When I tell people I’m a dietitian, I get the same reactions over and over. Either people ask me what’s the best diet or they assume that I must “eat really healthy all of the time”. For the record, what they mean is that I only eat low calorie or diet food, which is of course not true. It seems like I am constantly explaining to people that the best diet is no diet. In a culture that is continuously trying to rid labels from our society, we seem to be very focused on labels when it comes to our diet, and everyone wants to know what diet I follow. My simple answer is- real food that’s delicious!
Why Low Calorie Foods and Meals Don’t Work
The simple answer here is that low calorie most often means low nutrients, low energy, and low satisfaction. They’ll leave you hungry, feeling energy depleted, and craving more food. If all you’re eating all day is high water veggies, low calorie snacks, and lean protein, you’re not getting what you need to get through your day. You’ll feel sluggish, stressed, scatterbrained, starving, and you’ll crave higher calorie foods. And forget a desire to exercise. You’ll have no motivation and no willpower. You cannot sustain this. You will eventually stop eating this way, and when you do, you’ll be more likely to binge. You’re also guaranteed to gain the weight back.
Choose Real Food
What do I mean by “real food”? Real food is whole, fresh, nutrient-dense food. Yes of course vegetables are real food. But they’re also the go-to when trying to lose weight, and the fact is they’re just not enough. They don’t give you energy. You definitely should include them in a “real food” lifestyle, but they should not be the entire basis of your nutrition. You need carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. Whole grains, fruits, meat/fish, dairy, nuts/seeds, and starchy vegetables will provide these things. Yes- these foods are ALL good for you. This is what real food is. Forget what all the trends are saying about fats or carbs or calories. Fats and carbs are nutrients. Calories are energy. We need all of these things.
Adding Real Food Back to Your Life
To make real food fit into your lifestyle, you definitely to need plan ahead and do a little prep. First, start with the meal structure- be sure each meal has a carbohydrate, a protein, and some fat. How much of each of these you need is individual, so you have to do what’s right for you, your body, and your lifestyle. Here’s a couple examples of planning and prepping you can do to make some simple changes:
Your usual meal– Jimmy Dean de-light breakfast sandwiches.
The swap– Homemade Frozen Breakfast Sandwiches: Before your week begins, bake 5 eggs in the oven, and then use the eggs to make 5 sandwiches for the week, with a slice of your favorite cheese and whole wheat english muffins. Wrap each sandwich in parchment paper, and then tin foil, and freeze! Each morning, remove the tin foil, and place the sandwich still wrapped in parchment paper in the microwave until heated (times will vary depending on your microwave).
Usual meal– Weight Watchers frozen meal
The swap– Homemade microwaveable meals: Before your week begins, roast a batch of your favorite veggies on a baking sheet in your oven with a little olive oil and your favorite seasoning. Make a batch of brown rice, quinoa, or whole wheat pasta, and buy yourself a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store. Combine ingredients and divide all cooked ingredients up into separate microwaveable containers. No need to freeze unless you’re making this more than 5 days ahead of time. Heat when ready!
Need More Help?
Meal planning can be overwhelming, especially when first getting started or when you’re super busy with work or family or both. If you need help, I just started offering a meal planning service with recipes and grocery lists. Monthly packages make it super affordable, especially if you have insurance! So click below to get started! Also, check out my free guide “5 Steps to Take Now To Stop Calorie Counting for Good.”