What Should I Be Eating?
I get this question all of the time so I thought it was probably time to answer it in a public way (skip to the end if you want the straight answer with no explanation). If you don’t know me, I’m Laura-a Nutritionist with a background in Biology. I’m not a big fan of diets or traditional weight loss and I truly believe that real health & wellness is not all about kale salads with no room for wine or chocolate (my two favourite things!). LIfe is about balance and eating well is no exception!
If you’ve ever taken a look at Canada’s Food Guide (and if you haven’t don’t do it!-just read on) you’ve probably pretty quickly realized it’s WAY too complicated to actually attempt to follow in your crazy life (and even if you did you’d pretty quickly realize it’s not going to do much for you since it’s a one size fits all format and we really are unique little snowflakes).
You’ve probably heard (and experienced) the following enough by now to know it’s true: slashing and burning the amount you eat doesn’t work either (something called starvation mode…..another post). Basically diets are designed to fail (and make you feel like a failure at the same time).
So how should you eat to feel great and hit YOUR magic weight?
You eat simply. That’s the trick to not getting overwhelmed. In reality there are 3 actual food groups (not like 7 or 8 according to the Food Guide). All food is made from 3 macronutrients (or macros): Fat, Protein & Carbohydrates. That’s it! We need these three food groups to fuel our bodies. Boom. Done. The important part is HOW we put them together. A calorie is NOT just a calorie.
You’re actually probably not getting enough because fat does NOT make you fat (but sugar sure does). You NEED fat for smooth supple skin, for a sharp mind and ESPECIALLY to make hormones. Approximately 30% of what you eat every day should be fat. Yes-there are different kinds but really only one kind you need to completely avoid and that is Trans Fats. There are no safe trans fats (these are the only ones linked to heart disease) and they are found in processed foods: anywhere you see the word hydrogenated on a food label stay very far away. Lots more info on this topic will follow in a different post (we’re keeping it simple today) but bottom line-eat more fat! Great fats include avocado, butter, coconut oil, olives and egg yolks.
Protein-you probably already know this is important but most women don’t get nearly enough!
Did you know the reason your metabolism slooooows down as you age is because you naturally start losing lean muscle mass and replacing it with fat? Muscles burn energy just sitting there doing nothing while fat doesn’t burn anything no matter how hard your body is working so the more muscle you have the more calories you burn during the day. Simple. To maintain your muscles you need to eat enough protein. Protein is also really hard to digest (in a good way) and makes your body work harder to digest it. That means every time you eat protein your metabolism revs up and you also burn more calories. Basically you should be eating protein at every meal (not just at dinner). Things like eggs, meat, fish, edamame, broccoli, chickpeas, Greek yogurt and hemp hearts are great to add to breakfast & lunch to make sure your protein is covered.
Carbs. Probably the most controversial of the macros right now.
Carbs power your body-they are the easiest energy source (they break down quickly into glucose or sugar which your body burns for energy). Carbs include things like grains (breads, pastas) but also things like fruit, veggies and beans. The easy to digest carbs are called simple and these are the carbs that can cause a lot of trouble.
You see, easy to digest and made from sugar means that when you eat them, they very quickly flood your system with a whole lot of that sugar fuel. Great if you’re being super active and not so great if you’re sitting at your desk (or the couch) munching away.
See, if all that energy isn’t needed your good friend insulin will actually take it out of the blood and store it as fat. This is where the ‘sugar makes you fat’ saying comes from. Also, because all of the sugar flooded the body at once (remember quick to digest), it all got removed at once leaving you with low blood sugar and a very smart body craving more simple carbs as the fastest way to get it back up. Cue the viscious cycle of craving junk food and you’ll start to see the biggest issue with eating.
There are also complex carbs (these are your whole grains & veggies) and these are a lot slooooower to digest (fibre & water attached). These don’t have the same blood sugar issue associated with them. In any case possible you want to choose the complex carbs over the simple carbs. So whole grain bread & pasta over white, brown or wild rice instead of white. Whole fruits (with skin) instead of peeled or juiced. You get the picture.
The other thing you can do is to pair healthy fats and/or protein with carbs. Fat & protein take much longer to digest and will sloooooow down total digestion time, reducing the blood sugar issue. If you eat an apple try having 10 almonds with it. Absolutely have to have that muffin (ie sugarbomb?) then maybe only have half & add a tbsp of butter.
So to wrap it all up?
Eat fat & protein first. Round out your meal with carbs (make sure you earn them by being active). See how that works for you. Some people need even more fat and less carbs to start seeing movement on that scale and more energy. Some don’t. This is where is gets a little personal. But start here.
Eat protein with every meal (not just dinner). This is really important. Keep your metabolism revved all day.
Avoid simple carbs and choose complex ones instead. If you’re not active then you need to especially avoid simple carbs (they will immediately get stored as fat) and even watch how many complex ones you take it (grains not veggies).
Pick fat for your treats instead of sugar (full fat cheese, nut butter, treats made with a coconut oil base instead of chips, popcorn or baked goods).
Drink water all day long. Start your day with water and aim to sip on it all day long. Avoid pop, juice and anything else that has sugar in it (or artificial sweeteners-they’re almost worse). It’s a recipe for blood sugar disaster and one of the easiest ways to gain without understanding why.
That’s it for now!