Food as Fuel
Many of us turn to food when we are stressed, lonely, or bored. We look to food as a form of stress-relief, comfort, or companionship and end up eating for reasons other than hunger.
Today, I’m challenging you to look at food simply as fuel for your body to perform efficiently. Just like your car, your body is a finely tuned vehicle – give it good fuel and it will “take you places”!
When you start looking at food as fuel to provide energy for your body, it’s amazing how quickly your food choices will change. Can a bag of chips or a few cookies provide your body with the nutrients it needs to power through work, keeping up with your kids, or a good workout? Definitely not!
Fueling your body properly means eating foods in their most natural state and and eating with thought and planning. Mindful eating replaces mindless snacking. Healthy meal plans replace eating on the go and trips to the drive through. When we select foods with a high nutritional value; balance our meals with a lean protein, complex carbohydrate, and healthy fat; and monitor our portion sizes, we have more energy, reduced cravings for sugary and starchy foods, a faster metabolism, and improved overall health.
Make it Sustainable
We’ve all heard the expression, “dial in on your nutrition.” For many people this is interpreted as denying yourself the foods you love, counting calories, cutting out dairy/carbs/etc., and/or shrinking your portion sizes in an effort to lose weight quickly. We end up feeling deprived, hungry, and fatigued. While we might lose weight initially, once we go “off the diet” we gain the pounds right back.
It’s time to stop looking at “dieting” as the answer and start looking at how we can form habits that are sustainable. We aren’t looking for a “quick fix,” but a lifestyle change.
The reason so many of us “fall off the wagon” when we try to improve our diet is because we try to change too many things at once. We feel like we need to “eat clean” 100% of the time. This mentality is unrealistic, sets us up for failure, and results in periods of binge eating because we feel deprived. It’s also the reason why diets don’t work.
The best way to combat unhealthy food cravings is to focus less on dieting and more on eating a well-balanced diet with a few of the foods we crave in moderation – assuming we have enough self-control to not let it start a waterfall of poor eating. When starting out, I advocate following the 80/20 rule which is simply this: eat healthy 80% of the time. Focus on eating nutrient-dense foods (not pre-packaged or highly processed), lots of veggies, lean proteins, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats. (This list is a good place to start.) Then, have that glass of wine when out with your friends, piece of cake on your birthday, or nachos at the game and enjoy it! Gradually, you can work your way up to 85/15 and then to 90/10 if possible (which equates to 3-4 “indulgence meals” each week), but the key is to find a balance that works for you and create a lifestyle that is sustainable.
- Eat 5-6 smaller meals a day to stabilize blood sugar and insulin levels and regulate metabolism.
- Eat a combination of lean proteins and complex carbohydrates at each meal to slow the carbohydrate-to-fat conversion process.
- Eat adequate amounts of healthy fats (e.g. nuts, avocado) each day. One way to ensure you are consuming adequate amounts is to eat a thumb sized portion at each meal.
- Drink at least eight 8 oz. glasses of water a day (about 2 liters) – more if you drink caffeinated beverages and/or engage in strenuous exercise.
- Avoid over-processed, refined foods, and “fast food.” This includes fried foods, processed meats, refined sugar (e.g. white sugar, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, and sucrose), and white flour.
- Avoid foods containing chemicals, preservatives, artificial sugar, and saturated and trans fats. This includes foods like margarine, dairy creamers, and “diet” foods.
- Reduce your intake of sugar-loaded beverages, including alcohol and fruit juice.
- Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables to obtain necessary fiber, vitamins, and enzymes.
- Stick to proper portion sizes (see Calorie Guidelines PDF file for Men or Women below).
- Clean Eating Foods (AKA FYT, or Flatten Your Tummy foods, from the Game On! Diet)
- Foods to Avoid (AKA FLABB, or Fat Loading and Belly Bloating foods, from the Game On! Diet)
- Portion Control Guidelines (PDF) from Precision Nutrition – FOR MEN & FOR WOMEN
- Calorie Control Guide from Precision Nutrition
- KISS (Keep It Super Simple) Meal Planning Guide
- Healthy Food Substitutions for Baking
- Eat Clean, Save Your Green (Tips for Eating Healthy On a Budget)
- Click HERE for a great infographic on where to store your groceries, how to store them, and how long they will last
- Click HERE for more information on storing your meat, poultry, and seafood
- Pantry Items: Easy staples to have stocked in your pantry
- Food Substitutions Chart – Food substitutes for sugar, flour, butter, etc.
- Good-Better-Best Chart for Eating Real Food
Grocery Shopping Guides
- Weekly GROCERY LIST by Tosca Reno (from The Eat Clean Diet)
- Clean Eating Grocery Lists (By Store) by Gracious Pantry – includes shopping lists and brand recommendations for major grocery/health food stores.
Here are some suggested items found at Whole Foods, Costco, and Giant:
Looking for additional resources? Check out my Focused on Food – Resources Page HERE.