How to Eat for Nutrition and Not Just Pleasure
By Luke Pearce, Lead Nutritionist, B.Sc. Biology, PN-1, NASM-CPT
Inner Element Fitness Lead Nutritionist
Food, glorious food. Today, every sense we have is engaged every hour as the food industry entices us with a never-ending bombardment of delicious-looking opportunities to indulge. Some claim natural benefits, while most zero in on comfort and the tastes we’ve grown to love. But, if you’re overweight or considering enhancing your fitness performance, these can also be disruptive, tempting derailments from choosing healthy foods.
Here, we’ll tackle the idea of mixing in the nutrients your body needs while still enjoying the pleasure of eating.
Finding a balance and what that really means to your nutrition plan and health goals.
No matter who you are, every human body wages a daily battle for balance. And, if you want to reduce your weight or body mass, or improve your fitness recovery time, you know that food is the cornerstone to change.
To maintain your current weight, you need to eat the same number of calories every day that equalize how much your body burns to fuel all your organs and support your daily physical needs. If you want to reduce your weight, you will need to reduce those calories; and if you want to put on muscle, you will need to increase your daily calories.
That said, you are completely normal for loving certain less-than-healthy foods we view as “guilty pleasures.” We all do. So, when you’re considering a lifestyle change to your eating habits, it’s vital to have realistic expectations for how your body (and mind) will react to those changes. Quitting cold turkey almost never works. In fact, flexible dieting or “food budgeting” can be an easier outlook and approach to adopt. It all comes down to gradual changes and maintaining a balance.
If you know you want to eat a treat like Pop-Tarts®, for instance, the important idea to keep in mind is rebalancing against those extra empty calories. You’ll enjoy the taste, but chances are that treat is not going to fill you – at least not with any real nutrients and probably not for very long.
One single serving of Pop-Tarts is not really the problem. It is that some foods are easy to overeat (especially sugar-based foods) because they do not give your body a feeling of fullness, or because they are too easy to process.
Also, our favorite comfort foods are often very high in calories or calorie dense. While this is not bad in general, eating them regularly and compounding those calories quickly can add up to excessive results. These calorie dense foods have a high number of calories with very little nutrients in a very small amount of food. So, you will not get a lot of bang for your (nutritional) buck from them.
The idea of giving them up altogether can be just as dangerous as eating them too often. How often have you tried to quit something but overindulged one last time because you didn’t know how long it would be before you would have it again? Oh, that’s never happened to you? Mm hmm. Right.
Here’s the trick. You can eat what you want. Just don’t overeat whatever you choose. When you want to enjoy that special treat, be sure to rebalance those calories against the rest of your day’s foods to accommodate the Pop-Tart’s extra calories. Strike a balance between calories in and calories out with giving your body the right nutrients for it to run more efficiently.
Want some bonus points? Try gradually eating them less often to support your healthy eating efforts even more. For example, make them a reward you can earn and enjoy them as a special (rare) treat for achieving a goal.
So, how can you enjoy a treat and reward your body with the right nutrients to keep you on track with your nutritional plan? First, try to always have a protein-based option. Here are a few quick options when you’re on the go:
- Protein bars and shakes
- Overnight oatmeal
- Yoghurt parfaits
- Turkey or deli meat roll-ups with string cheese and veggies
- Jerky made of beef, chicken, turkey or salmon
- “Ants on a log” peanut butter and raisins on celery sticks
Second, keep the cravings at bay by eating on a schedule that includes foods you love and foods you need. Set yourself up for success with a nutritional plan that helps build a routine of healthy eating habits and the right options to choose. And, support your nutritional plan with a healthy grocery list including these top 11 nutrient-dense foods.
Lastly, keep a stash of healthy snacks at the ready. Here are a few other high-protein, nutrient-dense portable options to combat the comfort food cravings and support your health goals.
At the end of the day, the “diet” that is best is going to be the one that you can stick to.
Need help defining goals and designing a personalized nutritional plan tailored to your health goals and lifestyle. Ask me
DISCLAIMER Please recognize the fact that it is your responsibility to work directly with your physician before, during, and after seeking fitness consultation. As such, any information provided is not to be followed without the prior approval of your physician. If you choose to use this information without the prior consent of your physician, you are agreeing to accept full responsibility for your decision.