Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Long Overdue Food Post!!!

Brace yourselves for a long post................

After repeated requests, I am finally sitting down to write out a guideline to my "eating well plan". It's taken me so long because I feel like food is such a personal thing. And there are so many contradictory expert opinions out there. If you listened to them all, everything is good for you and bad for you, depending on who you ask. And everyday there seems to be a new theory approving or disapproving an old one.  It gets very confusing and I'm sure some of you will strongly agree or disagree with what I'm about to write. So before I begin, I have to put the disclaimer out there that I manage investments for a living, I am far from being a doctor or certified nutritionist. Living a healthy lifestyle and eating well is what I choose as a way of life, but I do not have time nor attempt to follow all the new scientific research and findings. So this is just a generalized guideline of what I eat and what works for me for weight loss and lean muscle building. My personal belief is that it should work for the majority of people if it's being followed correctly. Some may need some modification due to dietary restrictions or whatnot.  But please, if it doesn't work for you, or you think it's a bunch of BS, feel free to let me know but don't get mad at me. :)

Ok with that out of the way, I will begin by saying that contrary to popular belief, eating well does not mean you have to hunt down food you have never heard of or spend a lot more money on them. It is very do-able for anyone if you learn the concepts and I find that it actually costs less to eat well, because I'm not spending money on all the junk snacks. All it takes is a little bit of learning curve and some planning!  That is really the key I think, if you plan out your meals ahead of time, you will significantly lessen the chance that you will grab something unhealthy because you can't decide what you want to eat at meal time.

Here is a very simple concept of keeping the blood sugar level constant. Your metabolism will not be at it's optimal (in other words you will not burn fat) if you let your blood sugar level spike up and drop down. Certain foods will cause it to go up much faster than others, so not all calories are created equal (if that was the case, the "cookie diet" would actually work!). This is also why it's important to eat multiple smaller meals throughout the day vs. 2 or 3 large meals. Each meal/snack stimulates the metabolism and prevents the blood sugar level from dropping too low. Remember, if you are not starving, you will not stuff your face. I have 5 small meals a day, about 2-3 hours apart (to reiterate - very important, do not wait too long between meals). Each of my meal is about 200-250 calories for total about 1200 a day.  Your calorie needs will be different from mine based on your body and activity level, so just experiment and see what works. Do not starve yourself, but do not go overboard - 5 meals a day does not mean same calories per meal as 3 meals a day. Weight loss is still a counting game after all. But remember, you can also gain weight if you DON'T eat enough!!  This is something most people neglect, they think as long as they take in less calories than they burn, then they will lose weight.  This might work in the short term, but your body will remember this period of "starvation", and if you go back to eating normal portion again, it will immediately store fat for use in future "starvation" periods.  So don't skip any meals.

I divide my food into 3 categories- protein, carb and fat.  I like to have lean protein such as chicken and fish, as well as lean grass fed beef once in a while.  For carbs, go with the low GI choices (if you are not familiar with the Glycemic Index, you can google it and a lot of lists will come up) which are generally whole wheat or whole grain choices because they will not raise your blood sugar level as fast or as high as refined carbs.  And as far as fat goes, avoid "bad fat" like saturated fat and trans fat, but "good fat" is your friend, such as monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat.  I know it's kind of counter-intuitive to think that fat can help you lose fat!

So it is very important to eat the right COMBINATION of food, rather than just individual food choices alone.  Of course, you should think "rainbow" colors when picking an item, and eat nutritious foods with lots of fiber and vitamins.  But for each meal and snack, make sure you get a combination of Protein, Carb, and Fat.  You can combine however you like, for example, one meal you can have protein and fat, another you can have carb and protein; another you can have protein, carb and fat, etc. etc., as long as you get at least 2 of the 3 into each meal.  So it's not very restrictive, you can still eat most of the things you normally do. But avoid foods with high sodium contents - I keep my sodium intake to about 1000mg a day.  If you eat a lot of natural and fresh foods, this will be easy.  

Also, read the labels when you are buying something, look at the serving size, and read all the ingredients.  The earlier an ingredient is listed, the more of it the product contains.  As a general rule of thumb, if you can't pronounce the name of the ingredient, it's probably processed and not the greatest choice.

For dinner, I would avoid carb altogether, unless you work out at night then have a yam or a sweet potato.  But don't think carb is the enemy here, you need it, it gives you energy!

Some examples of Protein choices
are (Try to limit red meat intake to 1-2 times a week at the most if you can):

1 can of tuna
4 oz chicken
6 oz fish
4 oz turkey
4 oz roast beef
4 oz lamb
4 oz pork
4 oz steak (lean steak)
4 egg whites (or 1/2 cup of liquid 100% egg whites)
1 scoop whey protein powder made with water (I like Nature's Path: Isopure, or Designer Whey for a cheaper alternative)
1/2 cup low fat milk
1/2 cup cottage cheese

Carb choices:

1/2 cup yogurt
1/2 cup oatmeal
3/4 cup berries of any kind
1 apple
pita bread
whole wheat bread
1/2 cup brown rice (try to limit rice intake as this is a very high Glycemic Index food)
1/3 cup oat bran
1/2 whole wheat pasta
2 tbsp jelly (preferably no sugar added)

Fat choices:

1 string cheese
1/4 avocado
12 almonds
1 tbsp peanut butter
1 tbsp organic mayo
1 tbsp olive oil

Examples of how you can combine the above into each meal:

Meal 1:  P(1) C(1)

4 egg whites
1/2 cup oatmeal made with water

P(1) C(1) F(1)
4 egg whites
1 peanut butter and jelly

Meal 2:  F(1) C(1)

1 apple or 3/4 cup any berries
1 string cheese

P(1) C(1)
1 scoop protein powder
1 apple or 3/4 cup any berries

Meal 3:  P(1) C(1) F(1)
choose between:  1 can tuna / chicken / turkey / etc.
choose between:  1 pita bread / 1/2 cup rice / pasta / 2 slices of bread / etc.
1/4 avocado
salad or any veggies

Meal 4:  F(1) C(1)

12 almonds
1 LIGHT yogurt (Yoplait or Dana - any flavor as long as calories are between 90-110)

12 almonds
1 scoop whey protein powder made with water

Meal 5:  P(2) F(1)

choose between:  6 oz fish / 4 oz turkey / 4 oz chicken
salad olive oil
any veggies

If you are still hungry, then add Meal 6
1/2 cup non fat or 1% milk
1/2 cup cottage cheese

You can also add a salad to any of the meals, just watch out for the salad dressing!

This is also very important:  Drink lots of water!!  I drink AT LEAST 3 liters a day.  It's hard at the beginning if you are not used to drinking a lot of water, but you will get used to it.  Trust me, just do it.  It will help flush the body out, and you will be less bloated.  And as most of you probably already know, if you are trying to lose weight or body fat, lay off carbonated drinks and alcohol.  If you are a coffee drinker, watch out for creamer as they can be very high cal or high in sugar.  Just use a little bit of 2% milk.

I hope I haven't bored or confused anyone yet!  Our bodies are smart, after a few days, this plan should kick up your metabolism.  It definitely works for me, especially when combined with exercise.  Same as all things in life, results take work and discipline.  I don't believe in magical pills.  But I do know that when I stick with it, I see results pretty fast - within a week to be exact.  Most of it will come from loss of water weight which can be put back on fast as soon as I fall off the wagon.  Whenever that happens, I let myself indulge a little but get back on it!  The way I think about it, if I cheat every Friday, Saturday and Sunday because it's the "weekend", that's like half of the month!  Life is brutal, right?  Hehe

Anyway, a sign that you will know it's working?  You will start to feel hungry right before the time you are supposed to have the next meal.  Your body will become so regulated that it becomes its own clock.  Just listen to it!  You will feel much stronger and more energetic, and you will notice your endurance increasing and just feel better overall!  Don't weigh yourself everyday, wait a week or so and you should be happy with the results!  I think it's better to make your own food because you will know what goes into it, but if you eat out a lot, just follow the guidelines and make good choices every time.  

If you want a book that explains a lot of these concepts better than I can, check out The Abs Diet by David Zinczenko.  I really think this guy knows what he's talking about and agree with most of what he says.  But I'm not as much of a smoothie fan as he is.  The Abs Diet also has a book specifically for women, I think it's called the six week plan to flatten your stomach and stay lean for life.  I've read it and it's very good.  

I hope that I have been somewhat helpful for those of you that have asked me to elaborate.  But as always, send me any questions you may have, and good luck!  =)


  1. Interesting post! I find I have stopped eating "regular" yogurt and only buy Greek yogurt now. Fage's 0% is 120 calories for a 6 ounce cup + 20g of protein. I like to add a little drizzle of honey + some walnuts and it's a very filling snack/mini-meal.

    I know everyone's activity levels and food needs are different, but I am amazed that as someone who sounds pretty active, you only require 1200 calories/day. Do you find that number increases on days you work out more?

    Some time ago I filled out a calorie goal calculator (maybe on the Daily Plate?) and I have it in my head that I should be eating ~1800 calories per day based on being somewhat active. I haven't paid a lot of attention to calories (but I do pay attention to the kinds of food I eat), I just kind of eat when I'm hungry. My weight has been consistent within a pound or two over the past 2 years. My question is-- yesterday, for example, I ran 11 miles, which allegedly burned ~1250ish calories. How would you adjust your intake to account for this kind of exercise?

    Over the weekend I requested the Abs Diet book off of bookmooch.com - at your suggestion - it looks like it has a lot of good reviews!

  2. I eat Fage yogurt once a week and love it! I don't have too much dairy because my body builder nutritionist gave me a tip that dairy makes the skin thicker, which will give an illusion of "fat".

    The meal plan my nutritionist developed for me is about 1200 calories a day, and I don't really alter my diet based on activity level. I know a lot of body builders do, but I feel like working out an hour a day or so doesn't really warrant changing my diet. I never get hungry, so I think 1200 is an efficient amount for me. Otherwise I will probably gain weight, since I'm not blessed with naturally high metabolism lol. I have done those calorie calculators on many different sites as well, and find most of them way overstate the amount needed. They also tell me that the upper limit of my healthy weight range goes to 150 pounds which I just don't think is the case. But if you go to fitsugar.com, they actually have a pretty accurate one. Maybe even on the low end, because their thing said I should be around 117 pounds. LOL! Very big difference... so I just do what I know works best for me.

    When I used to work out 2-3 hours a day - most of it running, I still ate pretty much the same food and calories. I heard Bob say on the Biggest Loser that the contestants should aim for 1200 calories a day, and they are much bigger and work out 6 hours a day! I know they are trying to lose weight and have physicians monitoring them at all times, but it seems like if they are eating 1200 calories, then it should be plenty for me. =)

    Let me know what you think of the Abs Diet! I found it pretty informative and very easy to read. Though repetitive after a while. He does have tons of recipes and "eat this not that" type of tips. Good info to have!

  3. Sooo, I just discovered your blog yesterday while I was goofing off at work and we have a LOT in common--I am a huge fan of the same styles that you are :)

    But I wanted to put my two cents into this entry:

    (I am by NO means good at dieting, but I am pretty smart about it.)

    I think its important to eat more nutrient dense foods like superfoods: goji berries and things. Also--add more veggies! You really can't eat too many. This diet sample seems pretty lacking in that department to me.

    Also--if you're taking vitamins make sure they are not synthetic (most of them are!!!) Try a whole foods style vitamin. It won't have as many nutrients crammed into it, but it will have waaay more health benefits than the processed kind.


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