How To Start Eating Better
Cooking tip: When cooking meats, eggs, vegetables, potatoes, and in some cases grains, you should saute, fry (never deep fry), grill, bake, or boil them with extra virgin olive oil as a marinade and seasoned with herbs or spices and never use butter or any other type of saturated fat or trans-unsaturated fat.
There is such a thing as a good fat and a bad fat, bad fats are saturated fats or trans fats that are in many processed foods and cooking oils and spreads, sometimes being sold as a solid in a can or jar, such as palm kernel oil, sunflower oil, corn oil, coconut oil, vegetable shortening, margarine, butter, etc.
Monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats are the types of fats that your body needs to keep your bad cholesterol down and will keep your cells healthy due to the omega fat in them. Many nutrients are fat-soluble, which means they need a fat in order for your body to absorb it.
Good fats are found in oils such as olive oil, canola oil, avocado oil, flax-seed oil, and grapeseed oil. You can also bake with certain oils instead of butter or margarine, I use extra virgin olive oil as a replacement for butter in everything due to its undetectable taste and the fact that the two have recipe measurement equivalency, so one cup of butter is equal to one cup of extra virgin olive oil.
Protein Source: 30 – 40 grams of protein is your target amount per meal, as the human body can only absorb that many grams of protein in one sitting. A protein is a combination of amino acids called amino acid chains, and what’s called a complete protein is one that offers all nine essential amino acids that the body cannot produce on its own. Not all of those listed below provide a complete protein source, but all contain at least some of the following nine essential amino acids: histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine.
Meats, eggs, and dairy milk provide a complete protein on their own, and so do chia seeds, however, legumes and nuts often require being matched with a whole grain such as oats to create a complete protein. Knowing this rule of matching nuts with grains will help you adequately consume all nine essential amino acids needed for muscle repair.
⦁ Dairy Milk (or lactose-free dairy milk) or Non-Dairy Nut Sourced Milk such as cashew, almond, soy, etc. Aside from protein, milk also offers high amounts of calcium and is fortified with Vitamin D, making it the most prominent source of these two nutrients. While a certain amount of Vitamin D is found naturally in fish skin and liver, cheese, egg yolks, and even some species of mushrooms, it does not naturally exist in much else, except for one other prominent source and that’s the sun. When ultra-violet rays hit your skin, it triggers a process of synthesis, resulting in the creation of Vitamin D. Whether from the sun or milk, once in your body it must pass through your liver or kidneys for it to be used by your body. Without it, your body cannot absorb calcium properly, resulting in depleted mineralization of the bones and making them prone to breaks.
⦁ Greek Yogurt
⦁ Whole Grains and seeds such as Oats, Quinoa, Sorghum, Amaranth, and Chia Seeds – these can be found in such foods as oatmeal, cereal, whole grain bread, granola, etc, or can be purchased on their own separately.
⦁ Black walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, pine nuts, pistachios, Brazil nuts, cashews, pumpkin seeds, watermelon seeds, peanuts, peanut butter.
⦁ Several of the above two source options can be found in nutrition bars, energy bars, and protein bars.
⦁ Legumes – such as lentils, split peas, soybeans, black beans, red kidney beans, chickpeas (also known as garbanzo beans), etc.
⦁ Protein Supplements – whey protein powder (a dairy product), such as Optimum Nutrition’s Gold Standard 100% Whey. Other protein supplements exist that derive their protein from other sources such as eggs, plants, seeds, nuts, etc., but whey is the best in my opinion, and if you’re lactose intolerant this particular brand contains the enzyme lactase which breaks down any lactose that it contains.
⦁ Meats such as chicken, turkey, fish, but stay away from red meat like beef as it is hard on your intestinal system and takes longer for your body to break down and digest, also try to avoid fatty meats like pork.
Fruits, Vegetables, and Tubers: Surprisingly, sweet peas, green beans, and gourds, are all classified scientifically as fruit and not vegetables because they develop from flower blossoms. Vegetables on the other, such as lettuce, celery, cabbage, asparagus, do not develop from a flower blossom, but instead are the plant itself or a part of the plant such as the stem or leaf. Carrots, like potatoes, grow as part of a plant’s root system so they are not technically a vegetable and are actually a tuber.
I’m putting all three of these groups together because many people don’t know or even care whether something is a vegetable, tuber, or a fruit, and honestly neither do I because they’re all carbohydrates or starches and what determines a fruit, vegetable, or tuber’s importance is its nutritional value and what vitamins and minerals it provides. Henceforth, I will refer to all of these as plants and plant products.
The reason green and dark (blue or purple) plants and plant products are pushed as “healthier” is because they allegedly contain more nutrients and anti-oxidants, but that’s not quite accurate. Color variations are actually just the result of varying pigments from phytochemicals such as carotenoids, chlorophyll, and anthocyanin. Carotenoids, give plants and plant products varying pigments such as bright red, orange, and yellow. Chlorophyll gives them their varying hues of green, and anthocyanin gives them hues of dark red, purple, and blue.
Corn, which is a vegetable that can be used as a grain when dried, contains anti-oxidants and also both lutein and zeaxanthin which are nutrients necessary for healthy eyes. Orange plant products such as butternut squash, sweet potatoes, and carrots contain beta-carotene, which is an anti-oxidant and when processed through your liver produces vitamin A (also known as retinol). Vitamin A is important for many things including to maintain healthy teeth, skeletal and soft tissue, mucus membranes, skin, and sustain healthy vision.
Another example of a food item that is not green or purple and yet still has nutritional value is the water chestnut which is white in appearance, but one serving of which contains 10% of your daily value of B-12 and potassium.
The following is just a list of some of the fruits, vegetables, and tubers I like due to taste and versatility. Add to the list all you want, there’s no such thing as a bad vegetable, tuber, or fruit (just bad tasting ones).
Also remember that herbs and spices are plants or are plant derived and therefore, deserve a place among these. Herbs such as rosemary, have long been admired for their nutritional benefits, having anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, antiseptic, or antioxidant properties. This is why you should stop adding the mineral compound of sodium and chloride (also known as salt) to your foods and start adding herbs and spices. Even organic foods contain enough of the mineral sodium that there is no need to add salt to any food you are cooking!
⦁ Green peppers, red peppers, yellow peppers, orange peppers, romaine, broccoli, zucchini, yellow squash, butternut squash, pumpkin, cucumber, peas, green beans, watermelon, sweet potatoes, corn, red beets, water chestnuts, blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, cherries, bananas, acai berries, apples, oranges, cranberries, pineapple, kiwi, papaya, mango, and the list goes on and on.
Grains: Everyone knows that grains give you fiber and carbohydrates, but they provide a whole lot more. From iron to protein, magnesium, potassium, calcium, Vitamin B-6, Vitamin C, and Vitamin E, the following is a list of excellent grain choices that can provide some or all of these nutrients to your diet. Aside from buying these products in their own packaging, you can find them in breads, cereals, and nutrition bars.
⦁ Basmati Rice, Black Rice, Wild Rice, Jasmine Rice, Red Rice, Arborio Rice
⦁ Quinoa, Red Quinoa
⦁ Freekeh (Green Durum)
⦁ Farro Perlato
⦁ Chia Seeds
How you mix and match all of the food groups I’ve explained above for breakfast, lunch, and dinner is entirely up to you and your taste buds. Aside from eating nutritional food and cooking in the healthiest way possible, the only other thing you must consider is how much you’re eating. When it comes to the above foods, your main concern should be portions and that’s probably going to be the hardest thing to figure out.
My breakfast, which is eaten post-workout, is usually made up of about two cups of whole grain cereal with non-dairy milk and a protein shake and then once I get to work I drink a mixed combination of fruit juice, vegetable juice, and green tea. Lunch is usually about a cup of granola and a cup of Greek yogurt with a nutrition bar either for brunch or for an afternoon snack. I always eat about a cup or an appropriate serving size of each of the three food groups listed above for dinner. My body type, my lifestyle, and my body weight goals determine how much food I consume and the same should be true for you as well.
Data was collected from the following sources: