As a personal trainer for over 7 years now, I’ve had hundreds of clients come to train with me and try to improve their health. With almost every client I’ve delved deep into their nutrition and eating habits to make sure they are giving themselves every chance of succeeding. From fitness to fat loss and everything in between, nutrition plays a large role in whether or not those goals are actually met.
I always ask about their current nutrition situation;
“Do you eat breakfast?”
“What does a typical day look like for you?”
“Do you stuff your face with nachos every night?”…
You know, the typical stuff. This often results in them telling me how they “don’t actually eat that bad”. My first response is then “come on, just be honest with me. I can’t help you FIX the problem if you won’t TELL me the problem”.
What if they’re not lying?
What if they’re not in denial about their food choices and habits?
What if it’s not actually their fault? And they genuinely believe they have been eating “healthy” this whole time.
It would explain a lot of other people’s situations. I mean, have you ever woken up one day, looked in the mirror and thought “how did I end up here?” What if YOU have been misled and misinformed to believe that what you’re eating is good for you when it really isn’t? What if years of false information and misguided advice has left you completely oblivious to what you’re actually eating?
The Food Pyramid
For years we were shown this food pyramid that included the recommended daily guidelines for our eating. And for years, we have seen cardiovascular diseases and the prevalence of diabetes rise astronomically.
The nature of the pyramid suggests we should eat most of the foods in the larger sections and less of the foods near the top in the smaller sections. But what if it’s all wrong?
Why would the average person need 11 serves of grains EVERYDAY? According to the Food Guide Pyramid pamphlet, 1 serving of bread is 1 slice. That means, based on the pyramid’s recommendations, over half a loaf of bread per day is okay to consume.
Half a loaf!
I used to eat that on school holidays when I was hungry, bored and had nothing to do… and I was fat because of it!
There is also no differentiation between the types of grains that you should eat. 3 serves of quinoa certainly provides much more nutritional value than 3 serves of white bread. As would 3 serves of rolled oats compared to 3 serves of Coco-Pops. But there they are, right next to each other in the same category. It is this misguided advice that has seen health deteriorate over the years and weight-related problems continue to rise.
Similarly, there is no recommendation for the types of fats you should eat. In fact, it simply says “use sparingly”. We know that fat has incredible benefits for you and, if eaten in the right quantities, can actually aid fat loss . Once again, 3 serves of healthy avocado is not the same as 3 serves of fatty salami.
And finally, 3 servings of vegetables are nowhere near enough to help someone fill themselves up on green, fibrous, nutrient-rich foods. Your daily vegetable intake should be closer to 5-10 serves, not 3.
As well as misleading guidelines, we have also been fed years of constant advertisements about food. Both food that is claimed to be healthier than it actually is, and food that is more obviously unhealthy.
Obviously unhealthy to me, but not so much to others. A study from the Journal of Marketing showed that 70% of 6 to 8-year-olds believe fast foods are healthier than food prepared at home . Another study also shows that children see an average of 10 000 food advertisements each year, just on tv . This pattern and ingrained behaviour can then carry through to adulthood and influence decisions you make and information you believe.
We are even fed garbage information and excuses from those very companies trying to sell their product. Soft drinks result in a large spike in unnecessary sugar consumption and are linked with not only increased body weight, but lower intake of calcium and other nutrients . However, The National Soft Drink Association oppose these findings by saying:
- Soft drinks are a good source of hydration (so is drinking the water from the lake near my house…)
- Soft drink sales in schools help education by providing needed funding (at what cost?)
- It is unfair to “pick on” soft drinks because there are many causes of obesity and there are no “good” or “bad” foods (okay, my greasy, double bacon, double cheese, triple decker burger is as good as your quinoa, chicken breast and broccoli)
It is this misleading information (practically outright lying) that has left people with no clue as to what is actually healthy for them and what is unhealthy. Education about nutrition, proper nutrition, is needed for most people. Below is my take on what a healthy, balanced nutrition lifestyle should include.
What should you eat?
Recently the pyramid has been amended and other guidelines, like MyPlate , have come out which paint a slightly better picture of nutrition.
And of course, depending on your goals, your food intake will differ slightly to someone else’s.
A good starting point though is here:
Aim to consume protein at every meal (or at least 3-5 times a day)
Protein helps muscle synthesis (building) and helps to increase satiety (how full you feel). This has then been linked to lower total energy intake and an increase in weight loss compared to diets with a lower protein count .
Eat water and fibre-rich vegetables
This one is a no-brainer. Fill your plate with green (ideally), fibrous vegetables to help fill you up and ensure you are getting all your required vitamins and minerals. Raw vegetables in particular appear to provide a reduced risk of cancer , so aim to eat vegetables that could be consumed raw (spinach, broccoli, kale, onions, tomatoes, carrots).
Control starchy carbohydrate consumption
As mentioned above, raw vegetables are best and can provide you with energy to get through your day. If, however, you are quite active and train/exercise regularly, you may need some more energy from a larger carbohydrate source. It is important to obtain this energy from a healthy choice though. Rolled oats, quinoa and brown rice are all great examples of healthy carbohydrates. Eaten in the right quantities, they will provide you with plenty of energy and allow you to function at full capacity. Depending on activity level, your daily servings can vary a lot. If you train regularly you could potentially eat upwards of 5 servings per day. If you aren’t training, 1-2 could be fine (just make sure to fill up on those raw vegetables we spoke about earlier).
Eat healthy fats
Fats contain 9 calories per gram and doesn’t always provide much satisfaction or satiety after eating . However, not all fats are equal and some can be extremely good for you.
Aim to consume your fats from whole foods such as seafood, avocado, chia seeds and low-sugar dairy like plain Greek yoghurt. Foods that have been processed such as oils (olive oil, vegetable oil, etc) lose some of the benefits we gain from eating them in the whole food form.
Some oils can still be used sparingly in cooking though, like olive oil or coconut oil.
Keep your calories in check
Above all else, keep you calories under control. The quality of food you eat determines how well you feel, perform and, to a degree, how you look. But calories will ultimately be the main deciding factor in whether or not you lose fat or gain it. Making the right choices not only gives you all the benefits listed above, but it also often leads to a lower calorie intake due to more fullness and satisfaction with your eating.
Applying it all
I don’t like making excuses for myself, and definitely not for others. So even though the information we have been fed may have been misleading, it is still up to the individual to choose between the McDonalds meal or the vegetables at home. However, the major influences and incorrect information has definitely been a cause for our deteriorating health over the years. That’s why we need to change.
Obviously, it seems a little easier on paper. I’m not going to lie, if you’ve eaten a certain way for a long time (perhaps your whole life) it will be hard to change it… at first.
I stress the ‘at first’ part.
When you undergo a new change such as this, the first few weeks will be quite challenging.
But if you persist and continue working towards your goal… If you keep your mind focused on the outcome, not just the temporary cravings for sweets or junk food, you will break your old habits and form new ones. It’s these habits that will allow you to live a balanced lifestyle for the rest of your life, on your own terms.
My Steel Transformation Academy utilises all the concepts mentioned above to allow you to transition into a healthier nutrition plan without the added stress of doing it alone and making it up as you go. It is all laid out for you and allows you to build the necessary habits to make sure your change is permanent, not allowing you to get stuck on the diet merry-go-round once again.
Check out the Academy and sign up for your FREE TRIAL to see how you can make an amazing transformation.