‘So, what should I eat?’ Probably one of the most repeated questions I get asked as a personal trainer. If you have read my post Top Ten Tips for Fitness & Fat Loss, you may remember your food intake should be around 50% carbohydrate, 30% proteins and 20% fats for optimal fat loss and health benefits when exercising.
This post is designed to help you understand what the best types of foods are to eat and how to create simple meals which fit that criteria, including the foods you should be avoiding and how much you should be eating per meal for optimal health and weight loss.
Portion Sizing: How Much Should I Be Eating?
Without counting calories, using two cupped hands is a good measure. The average human beings stomach is about the size of your fist so that volume is actually all you need per sitting.
Eating more food than this can start causing your stomach to stretch, becoming larger which then ultimately tells your body you need more food – It’s this process which causes weight gain, even when the food you eat is of healthy content.
As two handfuls is quite a small portion, you can therefore afford to eat more often than just the conventional three times a day and may want to opt for 5 – 6 times per day to balance your blood sugars and keep your energy up.
So, What Should I Eat?
Ideally every meal, including breakfast, should be balanced with a balance of 50% carbohydrate, 30% protein and 20% fats. These are called Macronutrients. All foods contain an element of all three of the Macronutrients, however, in order for us to be healthy and leaner it is important we get the quantity and the quality just right.
Carbs are your energy foods, essential for training and keeping your blood sugars up. Carbs come in two types; Fibrous and Starchy – Fibrous carbs provide your daily fibre, important vitamins and minerals to optimise your health. Starchy carbs are where we get our energy from. Ideally, when you eat you should have 25% of each type of carb on your plate. Examples of carbohydrates are brown rice, whole wheat pasta, grains and vegetables.
Proteins are what build and repair muscle. Essential, if you want a lean, toned body. Protein also produces white blood cells which keep our immune system working properly, helping fight disease and infection. Ideally, 30% of your daily intake should be protein to help your body repair after training. Examples of healthy proteins are meat, fish and dairy products.
Fats are another essential part of your mealtime. They provide energy and help promote the health of your nervous system. Ideally, healthy fats should be found in the form of olive oil, nuts, fish oils and seeds.
Ok, So Now What Do I Do?
Below is a list of healthy foods from the three categories I have mentioned. To create a perfect meal, simply pick one food from each of the lists below. Ensure that the calories on your plate are balanced like the example above. Half carbs, a third proteins and the rest fats.
You should be eating ideally 5 times a day and your portion sizes should be no bigger than two cupped palms at any one time. This is enough food to fuel your body without over indulgence.
Please feel free to add this image to your Pinterest Board or print it off and leave it on the fridge where you can refer to it and stay focused on eating the right foods.
A Note On Fats
Carbs and proteins will both give you four calories per gram, where as even healthy fats (listed above) will give you nine calories per gram. Therefore, be careful with portion sizes with your healthy fats, it’s easy to rack up the calories without realising you are doing it.
To make up your 20% fats you can dress salads with a little olive oil or add a small amount of cheese or avocado to your salads. If you are having oily fish, the oils from the fish will be enough without the need to add anything extra.
What Foods Should I Avoid?
Foods high in salt, fat and refined sugars should all be avoided. These foods can negatively affect your health and will cause you to gain unwanted body fat.
Ok, so now you have the knowledge, it’s time to start acting upon what you now know. Firstly, keep a food diary to track your progress. Writing down what you eat makes you much more consciously aware of eating the wrong things and will keep you on track.
It’s also an idea to measure your success, so measure your waist, thighs, hips and chest and track those measurements once a week to check on your progress. You can weigh yourself, however, a much better measure is to use scales that also measure body-fat for greater accuracy… After all, its fat loss we are aiming for, not muscle loss.
If you found this article useful or if you have questions please leave a comment below. Your comments help and support other readers so please do join the conversation if you have something to add.
I hope this information helps, if only in a small way. As always, thank you for reading!