As a nutritionist, I often get asked what we’re supposed to be eating amongst all the conflicting health information out there. I believe this question can stem from feeling out of control around food, so we go looking for food rules that will make it easier to ‘stay on track’. Whether on track means of a diet, lifestyle, goals, weight loss, or whatever else, it's often a tool to further restrict how we eat.
But really, I can’t, and never will, tell you exactly what to eat for each meal. Because only you truly know the answer to that, and I promise promise promise that you do know the answer. Ignoring your hunger signals or cravings means ignoring what your body needs as fuel. So listen to them!
In terms of ensuring your meals are well balanced and full of enough nutrients to make you feel ah-mazing, there is a small formula that I often pass onto clients. While I never believe in rigid rules around food, this formula helps to ensure that your meals are:
Filling you up!
Giving you energy!
Helping you recover from movement!
Satisfying cravings that arise from deficiencies!
I often stick to this when it comes to my main meals because I just feel better when I do, and it’s very very simple. Just try to incorporate each of the following onto your plate or into your smoothie:
Such as: meats, eggs, beans, legumes, tempeh, etc
Protein is a must for muscle recovery and fuelling after a sweat sesh because of its integral part in a whole wack of metabolic processes. Without it, you may find that your blood sugar is imbalanced, you’re intensely craving something sweet after a meal or you’re just realllllyyy tired. I used to make big lettuce, cucumber and tomato salads for dinner thinking I was being 'good', but then wonder why I was dying for ice cream an hour later. It was because my meals would lack protein (or any real sustenance) and my body would be screaming for sugar soon afterwards to fill in that gap. Beyond this, protein rich foods are very filling, so you’ll feel satiated for longer periods of time. Which brings me to...
Such as: oils, avocados, nuts, seeds, ghee, nut butters, etc
I could go on and on about how annoying I find low-fat products (THAT ARE JUST FULL OF SUGAR AND ARE HARDER TO DIGEST AND TASTE BLAH AND ARE DESIGNED TO KEEP US THINKING THAT FAT, ON OUR BODY OR IN OUR FOOD, IS BAD FOR US). Soooooooo let’s bring the fat back on our plate, shall we? Because fat is delicious, it’s needed by virtually every cell in our bodies, AND it keeps our brains happy and focused. By eating healthy fats daily, it can help to curb brain fog and reduce signs of depression. Have a big test coming up (hello students, it’s almost September!), then increasing your fat intake can improve memory recall and concentration. So good! So yum! Don’t omit it! Add a minimum of 1-2 tablespoons to your meal in the form of high quality fats and see how you feel.
Such as: kale, spinach, broccoli, sprouts, etc
Load em up, always. But (which is why I put protein and fat at the top of this list), don’t restrict yourself to only leafy greens. A big salad is delicious and full of mighty nutrients sure, but without the fat and protein you’re missing out on a whole lot, and your body will tell you this. But the reason you want to increase your intake is because vegetables contain lots of great nutrients and FIBRE. Fibre for pooping and expelling toxins and feeling fresh. We often don’t get nearly enough fibre (30-35g should be a daily minimum), so I try to focus on incorporating more and more in every meal, however I can.
Such as: potatoes, beans, grains, starchy veg, etc.
Carbohydrates are an important energy and fuel source, but finding carbs that are easily digested by your body is important (not everyone does well with grains, so stay mindful of this!). When you eat carbs your body turns them into simple sugars (glucose) that are used up by your cells for energy. We’ve all heard of carbo-loading by athletes before big events, so if you need some energy prior to a big R&B pilates class, go for the quick energy that carbs can provide (and trust, you’ll need that energy boost mid elevator squats, right ROBIN!?).
Maybe you feel like your meals are pretty sub-par and are tempted to follow a certain diet or cleanse to get back to your vibrant self. But sometimes the answer is much more simple, and by focusing on incorporating all the things your body needs can leave you feeling strong, focused and in control of your body.
Have questions? As always, don't hesitate to reach out with them!
Michelle is an RMMTT student and Holistic Nutritionist (CNP) with a focus on digestive health and learning to love the body you're in through intuitive eating and self love over dieting, always.
Michelle currently sees clients who wish to improve their relationship with food at Inland Island Wellness Centre. Feel free to contact her with any questions, comments, for more info on her practice or to book a free discovery appointment.
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