If you are looking to improve your eating, it’s important to understand the challenges that lie ahead. You probably already know that you can’t just totally change the way you eat and expect success. This is why I created the “7 Steps to Eating Success.”
You don’t have to go in order and you can start with any of the steps. I suggest starting with the one that you feel needs improvement. Try it for 28-days, then move to the next one. If you become 80 percent proficient in each of them, you are off to a great start!
1. Reduce nutritional deficiencies
In order to see if you are deficient in a nutrient, you can utilize blood, saliva, and urine testing with your doctor. But you can start here with a simple intake with what we call the Big 4 Nutrients
- Water If you have a low level of hydration, drink more water.
- Vitamins and minerals Eat more fruits, vegetables and possibly take a green food supplement to help.
- Protein Eat more foods rich in protein and considered a whey or plant-based protein powder to help.
- Essential fats 95 percent of the population is deficient. Eat more foods that contain essential fats and consider taking a fish oil, algae oil, or plant-based fatty acid supplement to help.
2. Choose high-quality foods
Eating the highest-quality foods is much more important than the amount (calories and macronutrients). The best way to “clean up” your nutrition is to simply eat whole foods, as they are grown in nature.
3. Reduce low-quality food
After you start to increase the quality of your food and reduce nutrient deficiencies, start to ditch low quality food such as candy, soda, processed grains, fried foods, low-quality protein sources and foods at restaurants.
4. Use your hand for food portions, not calories
Trying to keep track of the calories and macronutrients using some type of calculator can be tough.
There is a possible 20-30 percent error when counting calories and macronutrients.
It can also backfire since it can lead you towards focusing just on food quantity rather than quality. We feel the following method adapted to Precision Nutrition is a better way—The hand measuring system!
Your hand is proportionate to your body, its size never changes, and it’s always with you, making it the perfect tool for measuring food and nutrients – minimal counting required.
- 1 serving of protein = palm
- 1 serving of vegetables = fist
- 1 serving of carbs = cupped hand
- 1 serving of fats = thumb
To start out, men should consume two servings of each category and women should consume one serving of each. You will need to adjust your portion sizes based on activity level, goals, previous health history and other factors.
5. Choose your meal frequency
As long as we eat the right foods in the right amounts, meal frequency is a matter of personal preference. You could eat smaller meals often or large meals less often. Intermittent fasting can also be an option for you. There is no one way that science has found to be the best way. In the end, you need to find what works for you!
6. Workout nutrition
Workout nutrition really doesn’t matter for most people except elite athletes training specifically for maximal muscle adaptation and/or training with high volume and intensity (potentially multiple times every day). For those:
- 1-2 hours before and after: Eat an appropriate meal as outlined above.
- During Have water, a branched-chain amino acid drink (5-15 grams mixed in one liter of water), or a protein plus carbohydrate drink.
- After Consume 20-40 grams of a high-quality protein powder. We like grass-fed whey protein. If you are someone that has a high-activity level or are looking to put on some muscle, 20-60 grams of carbohydrates would be helpful to consume. For fat loss, ditch the carbs after a workout.
7. Plan, shop, prepare
This is where everything comes together. You could even argue that this is the most important component of healthy eating. As they say, “ If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” Here are the steps we suggest to stay on top of meal preparation:
- Look ahead – For which busy days in the coming week will you need pre-prepped meals?
- Make a menu – Jot down ideas for your pre-prepped meals. Keep this general; nothing five-star.
- Shop for your food – Buy the ingredients for your pre-prepped meals.
- Cook for the week or next day – Cook time-consuming meal components: chicken, veggies, potatoes, etc.
- We like to use the crock-pot and one-pot meals like chili, soups, stews and the like.
- Store it where you can use it easily – Pack your prepped food in stackable clear containers and make them accessible in the fridge.
Justin Grinnell B.S., CSCS is the owner of State of Fitness in East Lansing. He is also a certified nutrition coach. Reach him at 517.708.8828.