One of the most common questions any fitness or nutrition professional will hear is "which diet works best?" Most trainers and health coaches would agree that the word "diet" has a negative vibe now, and in an attempt to put focus on what's most important we use the term "nutrition plan" to try to move away from fads and "get thin quick" schemes.
Choosing what you should eat each day, can be covered in about 4 easy steps. Living out the plan you choose, well that takes more work, but there are resources to help.
I will attempt to keep this simple, according to James Clear in his book Atomic Habits, the best way to create a new habit, is to make it obvious, make it attractive, make it easy, and last but not least, make is satisfying!
Make It Obvious. Choose Your Plan Based On Your Goals.
Athlete: Choose macros based meal plan that will fuel your sport/activity. This is usually a higher protein and carbohydrate, nutrient dense meal plan. This requires heavy level of discipline to prep and plan, and accountability to stick with it. But, if you are an athlete, you already know that everything you do depends on discipline and training. Consistency, and regular monitoring of changing needs is a must. Hiring a sports nutrition coach to help with macros may be helpful in reaching advanced goals.
Weight Loss: Choose a meal plan that can track a caloric deficit, but is still nutrient dense. 1 pound per week of weight loss means approximately 500 calorie deficit per day. That deficit is total calories burned is 500 greater than calories consumed. There are several styles of food tracking to achieve this. Everyone is a little different on what works best for them, based on convenience, affordability, accountability, and personal discipline. Slow and steady wins this challenge. Too much weight loss too fast can lead to burn out and rapid weight gain. Learn the healthy habits, develop new rhythms, and relish in your accomplishments of making healthy choices.
Muscle Building: High protein, nutrient dense meal plans work best for this goal. Protein for muscle building is approx 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight, per day. This paired with the proper muscle building workout will be ideal for building the biceps and booty of your dreams! Discipline level needed is high for this goal, and accountability for consistency as well. Like athletes, regular monitoring of changing needs is a must.
Autoimmune, Anti-inflammatory, Aging Repairs: This goal is probably the most challenging as there are many factors to address. While each type of autoimmune/anti-inflammatory condition has unique needs, there are a few common factors you may need to incorporate. First, gluten free is a must. Cutting refined sugars and processed foods are also a must. For some, cutting grains and dairy is also required.
This may feel too overwhelming, but I promise you, it is so worth it if you are struggling with autoimmune disease or the aches and pains and illnesses of chronic inflammation and aging. It is important to focus on what you CAN eat with this goal, rather that what you CAN'T eat. This goal requires whole foods, lean proteins, healthy omega 3 fats, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. There are so many resources available to help with recipes and support. Take advantage of the tools to encourage your success!!
Healthy Living/ Preventative Care: This is for the individuals who are happy where they are, but want to ensure they are doing everything they can to care for their body to the best of their ability. This is a fairly simple approach to nutritional planning. Overall, you will need to eat based on portion control, whole foods, leans proteins, healthy Omega 3 fats, fresh produce, and nutrient dense ingredients. You can usually enjoy all of the food groups in moderation, but be mindful of the slippery slope of the occasional junk foods turning into daily consumption.
Make It Attractive. Pair What You Need To Do With What You Want To Do.
This pairing is a great way to take the dread out of the hard parts. For instance, if you don't like to meal prep, but you do really like music and dancing, turn up the music, and make meal prep your weekly dance party!
You can also join a meal prep group like what we offer through LEANWell. If you like to socialize, and enjoy the accountability of participating with friends, a weekly meal prep group may be just the thing for you! I have a couple groups of ladies that meet weekly on Zoom and we choose our recipes ahead of time. Some just make one new recipe a week, others do meal prep batching for the week. The power is in meeting together in a group and getting the job done, in our own homes, but with the community of friends. As their health coach, I design new recipes and meal plans that they can try out, so most of the hard part is taken care of for them! If you'd like to start a meal prep group with your friends, click here to schedule a free consultation with me to discuss how to set it all up!
Make It Easy. Choose Your Method.
How you live out the meal plan you choose, depends on a few factors. Choosing the easiest one for your personality will set you up for the best chance of long term success.
Meal Prep Services: Pros: These services can be convenient. You can also purchase meals or even shakes to fit your goals exactly. Cons: They are usually the most expensive. They are sometimes filled with preservatives or additives that aren't good for anybody, and pretty much an no go for anyone with the autoimmune protocols.
Meal Batching at Home: Pros: You cook your own meals, and measure portions and macros. You are in total control and you know exactly what you are eating. Cons: Prepping the meals for several days at a time can take a lot of time, and eating re-heated food may not be desirable.
Menu Planning: Pros: You cook your own meals, and measure portions and macros as needed. You are in total control and know exactly what you are eating. Cons: You have to plan ahead, and by cooking daily, you may have "life" get in the way which can cause you to cave and run out for fast food.
Hybrid Planning: Pros: Combine the 3 styles above, based on your schedule. Have a list of restaurants with healthy options, a list of meal prep services that can fill in the gaps on short notice, Meal Batch a few family favorites and keep them in the freezer for the days when "life" happens, and Plan a menu that can incorporate all of these styles based on your scheduling needs. Cons: You will need to plan ahead. You may not be in the mood for what you have planned for the day.
Make It Satisfying. Celebrate!
Now is when you get to put rewards into action. Take a shopping trip, go on a special celebratory date night, a weekend getaway with friends, or purchase fancy new gym equipment or meal prep gadgets to support your next goals.
Capture this moment in a photo, post it to social media, celebrate with your best of friends. Then, refresh, and get ready to achieve the next level of your goals!
Now, I know I said I would attempt to keep it simple, I think I did that, I never promised it would be short! This particular question is something I could go on for hours because there are so many factors and each person is so different in what works best for them.
I encourage you to ask for help, research, put these steps into action, and give yourself some grace to "fail forward" Message me or comment below if you have any questions. Take me up on my offer for a free consult, it really is free, and I really do want to help :)