As a fitness coach, I am dedicated to helping others achieve their health and fitness goals. And in doing so, I lead by example and prioritize my nutrition. In this blog, I'll give you a glimpse into what nourishes my body and keeps me energized throughout the day. So, whether you're looking for inspiration for your own healthy eating journey or simply curious about what's fueling me for my workouts, I'll be sharing it all here. But before the food hits the carriage, let's see how I select my options. Here is all about labels.
Looking At Labels
Before dividing into the food I choose, let me clarify the reasons as to why. The main factors I look at when buying food are sugars, saturated fats, sodium, cholesterol, and calories. And regardless of how "healthy" the food I purchase, I still check the labels. Food companies have become expert marketers at making their products look healthy. However, a different story can often be told when diving into what's included on the product label. This is why checking those labels is a good idea regardless of the foods you buy. I talk more about labels in my Road To A Healthy You: Nutrition video.
Sugar can sneak into just about every food you eat. And going over your daily limit of 25 grams for females or 36 grams for males is no challenging task. But when looking at the sugar content, remember that sugar plays a role in your energy levels and is necessary for daily function. Even healthy fruits contain sugar. So a complete sugar detox is not needed.
Check for the "Added Sugar" section when looking at your sugar content. This section is the sugar that has been added to the product by the manufacturer and is therefore not natural in the food. These are the sugars you can avoid and, in turn, be more healthy.
When looking at the fats section, remember there are natural and unnatural fats, like sugar. Saturated and Trans fats are fats you will want to try and limit as best you can. You are doing well if your food has 2.5 grams or less of saturated fats. Trans fats, on the other hand, are one fat you will want to avoid altogether if possible. If consumed in large quantities, these two fats lead to health problems like cardiovascular disease, plaque buildup in the arteries, and other life-threatening conditions.
Polyunsaturated and Monounsaturated fats, in contrast, have been proven to positively affect heart health and brain development. A key to look out for here is saturated vs unsaturated. Whether it is good for you is all in the name. Unsaturated being okay, and saturated not so much.
The 2020–2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that Americans consume less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium each day as part of a healthy eating pattern. However, it's estimated that 90% of Americans 2 years or older consume too much sodium. And what does that mean? Too much sodium has been linked to high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke.
Embracing a low-sodium diet is something I've personally adopted. A medication I'm taking is currently pushing me past half of my daily recommended sodium intake. This is an outside factor that I need to remember and ensure is accounted for when buying my food.
Cholesterol is a fatty, waxy substance produced in the livers of animals and humans. Dietary cholesterol is the cholesterol found in animal food products. It's recommended that you eat no more than 300mg per day. However, your body produces all the cholesterol you need, so eating dietary cholesterol is unnecessary and should be limited.
Last but not least, I always look at the serving size. If a food is on the line of being unhealthy, and the serving size is smaller than the amount you plan on eating in one sitting, opt to find a healthier option. Eating the recommended serving size of the foods you buy is a great idea. Following the serving size doesn't mean you have to eat less food. Instead, it could mean adding more variety to the foods you eat. Remember that if you eat anything more than the recommended serving size, the food label percentages will also increase by the same amount you eat.
What’s On My Plate
As an extremely picky eater, it's been tough to find foods I enjoy while still being healthy. Admittedly, my plates could use more variety, but I prioritize convenient and quick-to-prepare options that effectively keep me healthy and energized. That being said, here is what I eat as a fitness coach.
As a brief disclaimer, please understand that these are not the end all be all most healthy options you could eat. When thinking of healthy foods to buy, you also need to consider the probability of you sticking to your regime. I could deprive myself of everything I enjoy, but I know I couldn't sustain it in the long run and that it's not necessary for the goals I am trying to achieve. Please do not use my list as your required foundation, but rather a glimpse into what works for me and a possible idea sparker for yourself.
Breakfast: Between 8:30- 10:00 AM
Breakfast is usually my biggest meal. After that comes lunch, and finally dinner. Which tends to be my smallest meal of the day. This is mainly due to my work schedule and how I want to fuel my body to keep going throughout the day. Here are some food options I look towards for breakfast.
Quaker's Protein Plus Instant Oatmeal:
This oatmeal is low in saturated fat and calories and tastes great. While it has more sugar than a plain option, as I mentioned before, I am not entirely sacrificing taste for the label. I am mindful of the sugar and stay under my daily limit. As a bonus to the protein the oatmeal provides, I add PB2's powdered peanut butter for even more taste and a protein boost to boot.
Kashi’s Organic Warm Cinnamon Cereal:
A staple to breakfast is cereal. This one took me a long time to decide on in the supermarket. I would often compare the "Health Conscious" brands to fruit loops in one way or another. Marketers will have you believe that as long as the cereal has a bunch of protein, it's healthy. That is not the case. Consider me shocked at the lack of "somewhat" healthier options the cereal aisle offered. The Kashi Organic Warm Cinnamon Cereal may not light up your taste buds, but it provides low sodium, sugar, carbs, and zero saturated fats.
English Muffin With Peanut Butter:
I adjusted this option. One day the supermarket was out of my favorite added-protein English muffin slices. As I looked for other options, I bizarrely found out that Martins's maple brown sugar thick slices were healthier and more protein-packed than my previous choice. Not to mention, they taste great! These slices contain no saturated fat and are low in sodium. I add Nature's Promise organic peanut butter, which has a great source of healthy fats and even more muscle-building protein.
Lunch: Between 12:00- 3:30 PM
Light and Fit Vibrant Vanilla Yogurt:
This yogurt is an excellent option for those who want a healthy yogurt without settling for a plain one. This yogurt has no fat, is low in sodium, and is a good source of protein.
Premier Protein's Protein Powder:
Any shake you like will suffice, but this option has worked for me, and their label looks just right. With tons of protein, all around low in everything else, and only 1g of sugar, you can't beat it. For added flavor, I occasionally add some fruits or the pb2 peanut butter I mentioned previously. All blended up with low-fat milk.
Fruit & Veggie Mix:
Weekly, I'll try to get a good mix of bananas, cucumbers, avocados, sweet potatoes, and carrots to blend into my meals or to have as a snack on their own. Keeping your diet rich with fruits and vegetables comes with countless health benefits. From lowered blood pressure, reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke, and even preventing some types of cancer, don't forget to add some of these tasty picks to your cart on your next shopping run.
Dinner: Between 6:00- 8:00 PM
Taylor Farm’s Southwest Salad Kit:
As someone who traditionally eats Caesar salads, this has a nice bit of extra flavor with beans and other extras without sacrificing the healthy label that salads carry. Generally, I lean on the lighter side when it comes to dressings. As for any dressing or sauce, this is usually the most calorie-dense part of the salad. A little dressing can still go a long way.
Not the most exciting food on the list, but one that is easy to add to other meals and an excellent fiber source. Wich helps regulate the body's use of sugars, helping to keep hunger and blood sugar in check. Brown rice is also a complex carbohydrate, providing essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals.
Kevin's Natural Foods Cilantro Lime Chicken:
This food is the highest in sodium on my list. And therefore, I do not eat it every day and pay close attention to eating the recommended serving size when I do eat it. "Why not just get a better option?" Convenience and taste. Kevin's chicken is a great happy medium I am comfortable having. You may have a few of these in your foods as well. But besides that, this chicken is low in saturated fats and packs a ton of protein in a small amount, making it perfect for a quick heat-up option.
Build Your Menu
Now that you've seen some of my daily menu options, I hope this sparks interest in creating your own unique menu! Remember that regardless of what the front of the box claims, looking at the labels will be a game changer. Companies are in the business of marketing first, not necessarily health, so just because something says it's healthy doesn't mean it is. As healthy eaters, we must check those labels and choose our foods wisely.
While this list may seem strict, remember to grant yourself some breathing room too! We are all human, and a healthy eating lifestyle is only realistic if it's sustainable in the long run. Start slow, and reward yourself occasionally with a tasty treat without feeling guilty.
As a fitness coach, my dietary choices contribute significantly to maintaining a healthy and balanced lifestyle. By incorporating nutrient-rich foods, plenty of protein, and various fruits and vegetables into my daily meals, I ensure optimal performance and fuel my body for success. Remember, your diet is as important as your exercise routine for achieving and maintaining overall fitness and well-being. So, whether you're a fitness enthusiast or looking to adopt a healthier lifestyle, nutrition is a piece of the puzzle that cannot be overlooked. Let's embark on this journey together and empower ourselves with the knowledge that what we eat truly matters!