Solving The Mysteries Of Healthy Eating

 

The following is a guest post from my fellow geek fitness blogger and friend Jeff Mueller of the blog thejerd.com. Jeff has written extensively on healthy eating and has even written his own book, so I am extremely excited to have him share his thoughts. So lets get started:

Tell me if you’ve heard of any of these before…

  • Paleo Diet
  • Mediterranean Diet
  • Atkins Diet
  • South Beach Diet
  • Alkaline Diet
  • Raw Food Diet
  • The Unicorn Tears and Baked Leprechaun Diet

Okay, I made that last one up… but my point still stands. Trying to figure out the “right” way to eat is a nightmare! With so many options out there it can feel like a Herculean task just deciding what to put in your face-hole on a daily basis; and for a lot of people it can be so overwhelming that they just stop trying and go back to their poor eating habits out of frustration. I get it. I really do…

But I am here to tell you it doesn’t have to be that hard! So put down the donut and let me help you find an easy, and sustainable, way to turn your eating habits around without having to spend hours pouring over research data like some sort of nutritional Sherlock Holmes. Sound like a plan? Awesome, let’s do this!

The 80-20 Rule

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If you want to improve your diet and eat healthier, without having to spend a ton of time keeping track of calories or mapping out macronutrients, you can follow this simple rule. Eat clean 80% of the time, relax and eat what you want (within moderation) the other 20%.

Seriously, for most people, it really is that easy! And before any math geeks out there call me out, I am not referring to the ParetoPrinciple… that’s another 80-20 rule.

Anyway, if you don’t want to spend hours solving the mystery of “the perfect diet” I don’t blame you! It is beyond frustrating! If you do a little quick math you can see that if you are eating 4 meals a day, that’s 28 meals a week. So 80% of 28 is 22.4 (23 if we round up for simplicity’s sake) which leaves 5 meals a week you can avoid stressing out about what you are eating.

You can look at that as one glorious cheat day or spread it out through the week. Whatever works best for you!

The Basics of Cleaning Up Your Diet

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“Okay great… eat clean 80% of the time. But, um, what the $@&# does eating clean really mean?!?” Slow down, I’m getting ready to tell you! Clean eating, in its simplest form, means:

“Eating things that look like they did when they grew out of the ground, or eating things that eat the things that grew out of the ground.”

That’s really it.

If you follow those simple guidelines most of the time there is no need to become an Internet super-sleuth, poring over website after contradictory website, deciding what trendy diet method you should follow.

Your regular diet should consist of:

  • Fresh Vegetables – Lots of them. The more colorful the better!
  • Fruits – Warning… if you say “but they are full of sugar” I will hunt you down Liam Neeson, Taken-style and Batman judo-chop you in the neck. “I shouldn’t have eaten that apple” said no fit person ever; not to mention the fact they are a great way to help curb your sweet tooth and help you avoid processed sugars.
  • Lean Proteins – Low fat cuts of meat (beef, chicken, turkey & fish) and eggs. Avoid processed lunchmeats, and go for fresh cuts from the butcher.
  • Whole Grains – Grains are not the diabolical Dr. Moriarty that so many people make them out to be, it’s the over-processing of them that gets you; so stick with whole grains like oats (rolled or steel-cut), brown rice, quinoa, barley, etc…
  • Nuts and Legumes – Beans, lentils, peas and raw (not roasted) nuts are are high in proteins, healthy fatty acids and fiber. Just eat them sparingly and in moderation.

“What about dairy?“

Ah, the question that always seems to come up. Here’s my personal opinion on this…

The fact that a large portion of the world is lactose intolerant aside, we are the only animals in nature who attempt to drink milk beyond infancy. As far as I am concerned, that’s pretty darned weird. I haven’t drunk a glass of cow-juice in a very long time, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t enjoy the occasional slice of cheese or use yogurt in my smoothies. The keyword is “occasional” though. If you are interested in why it seems we are constantly having milk and cheese thrust upon us though, give the book “Salt, Sugar, Fat” a read. The chapter on the dairy industry is fascinating.

Anyway, I digress.

I recommend being stingy with dairy, or avoiding it altogether. So where do we go from here?

This Is Just The Beginning!

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It might take awhile for a good detective to find the first clue, but once he does the case will almost always unfold before him pretty quickly.  Now, maybe we aren’t the accomplished super-sleuth that Sherlock Holmes is but that doesn’t mean we can’t easily take the first steps towards figuring out how to eat right and accomplish our goals.

Here are the first steps I recommend:

1. Make Shopping Lists – Sherlock Holmes just doesn’t run into a situation, instead he uses his keen mind to analyze all the options ahead of time. So don’t just wander into the grocery store aimlessly. Have a plan! Think through the meals you want to prepare, write it all down and avoid impulse purchases. (If you need some more help in that department, here is my handy-dandy printable shopping list!)

2. Learn How to Navigate the Grocery Store – Shop on the perimeter of the store! All your fresh, clean and healthy foods are there. The middle aisles are where all the pretty packages and shady advertising takes place… only dive into them if you need something specific like steel cut oats, spices, whole grain pastas, frozen veggies or household items. The easiest way to eat clean is to eat as little food with a nutrition label on it as possible.

3. Get Rid of Temptation – Remove all the junk food from your house. Right meow! Purge all the sodas, chips, cookies and anything that proclaims itself to be “fat-free” immediately. It’s probably going to take a few weeks to eliminate your cravings, so stay strong and don’t give in to temptation.

4. Prepare Your Own Meals – The more you invest in cooking and preparing your own meals the more likely you are to use clean and fresh ingredients. I know it is a hard habit to get into, and the siren’s call of convenience is alluring, but do your best to limit eating out until you get a handle on things.

And finally, let me nip the cries of “healthy eating is too expensive!” in the bud.

Nonsense!

I guarantee that if you evaluate what you are really eating, stop sucking at shopping, and have a few go-to recipes in your toolbox, you will realize that “food” you get from a drive-thru or a box is really not any cheaper than the real, wholesome, clean stuff!

I promise!

Just stop making excuses, take it slow and just make a few small changes at a time. You will be successful if you put in the effort!

Remember, applying the 80-20 split to your eating habits is about making positive habit changes. So:

  • Don’t get all riled up at conflicting diet information on the Internet
  • Don’t stress over your few cheat meals a week
  • Don’t beat yourself up if you make mistakes

We all screw up sometimes. It’s what you do the majority of them time that counts.  So embrace the change, try some new foods and enjoy feeling the best you probably have felt in a very long time!

Thoughts, questions, comments? Speak up in the comments below!

IMG_0916Jeff Mueller, aka The Mighty Jerd, spends most of his free time reading comic books, lifting weights, practicing martial arts and dropping his own personal brand of fitness wisdom on the Internet at his site http://www.thejerd.com.

PS – If you want to know more about my thoughts on how to go from geek to real-life superhero check out my e-book series, “The Heroes’ TransformationGuide,” where I detail it all in the most entertaining way possible!

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