I realized while writing up my diet overview that I’d only focused on what I do to manage my diet. I never touched upon what I actually eat, and that’s kind of important when it comes down to it. When people start looking to lose weight, they aren’t necessarily looking for a course on nutrition. They just want to be told which foods they should include in their diets without having to actually think about it. Fair enough, since healthy eating is something that we’re taught should be intuitive.
I know I’ve written a few food reviews for my blog in the past. I usually end up buying a new product to try every week. Last week for example, I bought gluten-free cinnamon buns to see if eating gluten-free for a few days would decrease my bloating. But the cinnamon buns gave me a tummy ache and then I ate oats and barley, anyway. Moral of the story: the gluten-free hype is overrated.
Anyway, I’ve started to realize that buying one novel item every week is kind of essential, because otherwise I just eat the same foods over and over again for days at a time – and the staple foods in my diet are kind of boring, honestly. I mean, steak is delicious but it’s not exactly the most bloggable food (unless you’re Ron Swanson or something).
Nonetheless, I thought it would be a good follow-up to my “how my diet works” overview to outline what sort of building blocks fit into my dietary blueprint. I’ve fallen into the routine of eating particular foods because they fall within my calorie limits, they’re tasty, portable and they work towards one of my secondary goals of consuming at least 100 g of protein everyday.
As a side note, one of my friends wrote me a note this week, saying that she was going to plan a breakfast, two lunches and three dinner options that she could mix and match for a month. One of the trainers at her gym had suggested it as the protocol she’d followed while preparing for a bodybuilding competition. Initially, I thought this plan sounded awfully boring, but then I realized that it’s already what I’m doing. Simple, staple foods can go a long way, so here are few of the recurring characters in my diet:
Brunch: I eat a big meal late in the morning, which would probably be referred to as lunch by most people if it were not for the fact that I like to eat traditional breakfast foods at noon. Here, I have two mainstays:
- Greek yogurt. I eat a lot of yogurt. Seriously. Jamie-Lee Curtis has nothing on me. The guys at my gym laugh because I eat more yogurt than they do – and they’re trying to put on weight. More often than not, I mix some Liberté 0% Vanilla Greek yogurt with some sort of granola. PaleoKrunch, Daryl’s and Grandma Emily’s are among my favourites. I’ve also been known to mix in some pumpkin purée, honey and nuts if I’m not in the mood for granola.
- Muffins. Growing up, I knew a woman who used to say that muffins are just for people who don’t have the balls to admit they’re eating cake for breakfast. In principle, I agree with this philosophy but sometimes when I stop at Starbucks in the morning, I can see a blueberry muffin staring back at me and I can’t help but think that there is an argument to be made in cake’s favour. Unfortunately, muffins are probably not the food you should be eating to lose weight. So, I’ve found two ways to cope with my muffin problem: on the weekend, I will bake up a batch of protein muffins to eat throughout the week. Alternatively, when I’m feeling lazy, I just grab a VitaTop to eat with a serving of cottage cheese or yogurt.
Supper: I eat a second large meal in the evening, about an hour to 90 minutes before I hit the gym. At the risk of sounding like a shill and relying on one of my blogging tropes, I tend to rely on SupperWorks for this meal. Usually, I cook up some sort of meat with a marinade, and then serve vegetables on the side – Caesar salad, a cup of baby carrots, peas, corn or broccoli are my standards. When SupperWorks is not an option, I’ll whip up some Shake ‘n Bake or a simple stir fry – shrimp, veggies and soy sauce.
Snacks: After I plan out my two main meals, I fill my remaining calorie budget with some snack foods to eat throughout the afternoon. One thing I’ve learned is that hitting my daily protein goal really relies on what I eat between meals. I’ve made some bad decisions at 3 pm when I just need something to tide me over. Now I keep the following standards in my pantry:
- Protein bars. There are a lot of nasty protein bars out there. I’ve found that if I can pronounce and identify the ingredients on the label, they will probably be pretty palatable. I tend to keep Daryl’s, Elevate Me! and Francine’s Finest on hand. I also enjoy Quest Bars, though in this case I would advise you not to look at the list of ingredients. I’m not Paleo and I believe that “clean” eating is largely a meaningless term, but this is one of those times when it’s just best to trust that something is delicious by magic.
- Jerky. Sometimes I feel guilty about the fact that I have to supplement protein into my diet in bar form. A more “natural” source of protein is jerky. I don’t mind beef jerky, but I am paranoid about giving myself cancer as a result of nitrate over consumption. Since I want to keep the carcinogens to a minimum while still chowing down on the good stuff multiple times a week, I tend to eat local bison jerky and PaleoKits as my main source of jerky. I’m also totally wild about Steve’s Original Chicken Jerky. Basically, any animal can taste delicious when dried.
- Nuts. If there’s anywhere my diet falls short, it’s in getting my recommended daily fat intake. I can eat almonds like they’re potato chips, though. In an effort to find the happy medium, I like to eat a serving of a dozen almonds, a couple of Brazil nuts or a PaleoKrunch bar.
- Bananas. Fucking delicious.
- Yogurt. I have a reputation to uphold. It’s not uncommon for me to eat yogurt with granola for breakfast and then pull out another serving of yogurt when snack time rolls around.
By and large, those are the foods I eat. If you were to peak inside my backpack on any given day, the odds are that you’d find some combination of the above – and it works for me. It’s unlikely there is anyone else in the entire world who wants to follow the same meal plan. That’s fine: I don’t feel deprived because I’ve figure out some simple meals that work for me. Plus, I’ve still got lots of wiggle room for coffee and the occasional burrito. And everyone knows those are the real foundations of a solid diet.