Before you begin worrying about portion size and protein/carb/fat requirements I recommend one simple and difficult step: focus first on food quality. Shop the perimeter of the grocery store. Buy fresh fruit, vegetables, and meat. Buy frozen vegetables and meat when you must. Only venture down the aisles for a few select things like nuts, beans, canned tuna, olives, etc. The aisles are generally one big, processed, nutritionally worthless carb-fest. If you need more than those 70 words then read on.
Healthy food is perishable. Ponder that for a moment. Real food–organic plants and animals that our bodies are built to consume– spoil. If it doesn’t spoil, then you probably weren’t meant to eat it.
If something doesn’t spoil, it likely means there is little to no organic material still exists in the food, and that means it isn’t very nutritious, or it has been processed and coated with enough chemicals that the spoilage is delayed indefinitely.
Real Food Examples:
Chicken, beef, salmon, tilapia, lamb, goat, apples, grapes, pears, strawberries, asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, spinach, avocados, olives, cashews, peanuts, and macadamia nuts.
Examples of Something Other than Real Food:
Wheat Thins, cereals, bread, pasta, bagels, table sugar, flour, pancakes, Aunt Jemima’s maple syrup, tortillas, potato chips, “instant” anything, sweets, cakes, cookies, Ramen noodles, corn meal, and anything from Little Debbie.
Here’s how to make the change:
Very simply, shop the perimeter of the grocery store. This is where most of the real food is located. The bakery is also located on the perimeter, and it’s full of that other stuff, so you don’t have carte blanche to eat absolutely anything on the perimeter, but the perimeter is the 90% solution. There are also some good things inside the aisles, but they’re the exception rather than the rule.
Buy enough fruits, vegetables, berries, and greens to last 3-4 days. Do the same with deli meat and fresh meat. Next, hit the dairy section. Yes, Paleo-Dieters, I recommend eating dairy. Low-fat cottage cheese is a great protein source. So is natural yogurt, but this isn’t like the sugar-enhanced Yoplait and Dannon yogurt that you probably love. If you can stomach natural yogurt then go for it, but regular sugar-laden yogurt is not a good choice. If your body tolerates dairy products then they are a great source of quality proteins and fats.
Finally, buy some eggs. Strong people eat eggs.
Now we venture down the aisles. Beware, this area is full of processed doo-doo, so watch where you step. First, go to frozen foods and get some frozen vegetables and maybe even some frozen meat, like salmon patties. Frozen vegetables and meat aren’t as good as fresh, but it’s a hell of a lot better than Fritos. I like “steamer bags” of broccoli. I can take it directly from my freezer, put it in the microwave for five minutes, open the bag, and out comes steamed broccoli. Once again, this shouldn’t be your first choice–that should be fresh products–but this is still a very good choice. From the aisles you also may want some canned tuna or salmon, some canned beans (in moderation, beans are a very dense carb), olives, nuts, and seeds.
Be very selective. You’re no longer on the perimeter, so traps and snares abound.
Finally, because real, healthy food spoils, this type of shopping will require more frequent trips to the grocery store. However, you’ll be buying fewer groceries on each trip. Furthermore, your number of stops in the grocery store will be greatly reduced.
The amount of thinking required to plan meals is also greatly reduced. No more debating on whether you want the “ultra creamy” mashed potatoes or the “homestyle crunchy” version. You don’t want either of them. Just buy some fruits, vegetables, and lean meat from the perimeter instead.
You also don’t have to completely convert to this method all at once, or ever completely convert.
Your results will be in line with your conversion.
Little change = high comfort factor = little results
Lots of change = low comfort factor = lots of results
If you are on a very tight budget, then start with frozen meats, fruits, and vegetables. These are still very good choices, but less expensive than fresh ingredients. Even by starting with frozen foods, your grocery bill will undoubtedly increase. Everyone has to decide for himself/herself whether eating this way is worth the costs.
If you desire to change your health, fitness, and body composition then your lifestyle must change. That should go without saying, but I don’t think many people realize it.
If you keep the lifestyle you’ve always had then you’ll keep getting the results you’ve always received. If you’re happy with your current results then that’s great; no change is necessary.
However, if you want different results then you need a different lifestyle.