At the beginning of the year I was recovering from a stomach virus and lost 12 pounds. I worked diligently to return to my previous weight. It took approximately two months. Later in the year I decided I wanted to put on eight more pounds. That would require me increasing my macros and calories to reach that goal. I consumed more “cheat” meals during the week that were high in calories. After a couple of months, mission accomplished. When attempting to gain weight in many instances will also lead to an increase in fat when consuming some of the foods that were in my diet such as pizzas, hamburgers, and milk shakes to reach my goal of calories. I was tracking my meals in an app and it was working.
|Sample Meal: Chicken, shrimp, brown rice and mixed vegetables|
After reaching my weight goal I didn’t appear as lean as I would have liked, so I decided to do something that I’ve never done before and that was to prepare all of my meals for 30 days and limit myself to eating out three times per week. With my schedule I found myself purchasing lunch and dinner sometimes simply because I was on the go! When any type of restaurant prepares food it is impossible to know all of the ingredients and the quality. Grilled meat and vegetables can be of a poor quality and high in sodium.
According to a January 2013 Wall Street Journal Report, American adults eat in restaurants an average of five times a week—which means they probably eat way too much salt. Salt is indispensable in restaurant kitchens beyond just how it makes food taste. It extends the shelf life of prepared foods, prevents bitterness in produce and encourages binding in breads, says Joy Dubost, director of nutrition at the National Restaurant Association, a Washington, D.C., industry group. Replacing salt with alternative preparations or seasonings, such as herbs, will almost always end up costing more.
My diet is based around balanced meals consisting of lean proteins, nutrient-rich, low-glycemic carbs, and generous portions of healthy fats. I wasn’t going to document macros or calories this time around. My favorite sources of lean protein are chicken breast, 98 percent or leaner ground beef, turkey, fish, steak and quality protein supplements of whey and casein protein.
It is important to find the right balance of carbs. Carbohydrates are fuel, they give working muscles the energy to do their job and maximize training sessions. My carbs come from high-fiber, high-nutrient foods. I include plenty of sweet potatoes, oatmeal, and brown rice, among others. For example, pre-workout I would consume a whey protein shake that included carrots, 1/2 banana, 1/2 orange, 1/4 cup of rolled oates, and 1 cup of unsweetened almond milk. Healthy fats would compromise olive oil when cooking and almonds for snacks.
I purchased and prepared foods in bulk. I would cook on Sundays and then a smaller portion on Thursdays to get me through the weekend. The meals were not bland and had plenty of flavor. I baked, grilled, or sauteed all of my meats. Vegetables were steamed or sauteed to preserve the nutrients. After a week I noticed an increase in energy, after two weeks my palate changed. I purchased a meal at a restaurant within my three meal weekly limit and didn’t want to finish it because I could taste the salt and quality of the meat and vegetables. I didn’t get an upset stomach, but it did digest differently. As I continued through the process I didn’t have a desire to eat food other than meals I cooked or someone else prepared at their home.
After the 30 days I stepped on the scale and weighed the same. I appeared leaner and had more energy, developed a habit that I plan to continue, and saved money! The time set aside to prepare my meals saved me time during the week and I learned new recipes along the way. Eating healthy can be a process you enjoy.
Health and Wellness Consultant/Personal Trainer