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  • Writer's pictureBrandon McDonald

What to ACTUALLY Eat

Updated: Mar 14, 2023



When I say, “don’t think of a white elephant”, what image pops into your head?


Exactly.


A white elephant.


Now, when I say, “don’t eat a cookie”, what suddenly sounds really good?


You get the idea.


So much of today’s “nutrition” conversation is based around what you should NOT eat. All the fad diets have it:

  • Keto says no Carbs.

  • Carnivores say “no” to non-animal products.

  • Whole 30 says “no” to anything fun. (Also… its actual use is to determine what you're allergic to, not to lose weight or eat “healthy”.)


For most of us, all or nothing isn't helpful long term. We just end up cycling back to the same choices we were making before.


The trick isn’t figuring out what NOT to eat, it’s figuring out what to say YES to.

How do I know what to say YES to?


Here are some basic rules to live by. Starting here will honestly get you 90% of the way there. Now, don’t get me wrong, the other 10% can be important (vitamin deficiencies, intolerances, etc.), but they are way less important if you aren’t already hitting these big ticket items:


  • Fruits and vegetables

    • basically always a yes,

    • basically always as much as you want

    • Eating them closer to their original state generally gains you more nutrients

  • Protein (this can be all over the place, but start here)

    • 30-40 Grams per meal

    • You can also add protein high snacks in your day (Greek Yogurt, Jerky, etc.)

  • Fiber

  • Fat

    • Limit Trans fats

    • Don’t be afraid of or avoid saturated fats (but know that they already occur pretty heavily in a typical American diet)

    • Add in unsaturated fats. You need them.

    • Nuts, fatty fish (salmon), and avocados are a great source

What about my favorite foods?


In short. Eat them.


But, here’s the catch. What you eat most of the time determines [takes deep breath]:


  • How you feel

  • How you look

  • How you recover

  • Your energy level

  • Your immune system

  • Fat loss and fat gain

  • Hormone regulation

  • Brain function

  • Emotional response

…And I could keep going.


So, yes. Eat the foods you like, but if you survive on a diet of Burgers and donuts, there’s a lot that your body is missing out on. If you’re ready to look out for your WHOLE self, instead of just your taste buds, try using this 80/20 rule.


80% of the time eat minimally processed foods

  • Lean meats

  • Fruits and vegetables

  • Whole grains

20% of the time eat the heavier processed foods

  • Desserts

  • Fast food

  • Fried foods


How do I make it happen?


I’m so glad you asked!


The first step is to set up your system so it can be predetermined.

  • Shop the way you want to eat

    • If it’s hard to eat a favorite food in moderation, don’t keep it in the house

    • Buy your favorite fruits and vegetables

    • Buy the protein options you want to cook or prepare

  • Set up days or times to enjoy your favorite foods

Date night anyone?

  • Plan nights for a dessert (and make it a good one!)

  • Don’t forget to keep snacks around that align with your goals

    • Remember: if it’s there, you’ll probably eat it

    • Find things you enjoy that fall in the 80% category

  • Get your family or friends invested in helping you make the right decisions

    • Don’t be afraid to talk about needing to make different decisions from time to time!


Next is figuring out ways to cook things you’ll actually enjoy eating.

  • Eating healthy shouldn’t mean eating boring

  • Find ways to cook veggies that you like!

  • Find new recipes to try


Last, but not least, find ways to meal prep (I know, I know. But, you knew it was coming at some point.) Meal prep may sound hard at times, but the more you practice it, the easier it becomes. The last thing you want is to get back in the habit of having nothing to eat and hopping on your meal delivery app even when it’s not helping you reach your goals (physically or financially). Having nutritious food just a quick warmup away is the easiest way to make smart decisions around food.

  • Leftovers are king here

  • Try to start with one big meal a week that you can turn into other dinners or lunches

  • Crock Pot or Instant Pot meals are a great way to make a lot with very little effort

  • When you’re ready for it, you can work on finding a time to cook multiple meals at once


All of this is gearing your environment around your goals. It takes work up front, but makes life so much easier in the long run!


Remember that the most successful plan is one that can be done consistently for a long period of time.


Where do my calories fit into this conversation?


Well, we have to talk about this right? Weight loss, gain, or maintenance all come down to the calorie in vs. calorie out equation (CICO).


If you want to count your calories, even for a short period of time, there are a lot of tools you can use. The simplest way to figure out a ballpark calorie zone try this equation:

  • Current weight x12 = maintenance

  • Goal weight x12 = calorie deficit/surplus

You don’t have to be exactly there every day, but you should be around that number on average throughout the week. Know that counting calories is an imperfect science. It will take some give and take to really dial in your system. The 2 biggest tricks are:

  • making sure you count everything you eat or drink, and more importantly…

  • stay away from “putting back on calories you burn” from exercise. (I could probably write a whole new blog about just this concept, just know it’s a dangerous road to travel and best if it’s just avoided altogether!)


Conclusion


Eating to give your body the nutrients it needs makes everything else so much easier. Yes, it will take work, but what it does for you in the long run will 100% be worth it. You don’t have to be perfect. In fact I’d rather you weren’t and you take chances and enjoy yourself. Just remember that taking charge of your food and knowing when to (and when to not) eat certain foods will help you live life to the fullest!



Special note:

Dietary needs based on allergies, pregnancy, disease, etc should be talked over with a doctor or even better a nutritionist.


Listen to Simple(ish) Fitness Podcast anywhere you get your podcast for conversations about your health, exercise, nutrition, and building a healthy lifestyle without flipping your life upside down!

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