How to always know what to eat, forever

All you’ll ever need in order to choose what to eat, without a diet plan, calorie-counting or any of that jazz. This month, let’s look at quantity and eat a balanced diet, yo!

Quantity, quality, and the macronutrient groups

Every day of your life, YOU choose what to eat. And that’s the way I like it. So I don’t give out meal plans.

But let’s get real.

HOW to eat includes how you shop and how to cook. Since you can only eat the food you can get your hands on!

If you're like me, and you wait until you're ravenous to make a what-shall-I-eat decision, you find yourself coming out of the nearest bakery with a cheese pasty.

No meal plan on earth that can match you being empowered with the right infos to make consistently healthy decisions about what to eat.

I'm not a nutritionist.

Nor are you (probably!), and you don't need to be.

But I was brought up by proper, brown-rice-eating, vegetarian hippies. So I know real food. And I'm so so grateful (though I sure complained about the plainness of the whole foods when I was growing up.)

Here are my intentions for a wise approach to what to eat:​

  • Eat real, whole foods rather than low-this, low-that, processed crap
  • Raise the quality of the food you buy to the best you can consistently afford
  • Eat a bit of protein with every meal, not just dinner
  • Include just a few carbs with each meal (wholegrains - these are called 'complex' carbs because the sugars are more complicated for your body to digest so you get energy released slowly)
  • Consider upping (maybe doubling?) your intake of veggies
  • Know the difference between healthy fats (like nut and virgin veg oils. fish, avocado) and unhealthy ones (margarines, animal fats, cheap mass-produced veg oils), and have a bit of fat at each meal

Tune in to treats

Don't ban them. Don't ban anything! Instead, when you need one, get the very best quality one you can find, and really truly savour it. Feel grateful and deserving.

Have a little awareness and listening around treats. Are you having them 10% of the time? Sounds like good living to me! You can responsibly choose to do that.

Are you having them 80% of the time? Sounds like a habit that's got stuck, or a craving - check your nutrient balance for starters (see below).

Got it! How about the HOW MUCH question?

I hesitate to go there, because this can be license to start panicking that you're having 'too much' of this or that.

WHAT you eat is probably not the most important place to put your focus.

Take a deep breath, and ask yourself:

  • If I ate real food every day, and moved my body, would I shape up?
  • If I didn't emotionally eat, and I was able to stop eating when I was full, would I shape up?

Then that is where to put your focus. We aren't wired to be able to change all our habits at once, so just file this info for later.

In the eating approach I teach, I don't ask anyone to watch portions for each meal.

So can you breathe deeply as you take in the information I'm about to give you, and take it in the spirit of having a visual reference point?

An image in your mind of what a good nourishing meal looks like?

And then just relax and accept that there isn't a 'getting it right', there's just an intention and a desire to eat a meal that looks that way?

OK, so...

The Canadian coaching company Precision Nutrition have a handy 'amount' guide that uses your hand to measure quantity. They recommend for women 3-4 times per day (for men it's double):

  • Protein - a portion with each meal the size of the palm of your hand
  • Carbs - a cupped handful with each meal
  • Fat- a thumbsized portion per meal
  • Vegetables - a fistsized portion with each meal
  • Fruit - one piece after each meal or as a snack

Pretty easy hey? Well, as ever, the trick is not understanding, it's in being consistent.

And being consistent means you need to go shopping thoughtfully and more than anything, get plenty of appealing veggies in the fridge.

(Tip: you can chop them and box them just a couple of times a week if you need them ready-to-grab; or keep them in freezer bags in the fridge).

Do this for a couple of months, and see some results

This awareness of how I'm balancing my macronutrients has been really transformative for me personally. Look out for these kind of shifts:

  • Cravings can fall away, especially when you eat more protein earlier in the day (sometimes the lines of communication between us and our appetite aren't very clear, and we end up reaching for carbs even when our body is actually protein-deficient.)
  • Bodyfat can fall away when you stop basing your meals around a big heap of carb (I used to cook a risotto or a pasta as the main thing on my plate, and I lost weight immediately I started to have vegetables representing half of my plateful.)
  • If you have constipation, or dry hair and nails, or brainfog, you should see some improvement after you eat a consistent amount of healthy fat with each meal.
  • Look out for some bodyfat transformations. You might not know it by weight, especially if you've raised your protein levels and are exercising at least 3 times per week (you might have lost fat weight but built muscle weight, and since muscle is more dense than fat it looks sleeker). But you might measure it by how your jeans fit, or the feeling tone of your body.

If after a couple of months of eating this way, you don't see any shifts, check whether you're really being consistent.

Right! So it helps to base my meals around loads of veg!

That's never a bad thing.

Here are my top 5 veg-based meals (which can totally include meat and carbs but aren't based round a heap of carbs or a huge slab of meat):

  • Stir-fry
  • Superfood salad bowl
  • Baked sweet potato
  • Ratatouille
  • Curry

I know what you're thinking: "What the heck is a 'superfood salad bowl?'. I've put it into a infographic, go right ahead and get your copy.

Download this beautiful, pin-on-your-kitchen-wall infographic of a versatile meal style - How To Cook a Superfood Bowl