Here are some guidelines to help you eat more healthily without having to count calories and grams of nutrients. To make it work, there is a set of rules, as I’ve found that having rules to follow is easier than reasoning it out each time that critical eating choice moment arises. The answer at that time of choice is – follow the rules. If it’s not part of the rules, don’t eat it. The rules rule!
1. Eat five times a day at about three-hour intervals. Maybe meals at 8AM, 2PM and 8PM, with snacks at 11AM and 5PM. Obviously, vary the times on a day to day basis as each day progresses, by up to an hour, but maintain the minimum gap of two hours, maximum of four hours. If you like counting calories, aim for 500 each (Male) or 450 each (Female) for breakfast, lunch and dinner – and 250 for the two snacks.
2. Each meal is to have a substantial element of complete protein (fish, lean meat, eggs, added protein powder). Ideally this applies to snacks too.
3. Fast-absorbing carbs, such as sugars and white bread, are usually a bad thing. However, you may have fast carbs at breakfast and must have fast carbs after your main physical exercise of the day. Only slow carbs for the rest of the day. Examples of fast-absorbing and slow-absorbing carbs are given on the tab ‘Healthy Food Choices’. Fruit is an exception – yes, it has loads of sugar, but it also plenty of other healthy stuff which make fruit great. But not the carton fruit juice.
4. If you do early morning running or other moderate cardio exercise, then my preference is only black coffee or fat burner supplement before. If your early morning exercise is a big resistance workout then ensure you have some fast-absorbing carbs beforehand. A banana is a good example.
5. After the morning exercise, your meal should be a good breakfast with protein and a fairly large amount some carbs (ideas are oats + protein shake / trimmed-fat bacon + poached eggs / veg omelette + wholemeal bread). Eat about 25% of your planned daily intake of carbs at this time.
6. If you do exercise later in the day, then follow it immediately with a meal or snack big on protein and fast-absorbing carbs. This includes if this is in the evening. Your body is more receptive to nutrients after heavy exercise than any other part of the day. Protein shakes with carbs and a piece of fruit is ideal and can be carried easily to the gym, or a post-workout muscle-building recovery drink available at the gym. Another 25% of your daily carbs should come from this, plus the following snack or meal combined.
7. Not all fats are bad – transfats are terrible, and most saturated fats should be avoided – but unsaturated bring many health benefits, so hunt them down – oily fish and a few nuts are great for this.
8. Choose low-carb/sugar-free/ low-fat versions of everything. But check that low or zero fat things aren’t full of carbs – fast carbs are worse for you than fat.
9. Think portion size – don’t stuff yourself. But for protein and slow carbs, feel free, eat lots! And avoid extra salt, saturated fats and sugar – don’t add these to anything.
10. Vary the rules to be social – don’t be a diet bore. Be creative when eating out, see if they will substitute some green veg for the chips – rather than miss the course altogether or feel mega-guilty afterwards. And if everyone else is having a desert, fresh fruit is usually the best choice, no syrup or cream.
Remember, its your body – you and only you are responsible for what you consume.
Breaking the rules: If something is worth breaking the rules for, then do so – but make it something special. Make sure you have reasoned this out and justified it before making the decision to break the rules on any occasion. And if you do decide to break the rules, make it really worth it – make it brilliant bread, beautiful beer or wonderful wine – not everyday stuff.
Finally, if ten rules are too many to remember, you’ll get 80% of the benefit from this four-word summary: Eat less but better!