A Practical Guide To Healthy Living
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What I Eat

WOMAN LICKING YOGURT LID

All this talk about metabolism and my new paradigm has lead more than a few of you to ask, “so . . . what ARE you eating, anyway?” Short answer is: a lot of lean protein and non-starchy vegetables. Like at most every meal. I’ve found over the last few months that getting about 1 gram of protein per pound of body-weight sets me up for feeling satisfied most of the time. Fill that out with lots of fiber from non-starchy vegetables (like leafy greens, cruciferous veg like broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts, etc.) and my guess is you’ll feel pretty satiated too. You can add some fat if you like (coconut oil has made its way into my life – I love the stuff), which definitely ups the satiety of your foods, but be careful if you’re going for fat loss . . . in that case, I try to keep my total carbohydrate intake to about 100 grams per day and not use much added fat when prepping my food.

What does this translate to? For me, whether I’m being looser with my carb and fat intake, or looking for maximal fat loss, 5 mini-meals seem to do the trick. If I’m eating every 2-3 hours, I know the next feeding’s not far off – and I’m never starving. Maybe mildly hungry – just getting to the place where I’d go looking for something. But because I plan my meals out in advance and prepare food ahead of time, I know what I’m getting next and it’s easy to pull out and/or prepare. Here’s what a day might look like (note that I have been eating within a 12-hour window, and have been keeping my higher carb meal to my post-workout meal only – this is a restrictive day – otherwise, I’ll eat whatever I want at any given meal):

Meal One (usually around 7 a.m.)

4 oz. lean protein (ground turkey that I’ve browned up with some seasonings and onion and keep in the fridge, part of a chicken baked chicken breast, etc.)

5 oz. (or so) vegetables (most often, steamed broccoli or cauliflower because they’re easy in the microwave)

or sometimes if I’m not very hungry, I’ll have some whey protein powder mixed with some unsweetened vanilla almond milk – I don’t love fasted workouts

Meal Two (usually around 10:00-10:30, post workout)

Vega One smoothie with 8 oz. unsweetened vanilla almond milk, some low-sugar fruit like berries, maybe a few almonds (keeping my nut consumption to 1/4 c. per day – I love nuts, they’re great for you, but they’re not great for fat loss). For a time, I was enjoying hot oat bran cereal mixed with Vega One at this meal, but have discovered that oat bran makes my joints ache . . . .

Meal Three (sometime 12-1 p.m.)

More lean protein and veg. Maybe a giant salad with mixed greens or baby spinach topped with chicken/salmon/tuna/cod fillet and some other chopped non-starchy veg (bell peppers have become a fav again, mushrooms, blanched broccoli, etc.) and drizzled with a flavored vinegar and maybe a little Bragg’s Liquid Aminos. Or else just a steamed veg or two on the side – asparagus is coming into the markets – one of my favorites! I try to keep salt low (so going easy on the Bragg’s, a drizzle of lemon is usually all I do on the steamed veg)

Meal Four (around 4 p.m.)

More lean protein – hard-boiled egg whites sprinkled with some no-salt seasoning blend, maybe 3 or so ounces of chicken breast, maybe almonds if I haven’t had any nuts earlier, maybe some bell pepper spears or celery. This usually coincides with my daughter’s after-school snack and there is a lot going on, so I try to have something that I can pull out and munch.

Meal Five (around 6:30 – again, all food stops at 7 p.m.!)

Again with the lean protein and veg. This is dinnertime for the family, so the challenge here is to make something that everyone can eat at least part of . . . so maybe a chicken/broccoli stir-fry and rice – my daughter will eat some of the chicken and the rice. Depending on how my husband’s feeling, he may or may not have rice with his chicken and broccoli. I will have only chicken and broccoli, and often I’ll add another steamed vegetable on the side. Depending on how strict I’m being, I’ll have a piece of fruit for dessert – citrus is still delicious, a sliced apple mixed with some cinnamon, some sliced strawberries and/or blueberries.

So there you have it. Very restrictive, very lean. For now, there is no dairy here, no legumes, no grains. That’s just what I feel good on and what is helping me lose fat. NOW THIS SAID . . . you probably shouldn’t keep your carb intake super low 100% of the time, because as Metabolic Effect has taught me, it can mess with your metabolism. So cycle lower and higher carbohydrate intake weeks or days – but get those carbs from dairy, fruits, veg, etc. WHOLE FOODS ARE KEY. Processed junk (gluten free pretzels, I’m lookin’ at YOU!) is going to clog up your metabolism and make you feel awful – especially if you’re eating super-clean for any length of time. Ideally, my regular diet is approximately 40-30-30 (protein/carb/fat). I feel good on that, and it keeps my metabolism humming – I feel satisfied, there is room for more variety (unlike the eating plan I outline above), and it allows you to be social (which is tough if you’re eating very little fat and a lot of lean protein!).

The key to any of this is planning and prep. You need to figure out what you want to eat AHEAD OF TIME, and take measures to make that easy for you. Many people, me included, prep a bunch of things on the weekends: hard-cook a dozen or two eggs, brown up 2 lbs. of ground turkey breast, bake off 4 chicken breasts – quantities will depend on how much you eat and who else in your house is eating this way. Buy pre-packaged fresh vegetables that you can throw in a steamer or the microwave or in a bowl with no prep – broccoli florets, pre-washed baby greens, pre-washed spinach. Cut your salad/snack vegetables and store them in the fridge – those bell peppers, chop onions, etc. The more barriers you have set up to getting to this food, the less likely it’s going to happen.

I hope this answers some questions. Remember, I’m NOT a doc or a dietician. YOU need to consult one of them before doing anything radical. You also will need to see how you feel eating these different ways . . . are your cravings gone? Do they come at certain times of the day? The month? Do you feel full enough? And tweak your macros as you go along. Fat is very satisfying and there is a lot of research that says that upping your fat even a bit more is just fine. It can keep you satiated for much longer.

Let me know what you think, what you’re doing, and if you have any more questions!

Image courtesy of  FreeDigitalPhotos.net

© 2013, Sarah. All rights reserved.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Fitknitchick Tamara Grand

    So glad that all of these resources have pointed you in the best direction for YOU! I am working hard to reduce starchy carbs and am following the ME Diet’s approach of counting bites. I think I need to reduce my nut consumption as well….so hard!

    • http://twitter.com/SemiSweetOnline Sarah Isenberg

      I love starchy carbs, but I feel so much better when I’m not eating a lot of them – or at least when I’m eating only starchy carbs from whole food sources (sweet potatoes, sweeter fruits, etc. and NOT breads, pastas, snack foods). I also adore nuts – but ate too many of them for fat loss purposes, I think. Metabolic Effect makes the point: Fat loss foods are healthy foods, but not all healthy foods are fat loss foods . . . that really hit it home for me. My diet was great before, but not necessarily great in terms of tweaking body composition!

  • Ashley Higashi

    Wow thanks for sharing! I love seeing people’s meal plans! I am in awe of the amount of protein you eat! I try to get .7-.9 grams of protein per a kilogram of body weight… Maximum.

    • http://twitter.com/SemiSweetOnline Sarah Isenberg

      It’s a lot of protein, Ashley – and some days I end up with more than 1 g./lb. because if I’m really keeping my carbs low, I still need to get in adequate calories. I’m still adjusting things – but over all, I’m feeling great this way. Do what works for you – otherwise, it’s not sustainable!