As we bring in a new year filled with new beginnings, it’s time to reflect on your own health and vision for what you want to achieve.
You might establish new resolutions, or you might choose some lofty goals that will help you move in the direction you desire. As you work to get everything in order and lay out a plan of action, I suggest you consider how you are going to fuel your body to support these dreams.
“You can’t out-exercise a poor diet,” you’ve likely heard ad nauseam. How you fuel your body, extends far beyond your weight; it impacts your total being and thus influences everything you do no matter who you are. Business owner or computer wizard who thrives with a sharp mind? Teacher who requires calm and patience? Hunter who seeks a steady arm and hours of focus? Stay-at-home parent who needs, well ... everything? Athlete? Builder? Skier? Doctor? You name it. No matter what you tell yourself, your nutrition matters, and if you want to step up your game this year, you need to step up your diet.
Let’s start with breakfast. Breakfast has been touted as the most important meal of the day. However, research shows this isn’t actually true. This was simply a marketing claim created by Kellogg’s in the 1800s to sell cereals. My best advice for breakfast is to listen to your body.
We are each so different; while your friend might require breakfast to function, you might find you feel sharper and better all-around without it. There is no right way. Just make sure a smaller meal (or no meal) in the morning doesn’t equate to overeating later in the day. If you do choose to eat, focus on dietary fat and protein, while downplaying the carbohydrate portion. If you eat a high-carb breakfast, you are likely going to experience a blood sugar high with a compensatory low to follow that results in fatigue, brain fog and more carb/sugar cravings later in the day. You’ll be on a roller coaster of sugar highs and lows.
A real “breakfast of champions” might look like:
An egg omelet. Add some non-starchy vegetables, cheese if tolerated or maybe even a little uncured bacon.If you’re in a hurry, a few sauteed or scrambled eggs topped with salsa or some extra virgin olive oil and salt.Some full-fat plain Greek yogurt with a sprinkling of berries and maybe some nuts and seeds.A protein shake that has some kind of dietary fat in it like cream, coconut milk, MCT oil or avocado oil. Consider adding a little frozen spinach, a few berries and/or ice before blending.Avoid:
French toast, pancakes, bagels or waffles topped with fruit.Raisin bran (or any hot or cold cereal) with skim milk and a banana.Fruit-flavored yogurt topped with granola and fruit.These breakfasts have very little protein and dietary fat and are laden with sugar, probably around 20 teaspoons worth in each option.
As for beverages, stick with water, tea or coffee with real cream. If you’re a juice drinker, consider letting it go this year. Juice is really just another source of sugar. You can get the vitamins and minerals you need from real, whole foods instead.
Lunches can sometimes be difficult. Maybe you go out to lunch for business meetings, or maybe your morning is too hectic to prepare a healthy lunch. If your breakfast is small or nonexistent, then lunch is going to be an important part of your schedule to ensure that you don’t overeat portions at dinner. If you know your mornings are busy, try to prepare your lunch the evening before.
Some good options might be:
Leftovers from dinner. Maybe some leftover grilled steak, chicken, fish or tofu that you put on top of some greens with some full-fat dressing, cheese and nuts. Add a variety of cut-up vegetables if you have time.Chicken, firm tofu or tuna salad. Use an avocado oil-based version, which is helpful to decrease inflammation. Add jicama or turmeric to the mix. Use romaine lettuce leaves instead of bread.When going out (or taking out), opt for a burger without the bun and a side salad. You’ll find restaurants are pretty accommodating when you ask to substitute vegetables in place of the grain. Avoid:
Heavy greasy carbs. These are hard to digest and will leave you feeling too full and lethargic.Hamburgers with fries; bowls heavy with rice, corn and beans; and sandwiches with potato chips, an apple, soda and a cookie will cause a blood glucose spike with a low to follow, making the 3 to 5 p.m. slump a huge struggle.I challenge you to experiment with these suggestions, and to ultimately create your own dietary guidelines that will support you in achieving your goals. In the meantime, cheers to you and your commitment to being a positive force for good in your own life as you push forward into the new beginnings of 2021!
Ashley Lucas has a doctorate in sports nutrition and chronic disease. She is also a registered dietitian nutritionist. She is the founder and owner of PHD Weight Loss and Nutrition. She can be reached at 764-4133.