I cannot stress enough how vital a balanced, wholesome diet is when it comes to your health and fitness. Consuming unhealthy foods on a daily basis not only puts your body at risk of disease, but will restrict you from reaching your fitness goals. I could perform 300 sit-ups and squats a day, but if my meals and snacks were processed, sugary and greasy, I would never see defined abs or lean muscle in my legs.
By Sarah Roberts
Illustrations by Charlotte Friend
So, what kind of foods should you be eating to make that six-pack peek out? It all starts at the supermarket. This is a list of wholesome foods you can find at your local grocery store. Try rotating these items whenever you’re shopping in order to keep your diet fresh and never boring.
What’s so wonderful about vegetables is that you can eat them endlessly. You heard me. Endlessly. Vegetables are filled with all kinds of nutrients that nourish the body. I like to buy my veggies as fresh as they can get and strive to add them to every one of my meals. Remember to always wash your vegetables before consumption.
Ahh, nature’s candy. Fruit should be a staple in everyone’s diet, since it’s extremely versatile. I eat fruit in the mornings as part of my breakfast, throw it in my afternoon pick-me-up smoothies and munch on it for dessert. Because fruit is high in fructose (a natural sugar) it should not be eaten endlessly like vegetables – too much sugar consumption may lead to weight gain, thus keeping you from your health and fitness goals. I try to stick to the average recommended serving size: 2 cups (read more about this over at Popsugar). Choose fruits that are in season, and for those that don’t have a tough skin, like berries, apples and grapes, buy organic. Like vegetables, always wash your fruit before enjoying it.
I’m an avid believer in water as a staple, daily drink. I try to drink a gallon of it a day. Many other drinks, like energy drinks, coffee shop creations and juices, are loaded with sugar, carbs and chemicals that are harmful to the body and cause midday crashes. However, there are a few exceptions.
I could never commit to giving up coffee, and there is no reason to. As long as you’re not drinking whipped cream lattes and chocolate chip frappes every day, there is no reason to feel guilty for drinking coffee. On the days I don’t drink my coffee black, I like to add some warm almond or coconut milk with a pinch of stevia and cinnamon. Yum.
Almond, coconut and cashew milk along with coconut water are great sources of healthy fat. I like to add these to my morning coffee, smoothies, protein shakes and pancake batter.
If I’m not drinking water, coffee or the mentioned milks, I’m probably enjoying a hot cup of tea. Though tea is an alternative source of caffeine, I usually brew mine for relaxation. Peppermint tea is fantastic for treating a bloated stomach, while spiced tea goes hand-in-hand with a long night of studying or cuddling up with your favorite book.
When shopping for protein, my advice is to stock up and freeze most of it. That way, you’ll always have some on hand and are able to defrost it the night before you want to cook it. I make it a goal to eat the lean meats listed below once a day, twice at max. Too much meat will result in extra calories and saturated fat consumption.
My rule of thumb is to not make meat the central focus of the meal. Instead, make that your vegetables, grains, legumes, beans and fruit. Think of meat as a small side dish.
After my strength workouts, I like to make protein shakes with whey protein. The kinds I use are from Isopure’s Natural line of flavors. It is lactose and gluten free, which is great since if you eat dairy-free like me, and contains no artificial colors, flavors or sweeteners.
Grains, Beans and Legumes
Once I’ve had my serving of meat for the day, I turn to grains, beans and legumes for alternative protein. Combinations like brown rice and lentils or quinoa and beans make for a protein power-house. And the best part? They’re cheap. For the over-achievers, try buying these ingredients dry and cooking them yourselves. For the lazy, but still achieving, purchase the beans and corn canned. Always substitute olive oil for butter when cooking or dressing your grains.
Though healthy and tasty, we all need a break from vegetables and fruits as our snacks. But before you pick up that package of cookies, take a look at the list below. These snacks are designed to satisfy your salty or sweet tooth without adding inches to your waist or blockage to your arteries. If you’re craving something salty, try having a few quinoa and flaxseed tortilla chips, or hummus with almond crackers. If you prefer sweet, pair some rice cakes and nut butter.
This category is for the extra items you should always have in the kitchen. I never buy any type of butter because I use olive oil for everything. Canola oil and coconut oils are also healthy alternatives to butter or margarine for cooking and baking. I threw in the coconut or almond milk ice cream as a delicious, dairy-free dessert.
Chicken or vegetable broth
Pure maple syrup
Whole grain, heart healthy bread
Buckwheat pancake mix
Coconut or almond milk ice cream
Last but not least, spices. Like the miscellaneous category, these spices should be staples in your pantry. Even if I don’t get fancy with a dish, I alway season it with sea salt and cracked pepper. Experiment with different spice combinations to see what tastes good to you.
Ground pepper or peppercorns
Born and raised in Austin, Sarah is a health nut with a passion for nutrition and fitness. In addition to being a communications student at UT, she is the world’s biggest dog lover, an innovative latte-maker and Kill Bill enthusiast. You can catch her at the gym, cuddling her dog Vinny or trying to find ways to healthify her meals in the dining halls. When not doing any of the above, Sarah is sharing her experiences with food and exercise through her health column at ORANGE. Click here to see her other articles.