Meal Planning and Calorie Counting: A Love Affair with Food Part I
Meal planning may not seem that big, but food is maybe the longest lasting relationship you will have in your life other than breathing. Nothing else will you have seen from the first day you enter the Earth until the day you leave it.
Based on what type of food you eat and how you eat it, will determine how successful your long-term relationship is with food. I am going to share with you some very simple steps you can take that will bring a flame to your food romance.
In turn you will live longer to see your grandkids, find more willing dates, go out to the beach in a swimsuit, and be an inspiration to friends and family. These pillars to healthy eating and smart meal planning that we are going to talk about will keep your relationship with food unbreakable and lasting, and it won’t turn into some late-night drive-thru romance.
How Many Meals Should I Eat for Meal Planning?
So there are a lot of meal planning ideas. How many meals should I eat each day? 3? 4? 5? 6? It can be so complicated that you almost don’t even want to eat.
Ok that isn’t true, but it can be as complicated as a Facebook relationship status.
The truth is I have seen success in multiple meal regimens using budget meal planning. I have seen people that have got into great shape eating 3 meals. I have seen the same thing happen with people that have eaten 6 meals in a day.
I do think that you will do well if your daily number of meals falls between 3-6, but there is definite flexibility. It is more important to focus on eating the right foods until you are full. Just like relationships, quantity doesn’t matter nearly as much as quality. The real question is not how much, but what should you be eating.
As you review your eating habits and start cheap meal planning, you will learn to adjust the quantity based on your energy levels and workout performance. As you are more active you may need more meals to help restore important nutrients and amino acids. Or you may say you need smaller meals, but more often to sustain energy. You have to find out what works best for you.
Focus On What You Eat Before How Much You Eat
Counting calories is just plain tedious and more sore than meal planning. I have done it before and it is hard to keep motivated to do it. I do think calorie counting can make a difference, but you can get to where you want to be, or very close, just by focusing on eating the right foods.
Weight gain or loss is impacted more by our biochemical nature of how our bodies react to food, and it is not based on thermodynamics or what is commonly known as “calories in vs. calories out”.
Calories in vs. calories out follows the thought that the more calories you eat, then the more you have to exercise to burn those calories. That is a shotty mindset that we debunk in other posts. Our bodies are more complicated than that.
Calories in vs. calories out only really matters when the excess calories are bad calories. Primarily your fat gain or loss is based on the chemical reaction with hormones like insulin that dictate which cells retain food as fat, muscle, or use the food as energy. Those hormones go haywire when you eat the wrong foods. So what are the wrong foods? We are just about to get there.
With all of this said, this is why we are going to focus more of what type of foods should be included. At the same time we are going to take counting out of the equation and just give you a simple way to measure using your hand so you don’t have to pull out a protractor to measure your food.
What Meal Planning Should Consist Of
Meal Planning Components: Each meal should have these three foundations: protein, fat, and veggies. They will get you the nutrients you need, keep you satiated, provide variety, and keep your energy up in order to make the most out of each day.
This is one of those storybook ending relationships that make the ladies tear up. I am about to give you some recommended portions, but realize it is more important to eat until you are full. Each person has their own romance with food that has it’s own “love language”. Some will need more food, while others will need less. Keep testing it out to figure out what amount works best for you. Often these sizes may not be enough, especially for protein and fat.
Most of this I have learned from a few key resources such as The Whole 30, The Paleo Solution, and The Paleo Diet. I want to personally say thanks to these creators, because it has made a huge difference in my life. For more detail read The Whole 30 as well as The Paleo Solution and The Paleo Diet. Here are some ideas on meal planning.
How Much: Eat 1-2 palm-sized portions of protein per meal (maybe 3). It doesn’t have to be exact, but compare it to the palm of your hand.
Types: Chicken, turkey, beef, eggs, pork, bacon, fish, shrimp, and scallops to name a few.
How to Eat It: Find animal protein that is fresh, grass fed or organic if possible. Don’t do the breaded stuff. The grains in it spike insulin and cause gut irritation, which defeats the purpose and will put your food relationship on the rocks.
What it Does: Protein gives your body tissue life. It builds your muscle, joints, organs, tendons, and confidence while you are at it. Protein fights disease by improving insulin metabolism, lowering blood pressure and reducing the risk of a metabolic syndrome which leads to cancer, strokes, and more. It also does a solid job of triggering the right hormones to tell your brain when you are full. You know that pain you feel after working out? Well protein helps with that recovery as well.
How Much: Any oils should be 3-5 thumb sized portions. If you are getting risky and using grass-fed butters, then it should be 1 thumb sized portion. 1-3 handfuls of olives, coconut flakes, or avocado. Also 1 closed handful of nuts and seeds. I would limit nuts to only about 1-2 times a day because they also have the potential for gut irritation. Often the animal fat from protein is all you need.
Type: Olive oil, avocado and avocado oil, macadamia nuts, olives, animal fat in the meat, high-oleic and high-stearic sunflower oil, palm oil, coconut flakes, coconut oil, coconut butter, and coconut milk. You can have grass-fed butter occasionally, but it is smart to wait until after you have reached your goals.
How to Eat It: Nuts should be eaten sparingly if you are looking to cut fat. Too much polyunsaturated fats can lead to systemic inflammation which can cause issues to body tissue and lead to autoimmune diseases among other problems. They should be raw or dry roasted with no added oils. For cooking, use saturated oils because they are less likely to form inflammatory oxidized fats. Good examples would be unrefined coconut oil and animal fats. You can also use sunflower oil, olive oil, or avocado oil to cook, but you may lose some healthy antioxidants. At times these may be better served cold on something like salads.
What it Does: Fat helps to absorb crucial vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals produced from the vegetables and protein. Fat is known for being a sassy source of essential fatty acids or dietary fat. It backs up your brain, hormones, immune system and digestive track. It also provides energy like carbs, but longer-lasting and more evenly-released to prevent those tanking moments. Fat like protein helps you feel “full” faster, to help prevent from over eating.
How Much: Eat 1-2 vegetables per meal and each should be 1 handful. It is smart if you can get a 2-1 veggie to protein ratio on your plate, especially if you are looking to get leaner.
Types: Asparagus, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Carrots, Lettuce, Onions, Spinach, Tomatoes, Zucchini, and more. Oh boy!
How to Eat It: Veggies can be eaten raw, steamed, grilled, and sautéed. Fresh is best, but it doesn’t matter as much if it is fresh or frozen. Make sure that it is a variety. Get in a lot of colors in your diet. By doing so you are getting a plethora of nutrients that each vegetable has as a strong suit.
What it Does: Veggies are vital! They are nutrient dense. You get crucial vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals that makes it easy to go without dairy and grains. This is a better substitute to gather fiber and calcium without the insulin spiking results of dairy and flour. It helps to maintain energy and keep your brain functioning on all cylinders.
A Couple Exceptions
These are a couple options you can look at, but sparingly. For faster results of fat loss, it is often best to avoid them all together until you have reached a certain body fat percentage, biomarkers, or blood levels that you are shooting for.
You can have 1-2 servings of fruit that is enough to fill a closed hand. Just remember that fruit shouldn’t replace veggies. Vegetables have a lot of nutrient value and are less insulin spiking compared to fruit.
We talked about the nuts in the fat section. Limit nuts to 1-2 servings a day. They reason why is that nuts can add to the negative imbalance of omega-6 to omega-3 like grains do. They are also easy to eat…and keep eating. The the next thing you know you are popping them like a drug. For some of you it may be comparable to watching The Kardashians.
Carb-dense Vegetables or Starchy Carbs
Carb-dense vegetables are best to include for post-workout meals as the included vegetable. Some of these options include yams, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, and pumpkin.
Starchy carbs like yams and sweet potatoes are excellent for replenishing glycogen in your muscles after working out. This is important for your body to recover faster and for you to keep working out at a high level day after day. These veggies do a better job than fruit at replenishing glycogen because fructose has a negative side-effects of spiking your liver glycogen causing you to add fat.
Spice it Up
Things can get bland, especially if you have been eating a bunch of crappy food. So there may be times when you have to spice up your relationship with food a bit. This is where herbs and spices come in.
You can include herbs and spices during or after your cooking. A couple shakes of salt on a meal are fine. There are quite a few other options to choose from. Some of these include basil, black pepper, cardamom, chili powder, cinnamon, cilantro, cumin, garlic, ginger, italian seasoning, mint, nutmeg, oregano, paprika, parsley, pepper, peppermint, rosemary, sage, salt, thyme and vanilla to name a few.
We are only half way through this romance novel. There are some small subtle things that need to be considered. If not, it could fracture your food relationship.