These Two Diet Changes will Transform Your Health
You probably think I'm going to tell you to go gluten or dairy free. Maybe even keto or paleo. But, I'm not. I think there's a first, better and easier step to transform your health with your diet. Before we can make changes though , we have to figure out what the heck we are currently doing.
Step one: Start keeping track of your simple carbohydrates. Carbohydrates, especially on their own, will increase your blood sugar more than fat or protein. When our blood sugar is increased on a regular basis we can end up on an blood sugar induced emotional roller coaster, with metabolic syndrome (which can lead to a host of issues including Type II Diabetes), inflammation, muscle and joint pain, fatigue and more. Keeping our carbohydrates in check results in our blood sugar being stabilized and a much more stable you (both mentally and physically).
For one week, you'll track the carbohydrates in your processed foods, grains, fruit, beans, drinks, starchy vegetables (potatoes, squash), nut and seeds, dairy, natural sugars (honey, maple syrup, molasses), alternative flours (rice, almond, coconut, tapioca, arrowroot) and alcohol.
Non-starchy vegetables like leafy greens, cauliflower, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cucumber, tomato, garlic, onions, mushrooms, peppers, asparagus (anything that you could potentially eat raw) are fair game. No need to track.
If the average total is over 300 g per day, you're simply going to cut it in half. If it's less than 300, you're going to get it to average under 125 g per day over the course of a week. Here are a few examples of how many carbs are in 1 cup of each food:
Cooked potatoes - 28 g
Cooked rice - 45 g
Black beans - 40 g
Cooked squash - 22 g
Almonds - 29 g
Cooked quinoa - 40 g
Blueberries - 20 g
Oatmeal - 28 g
Here are a few more examples:
Typical alcoholic drink - 20 g
1 banana - 27 g
1 tablespoon of honey - 17 g
1 tablespoon maple syrup - 13 g
2 tablespoons peanut butter - 8 g
¼ cup arrowroot flour - 28 g
Step two: Start keeping track of your protein. Research shows that many of us don't eat enough protein. Shocking, I know! But, getting enough protein helps stabilize our blood sugar and decrease sugar cravings, maintain a healthy weight, maintain muscle mass and rebuild our bodies from the inside out. For one week (this can be the same or different week that you track your carbohydrate intake, I find it easiest to track them together), track your protein intake. This includes all animal products (including eggs and dairy), nuts and seeds and beans. What's your ideal weight in pounds? Your goal is to eat that many grams of protein each day. For example, if your goal weight is 180 pounds, your aim is to average 180 grams of protein per day over the course of a week. Here are a few examples:
4 ounces (1/4 pound) ground beef: 31 g
1 chicken breast: 37 g
2 eggs: 12.6 g
3 slices of bacon: 12 g
4 slices of salami: 8.4 g
1 ounce of marble cheese: 6.8 g
2 tablespoons of peanut butter: 7 g
1 cup of black beans: 15 g
1 cup of almonds: 29 g
Our dietary needs will change as the days change. They are affected by our activity level, stress level and more. I don't want you to aim to be perfect every day. I want you to work so that your average over the course of week is close to these numbers. The only reason I don't say month is because tracking every day for months is a lot of work and I fear it can create a bit of an obsession and stress you out more than it should. Tracking for 1 week every month or two is a great way to check in with your food choices and to keep you on track. Once your diet is at a comfortable place for you, you can stop tracking or simply do it 1-2 times per year. I use Nutritionix to look up foods online (they also have an app) and I use MyFitnessPal on my phone when I'm tracking food (I like parts of the paid version of the app, like the macro nutrient chart, but I can't say I love it). I have also heard My Net Diary is a good option.
I don't love the apps because they focus way too much on calories and weight loss / gain. I simply want one that adds up macro nutrients throughout the day. Nutritionix has an app that does this for free, which is awesome. But, I'd rather look them up online and make a spreadsheet myself so I don't have to deal with all of the other inputs on the app.
As a brief aside, if you are finding you aren't feeling great with these dietary changes at first, add in electrolytes. They can really make a difference.
Give it a try and let me know what you think!