Nutritional needs vary widely from one person to the next. While I can’t include a customised meal plan for everyone on the programme, I can share with you my top picks and items that I eat on a regular basis.
This basic diet guideline ensures I’m fuelling my body with whole, natural healthy foods the majority of the time. Hopefully they will help you, too!
Fit tips for healthy meals!
First things first – cut back or eliminate as many processed foods as possible and all refined sugar from your daily food intake. Examples of processed foods include crackers, chips, frozen entrees, and lunch meats, which are also full of nitrates.
Excessive amounts of refined sugar can be found in sodas, juices and in most processed, packaged foods. Start to cut back on your sugar intake, with the aim of cutting it completely from your diet in the near future. Start by having sugar every other day, then only once every few days. This is often a more feasible approach than going cold turkey on the sugar. Trust me, your body will thank you for these changes!
Rather replace these foodstuffs with as many whole food options as possible, such as lean protein, whole grains, veggies, fruits, and heart-healthy fats. These are the foods that are going to deliver the energy you need to fuel your workouts and will nourish your body to properly recover and get the results you deserve.
For example, if I get a wrap or sandwich for lunch, I’ll make sure to make a small side salad to go with it. This ensures I meet my daily veggie intake, which delivers all the nutrients and fibre I need. It’s also a low-calorie option that helps fill me up. In addition, I try to add more green veggies to all my other meals throughout the day, and I make sure that I get a serving of lean protein at each meal or with every snack I eat.
Another important element to consider is portion control. If you have no clue how much you’re consuming at each meal, take a second to look at the serving sizes of the foods you eat most often and measure out what you’re eating for the next week or so to help get you on track. Once you feel comfortable with estimating serving sizes, go ahead and do it on your own. You don’t need to measure everything every day, just stick to a few simple portions at each meal.
A simple way to approximate your ideal daily protein intake is to aim to get 1.6-2.4 grams of protein per kilogram. As a practical example, if I weighed 57kg I would need between 90-130g of derived protein per day. When you spread that figure across 4-6 meals and/or snacks, it becomes pretty simple. Aim to get anywhere from 20-35g of protein at each meal. If you do so, by the end of the day you would have reached your goal!
Below are my top food choices for protein, veggies, fruits, other carbs and heart-healthy fats:
Proteins: Chicken breast, chicken thighs, turkey breast, lean ground turkey, venison, lean steak, fish (white fish and salmon are my favourites), whey protein, egg whites or whole eggs, and non-fat or 2% plain (it is very important to stick with the plain option and avoid the sweetened or flavoured varieties as you’ll end up with tons of excess sugar) or Greek yoghurts.
Veggies: Anything green! Kale, spinach, romaine lettuce, green beans, bell peppers (red, green, yellow – they’re all delicious and help make a great stir fry!), beets, bok choy, broccoli, zucchini, squash, onions, mushrooms, tomatoes, and asparagus.
Fruits: Berries are always my top pick as they’re packed with fibre and antioxidants. Blueberries, strawberries, raspberries are my faves (always opt for fresh options), bananas, apples, oranges, and grapefruit.
Heart-healthy fats: Avocado, almonds, pistachios, flax and chia seeds, coconut oil, olive oil, and almond and peanut butter.
Regarding cheat or treat meals, it’s often a good idea to welcome some other food options into your diet after a solid week or two of strict adherence to the plan. One of the ways I’ve been able to stay so focused and balanced year round is because nothing is ever off limits. If I want a burger and fries on the weekend, I have it. Having a meal out on weekends and some type of mid-week dessert ensures that I’m never more than a couple of days away from my next “indulgent” meal. With the wide variety of options to choose from on the list, you should never feel deprived or restricted.
Lastly, don’t forget to up your water intake. I typically drink 3.5 litres of water a day. I also have 1-2 cups of coffee (I skip the creamer or sugar and opt for light almond milk instead) and green tea. If you’re a diet soda drinker, try to max out at one a day or one every other day.
Author: Tanja Schmitz
Founder and Editor of Fitness Magazine. You’ll find her behind her computer or on her bike, dreaming up new ways to improve or create content for you.