Why is it that North Americans are growing in physical size at a rapid rate - despite the fact that we have such advanced technology and access to fresh, organic, nutritious food?
Or that we can get books, pills, and powders in 24 hours and start that new diet tomorrow.
Plus there's TV docs preaching the benefits of this exercise and that super food.
So what gives?
Why are we getting BIGGER despite all this info?
Well, part of it is because we are willing to sacrifice quality and health over taste and convenience. In North America, we always want things bigger, better, and faster. Especially our meals - we want access (NOW!) to fast, tasty foods.
And unfortunately for your waistline, this shows up.
Another reason is that we just don't move as much as we should.
Bed > Car > Desk > Lunchroom > Desk > Car > Table > Couch
Today, I want to help you analyze the typical North American style of eating, and give you solid strategies to build healthier, more body composition-friendly meals.
First, take a couple minutes and think of some of the meals you've eaten in recent hours. What are some of the common trends?
For breakfast, what's that typically look like?
How about lunch?
And dinner, what does that look like, most often?
How much time and consideration did you set aside for your choices, and preparation of those meals?
Let's take a look at a typical day of eating for most North Americans:
Breakfast (if you even eat it) - cereal, bagel/toast, orange juice
Lunch - sandwich, juice or soda, chips/cookie
Dinner - some kind of meat with a small serving of vegetable and potato or pasta
Snacks? Those are probably mostly made up of crackers, fruit, granola bars, cookies, and candy.
So, how much nutrition do you ACTUALLY get from these meals? What is good, and what can be improved upon?
Here's what's missing...
Does that sound like a day in the life of you?
It's OK. It's common. That's why I'm here. To help shed some light and offer you some easy, concrete solutions to turn your typical, nutrient-poor meals into nutrition powerhouses.
Let's take a look-see at what you can change.
Step 1: Find your protein
Make this your number one priority for each meal. Why? For starters, it can help you feel fuller with less food (which is ideal for weight loss); But it can also improve your metabolism, energy levels, and body composition.
Protein is a foundation for sooo many metabolic processes in the body, it's crucial for optimal health and looking better in your clothes.
How much should you eat? Guys should aim for 40-50 grams of protein per meal, spread out over 3-5 meals per day.
Ladies can take in 20-30 grams at each meal, spread out over the same amount (3-5).
Step 2: Eat your damn veggies
Believe it or not, I hate veggies. I know, I am personal trainer and coach people to exercise and eat right. But it's true - I can't stand most vegetables.
But I eat 'em anyways. 'Cause they're good for me. So suck it up.
1-2 handfuls of fresh greens at each meal, say about half of your plate, is perfect.
Eating your veggies is going to help you get your intake of micro-nutrients (think vitamins and minerals), improve the acid/alkaline balance in your body, and keep you satisfied throughout the day - which will help auto-regulate your overall food intake.
So, first go for protein, then look for veggies.
Step 3: Save the starch (for after workouts!)
Ask yourself this question: Did I just finish a workout within the last hour?
No? Then I'd ditch the starchy carbs like potatoes, pasta, rice, or breads if you haven't just finished a workout recently.
The high-starch foods are best eaten within a couple hours after exercise, because it's the easiest way for your body to utilize those carbs, when your muscles are more readily wanting the glucose coming from those foods.
Just to clarify, I am not saying these foods are bad for you, and need to be avoided. It's important to understand that for better body composition, the timing of these foods plays a big part in your results.
When it is time to eat these delicious choices (like rice, quinoa, potato, or whole grains), aim to take in about a cupped handful. That will provide a nice glucose punch without over-doing it.
Step 4: You gotta get your fats
Of course, get your dose of fats. You probably know (or you need to know) that fats are key to a healthy hormonal profile, better functioning metabolism, and reduced inflammation - so be sure to keep a good intake of fats with your meals.
Fats are a bit tricky, as they can be easily over-consumed and stall your progress. When measuring out what you should have, aim to get a thumb-sized serving (or about a tablespoon) of nuts, seeds, or oil with each meal.
OK, now you know what constitutes a solid, nutrient-dense meal.
I'll leave you with the fifth and final step, which is a HUGELY important strategy that will keep your overall calories in check, and ultimately lead you to a slimmer waist.
Step 5: Master the Slow 80 Rule
The Slow 80 rule is simple: Eat slowly, and stop when you're about 80% full.
What does that look and feel like?
Stretch out the time it takes you to eat your meals. Chew your food a minimum of 67 times (kidding) and put your fork/spoon down in between each bite.
Engage in conversation, read a page from the paper or book, take a glance at today's to-do list.
Whatever you want, just take your time when you're eating.
Doing so will allow you to recognize when you've had enough. It will give your brain a chance to tell you that you're satisfied, and can put your fork down.
Now, the 80% part.
This just means don't keep eating until you're stuffed. Don't stop when you're still hungry, either.
Find the spot where you've been eating for a few extra minutes, and you no longer feel hungry. You could easily set your plate down and walk away, and be satisfied for the next few hours without being hungry.
This could save you literally HUNDREDS of calories a week, and WITHOUT feeling deprived. Uh, that's kinda important.
And, stopping just before you're full means you don't have to feel bloated, uncomfortable, and wishing you wore your stretchy pants to dinner.
I hope that gives you some practical strategies to start eating healthier meals, immediately.
And, to be certain that you're eating enough, use these graphics below to see what I'm talking about with portion sizes for protein, carbs, fats, and veggies.