Day #16: Replace, don't eliminate
You want to start eating healthy, so what do you do. You take out all of the "bad" stuff and instantly reduce your total calories. After 1-2 days of sticking to your new lifestyle of umm...healthy eating (questionable?) you are starving, bored and out of energy.
Well, if you are one of many people that still struggle to find ways to eat more healthy AND feel satisfied, you are not alone. Sure, you could eat fruits and veggies with all meals and snacks but if you are still overeating the "bad" stuff at your meals you haven't created a calorie deficit to support weight loss. Furthermore, the "bad" stuff may prevent any performance gains and leave you discouraged with your current training routine.
Maybe you've tried finishing the day with a nutritious and low calorie dinner but come 9pm and your favorite TV show, the sweet treats in the pantry start to call your name.
Having helped athletes with nutrition for the past 3 1/2 years, I've gotten really good at picking out the problem areas which I call "performance limiters". With every great part of an athletes' diet, comes a few sticky areas that need changing. Maybe it's the type of protein that an athlete is choosing to recovery with or the type of snack that an athlete prepares before training. Because many of my athletes struggle with overeating, I have no trouble telling my athletes to add in more nutritious choices. The struggle is often limiting the "reward" foods and emphasizing the foods which serve as excellent sources of fuel and as aids in recovery.
My tip to you, athlete or fitness enthusiast, is to break down each meal and snack. Focus on individual meals and snacks and find foods to replace. If you only look at your problem areas and instantly eliminate every food, you may find yourself stuck when you are hungry and without energy and not quite sure what to eat.
There is no reason why you should feel starved because you are attempting to maintain an intense/consistent exercise routine while reducing total calories (or trying to maintain weight while eating healthier). Sure, adding more fruits and veggies will add more fiber and water to each meal and snack, thus promoting a quicker feeling of fullness when you are eating. But, as an athletic individual, you don't need to stop eating bread, carbs or fats because you want to lose weight. You just need to find ways to feel satisfied with less calories, as you are incorporating more healthy foods into the diet, while replacing the not-so-healthy foods. Eating healthier does not have to be black or white. Make your life a little gray.
So, in this overwhelming world of making healthier choices, how can you do this?
It is likely that everyone has a food in at least 1 meal or snack (per day) that may be your weak area. Find a way to replace that food with a more nutritious option in an effort to reduce calories and/or create a feeling of fullness. The reason why I want you to focus on two things when you replace foods is that many people tend to under-eat at 1-2 meals and snacks during the day, thus encouraging a starving feeling later in the day, which encourages overeating.
Are you still stuck on where to start?
Focus on foods which you eat on a daily basis. Are the foods high in sugar, sodium or unhealthy fat (saturated/trans fat). If so, seek options which are lean/low protein, include healthy fats (mono/polyunsaturated), are high fiber, low in sugar or low in sodium. Furthermore, if you tend to eat healthy food (such as PB, nuts or olive oil) but have trouble restricting yourself to one serving, I suggest keeping these healthy foods but restricting yourself to 1 serving and adding in fruits and veggies to save calories but promote a feeling of fullness.
My best recommendation is to start adding more fruits & veggies (fiber), healthy fats and low fat protein to your diet.
Here are some suggestions:
Instead of cereal w/ skim milk
Try Oatmeal topped with cereal
Instead of a meal replacement bar
Try 1/2 bar w/ yogurt and a piece of fruit
Instead of nothing
Try a piece of fruit
Instead of a granola bar
Try 8 ounce greek yogurt (or low fat yogurt) w/ 5 almonds
Instead of a low calorie salad (veggies + fat-free dressing)
Try your normal low calorie salad + nuts, cottage cheese and salsa
Instead of sandwich (2 slices cheese, whole wheat sub, Mayo, lettuce) w/ chips
Try a sandwich w/ 1 slice cheese, 2 slices Nature Own High fiber bread, lots of veggies, hummus and 1/2 bag of 100-calorie popcorn
Instead of nothing
Try 1 string cheese w/ 5-10 pretzel sticks
Instead of latte w/ chocolate
Try 1 ounce dark chocolate w/ 1 orange
Instead of pasta w/ side salad
Try bowl of steamed veggies w/ pasta on top
Instead of rice and beans in a flour tortilla
Try a large salad w/ lean meat or tofu and 1/2 wrap filled with rice and beans
Instead of bowl of cereal
Try 1 graham cracker sheet w/ a little PB and honey
Instead of chips and dip
Try 1 bag of 100-calorie popcorn w/ 1 ounce cheese