantly carbohydrates, but of different kinds.
This means that in two meals you should add mostly carbohydrates to your protein source. In one meal the carbohydrates should come from starchy foods (rice, potatoes, quinoa, oatmeal). In the other meal the carbohydrates should come from fruit.
The amount of the starchy carbohydrates will be the size of a closed fist for women and two fists for men.
6.Two of your meals should contain predominantly fat
This means that in two meals you should add mostly fat to your protein source. In one meal the fat should mostly come from animal sources. In the other meal the fat should be plant-based (for example, avocado, avocado oil, raw nuts, hemp seed).
The amount of fat to consume will be the size of one thumb for women and two thumbs for men.
Vegetables are important, because they provide microelements to the body and they also create a feeling of bulk in food, which provides more satiety. Try to add more leafy or cruciferous vegetables to the meal that contains starchy carbohydrates. The meal that contains more animal fat should be supplemented with more colorful vegetables.
Spices are among the most neglected elements in the world of healthy eating. I will never stop saying that satiety and satisfaction from food are a complex sensation. The more tastes we combine, the fuller we will feel. Taste receptors are related to our sense of smell. You know that if you have a stuffy nose, you can’t feel the taste of food properly. This is why, when you have enough spices in your meals, you will feel a fuller taste.
9.Make sure your plate contains various colors.
A while ago I wrote about photonic nutrition in my IFS Journal. That is to say, eating according to color. The different colors of foods mean that they contain different micronutrients. The more colors on our plate, the more micronutrients we get. Also, this leads to more satiety, because the way your food looks increases your enjoyment of it.
A frequent mistake is to eat tasteless and impersonal food. For example, the food people most often eat is oatmeal with some kind of nut milk or yogurt. Just this! No spices, no colorful fruits and nuts. The other example is eggwhite omelet – no color, no intertwining of tastes.
10.Don’t split food into its parts
It is no accident that an egg has a yolk or that pork has additional fat. I can assure you that if you eat two whole eggs, you will get fuller and the satiety will last longer than if you eat 5 whites. In the latter case you are very likely to get extremely hungry and eat even more food than you would have eaten, if you had added two yolks. We always make up for the calories we skip – and we end up eating the foods we avoid.
11.Combine fat and carbohydrates
You read that right. I know everyone advises against this, but just try it once and you will notice the enormous difference it makes. For example, this does not mean that you should not add fat to more carbohydrate-rich meals. It means that you will add fat, but it will constitute the lowest percentage of all macronutrients. For example, if you choose to have trout + quinoa + some kind of salad, it would be advisable to add some avocado or hemp seed. The presence of fat in the food enhances the tastes and once again contributes to the feeling of satiety.
12.Always make your food taste good
No one got fat, because they put some avocado oil or olive oil into their food. On the other hand, many people fall off the wagon, because they ate bland lettuce or coleslaw with no dressing and wondered how on earth to swallow the salad.
13.Add some salt to your food
This is another myth – “we should not eat salt”. Salt is very important for the body and its absence can cause bouts of hunger and make us overeat pastries. More on this topic you can read in my second book which is scheduled to be published at the end of the month.
14.Stay away from cheat days
This is crucial. Don’t get trapped in the vicious circle of cheat days. This is quite destructive for the mind and body. You don’t need a day when you are allowed to eat anything you lay eyes on. Accept that you are allowed to eat anything on any day, but most of the time you choose high-quality, real, nutritious food. If you still feel like having a piece of your mom’s cake or your grandma’s feta pie (banitsa), don’t wait until the cheat day comes. Have a small piece, right now. What will interfere with your goals is not the foods, but the amount and frequency with which you choose to consume them.
15.Don’t forbid yourselves any foods
This overlaps with the point above, but the more you forbid yourselves, the more you will break your own rules. Quite often people tell me they don’t eat this food or that, because if they have 1-2 spoonfuls, they feel like they have to eat the whole tray. This is what happens when we forbid ourselves a food. I used to do that when I had forbidden myself raw nuts and would only eat them on cheat days. Then I began to accept that I could have nuts every day, but I would for example add 10-15 pieces to my breakfast and would not have more. I learned to apply this approach to all foods. I know I can choose anything on any day, but the amount matters.
16.Don’t eat the same food and the same amount every day
You must understand that the body and the diet are not static. The sooner you understand this, the better. The body has different needs depending on how long we slept, how much we moved, whether we are ill or healthy, how stressed we are, etc.
Allow yourselves days when you have one larger meal in a deliberate and planned manner. I don’t mean that you should binge. I mean that you should have two pieces of fruit instead of one, slightly increase the amount of nuts or have a larger steak with a little more rice. Allow yourselves to have one more meal, if you feel you got hungry earlier. We must listen to our body and move to its rhythm. If we disregard its signals, we will often experience binging episodes.
17.Choose enough seasonal foods
It is no accident that certain foods are found in abundance during a certain time of the year. Nature has encoded in food the micro- and macronutrients we need during the particular season. You know that there are more carbohydrate-rich foods during the warmer months. During the colder months there are more fermented foods and fattier foods. This is no accident. Many people say that their appetites increase, when the seasons change. This may also be due to the fact that we don’t eat seasonal foods and our body is deficient in some micronutrients it needs. I am not saying you should eat seasonal foods only. That would be perfect, but I know it is difficult to achieve. I eat foods out of season myself. For example, I love broccoli and eat them all year round, but at the same time I add many foods that are in season to my menu.
18.Don’t try to be perfect
You don’t have to be perfect to get results. You don’t need someone to tell you what to do to achieve your goals. You have to learn to listen to your body and the more you do, the closer you will get to the desired results. The more people you ask how to eat, the more different opinions you will get. You will end up even more confused than before, so start with the basics and I promise you that in time and as you gain experience, you will learn to hear your body’s signals.